They're just words? (Matot)

The g'vurot is the second prayer of the Amidah. In it, we praise God's limitless power. The traditional prayer tells us that God is so powerful in fact, that God can M'chayeh Metim, resurrect the dead.

Knowing this creates some interesting questions. If God's power has no bounds, why did God choose specifically to flood the world, as opposed to an earthquake or a fire, or some sort of atomic laser beam?

This also applies to creation. God could have chosen to create the world out of some sort of cosmic lego set, or God could have made a minion of angelic subordinates carry out God's plan. God has an unlimited tool-chest. In my living room, I have a box of tools. I even know how to use one or two of them ... But God can do anything! So, when God performs an action, there is a significance to the "tool" that God uses.

That being said, why did God speak the world into existence?

Let there be light! Words become the functional building blocks of the universe.

God sees the creation of light, and calls it good. I think the typical reading is that God saw the sun shining brightly, and was pleased with it, thinking, "Yeah ... That's good."

Another possibility is that by saying "This is good," God actually creates goodness! God has infinite power, but the power is imbued with a sense of morality. But what about us, beings that are clearly sometimes power-less?

Well, all of us can act, doing mitzvot. Power=Action. And as God demonstrates through the seven days of creation, Action+Goodness (morality) = Holiness.


So why did God flood the world, commanding Noah to go on an ark, when God could have chosen any number of catastrophic destructions?

A midrash teaches that God wanted to spare all sea life. Most fish do not have eyelids, which means they do not blink their eyes. This suggests that fish were able to 'see' and understand God. For this, God spares them and kills everything else through, of course, a flood.


Many verses of this week's Torah portion, Matot, speak to the power of words (the pun is intended, I suppose.) Moses implores the tribal chieftains to teach their clansmen about the serious nature of vows, of promises ... of words.

Many of us remember our parents reprimanding us for not following through on a promise, saying, "Actions speak louder than words." I agree. As I said last week, it is through actions (using our power) that we express our Judaism, and frankly, our lives.

But it is words that are the foundation of those actions, just as "Let there be light" is the basis for creation. Words and conversations help us learn about ourselves and each other. Our prayers and, dare I say it, my sermons, are ONLY words. They can be moving, upsetting, bothersome, happy, reflective, and with regard to sermons, hopefully not sleep-inducing.

These words of ours taken by themselves are ephemeral. We could listen, pray and sing and then leave here, choosing to ignore the echoes of these words. It is with you, and with us, that they have the power of creation itself - creating community ... creating holiness.

These verses of Matot remind us that our words lead to actions. The words we say then, matter. Like God, we can imbue things with holiness by calling them "good." The power of words also allows us to do otherwise ...

On this Shabbat, let us vow to use our words as building blocks of a life that God will look at and say, Zeh Tov, This is good.

Is it Two People or a Cup of Wine? The Answer is Torah. (Toldot)

Intentions, Decisions, ACTions (Pinchas)