my children are my buildings

parshat noach – haftarah Isaiah 54

This is my first post after completing a post on each of the parshat of the week… so I haven’t really decided yet what the focus of future posts will be.

To see previous posts on parshat noach you can go to of noah’s ark, cathedrals in time and jewish ships where I explore how Noah’s ark may have been the first temple…. or cathedral in time.

In a recent post sustainable kashrut, I explore the origins of kashrut and the biblical predisposition for vegetarianism… which Rashi cites in reference to Noah.

Since Noah was my Bar Mitzvah portion, I’d like to share something I learnt from Dan Bahat, a noted archaeologist in a car returning from a visit to Masada.  I was telling the archaeologist what I planned to say on the occasion of the dedication of a building for Graduate Studies dedicated by my dad Jerome Stern at Bar Ilan University.  I was going to quote Isaiah 54 and the Talmud’s interpretation.

The verse from Isaiah 54:13 is the haftorah for parshat Noah.  It says:

And all thy children shall be taught of the LORD; and great shall be the peace of thy children.

וְכָל-בָּנַיִךְ, לִמּוּדֵי יְהוָה; וְרַב, שְׁלוֹם בָּנָיִךְ

The talmud in Berachot 64a goes as follows:

R. Eleazar said in the name of R. Hanina: The disciples of the wise increase peace in the world, as it says, And all thy children shall be taught of the Lord, and great shall be the peace of thy children.  Read not banayik [thy children] but bonayik [thy builders].


This piece of Talmud is actually cited in the Sabbath prayers after the Eyn Keloheynu prayer.

In my comments at the building dedication, I planned to say that this might be the first building that my dad had built…but  in the tradition of the Talmud in Berachot, he had been setting an example for his kids and mentoring artists and supporting education all his life…  building human beings…

The archaeologist turned to me and said…. “the talmud in Berachot is actually not an interpretation of Isaiah… it is based on a variant reading of Isaiah that has been preserved in the Dead Sea Scroll version of Isaiah.. whose text is actually thy builders!”

and here it is:

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Great Isaiah Scroll

The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, The Great Isaiah Scroll – the waw was not there originally but was added above the line. Old correction of the text itself? Old midrash? [DJ]

There are a number of lessons here…1)  It’s a good idea to talk Torah while riding or walking… especially if one’s companion is a scholar.  2) We are always discovering new material that helps us understand our sources and text. 3) our sense of oral traditions needs to include variations in texts… and finally… our kids are really our greatest building.. not just according to the Rabbis of the Talmud, but even according to the Ancient Prophets.

gs and dan bahat

Geoffrey Stern with Dan Bahat (right) at Masada


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