There are places in the Torah where many of us moderns have a hard time relating to our ancestors and the societies in which they lived. Oppression of women, slavery, animal sacrifice, a God that intervenes and directs our lives in a forceful and immediate way, to name a few. This parasha, however, is not really one of these moments. In fact, as I read through Noach again and again this year, I couldn’t help but think how much hasn’t changed since those fateful days, in primordial time, when the first humans brought about the destruction of the Earth.
How much easier would it be to build a world of love, compassion, justice and peace than the continued path of war and violence?
Most people are surprised, even flabbergasted, to learn that there is a sizeable Jewish community in Pasadena, one that has been here for well over a century.
I grew up in the San Fernando Valley, and I had never been to Pasadena. I knew little about it -- mostly that the Rose Parade and Rose Bowl were there; I had no idea how close it was to Woodland Hills, where I lived. And I certainly didn't think about if there were Jews there.
Pasadena is located in the San Gabriel Valley -- or what locals call the "Other Valley" -- and it's surrounded by the San Gabriel Mountains. It sits at the foot of Mount Wilson, home to the observatory where Albert Einstein worked during his stay at Cal Tech. It's also home to Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, which offers us a connection to space, science and some of the best minds in the world.