Monthly Archives: August 2015

Jewish views on in-marriage and inter-marriage

The following statement was adopted by the Leadership Council of Conservative Judaism

Organizations in the Leadership Council include:
• Federation of Jewish Men’s Clubs
• The Jewish Theological Seminary of America
• The Rabbinical Assembly
• The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
• Women’s League for Conservative Judaism

The Mitzvah of InMarriage – Conversion

Keruv – Standards

There is hardly a family in the United States unaffected by intermarriage, and every one of us, as individual, and the organized community, needs to formulate a stance. In the past, intermarriage, (that is, marriage between a Jew and a non-Jew who has not converted) was viewed psychologically as an act of rebellion, a rejection of Judaism. Jews who intermarried were essentially excommunicated. But now, intermarriage is often the result of living in an open society, welcoming encouraging individual differences rather than groups responsibility and norms. Although results of populations studies continue to vary, the 1990 National Jewish population study indicated that 33% to 50% of North American Jews are intermarrying. The data also show that once they find themselves in that relationship, most of the Jewish partners cease to practice Jewish tradition, and often do not give their children a Jewish education or experience.

If our children end up marrying non-Jews, we should not reject them. We should continue to give our love and by that retain a measure of influence in their lives, Jewishly and otherwise. Life consists of constant growth and our adult children may yet reach a stage when Judaism has new meaning for them.

However, the marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is not a celebration for the Jewish community. We therefore reach out to the couple with the hope that the non- Jewish partner will move closer to Judaism and ultimately choose to convert. Since we know that over 70 percent of children of intermarried couples are not being raised as Jews, thus further diminishing the Jewish people, we want to encourage the Jewish partner to maintain his/her Jewish identity, and raise their children as Jews.

The unprecedented nature of the situation leaves us groping between what works for us individually and what is good for Klal Israel . In the face of the challenge, the Conservative movement has formulated the following position:

We subscribe to a three tiered approach to intermarriage: beginning with attempts at prevention, then the promotion of conversion, and finally, when prevention and conversion fail to occur, keruv to the mixed family.

The Mitzvah of Inmarriage.

We, are determined and committed to challenge intermarriage, rather than accept it. Our first line of defense is to emphasize the mitzvah of endogamy, “inmarriage” We must continue to articulate that it is important for Jews to marry other Jews to continue the ancient and historic mission of Judaism. . This means that we must be willing to discuss the issue forthrightly from our pulpits, in our schools, and in our youth groups, with firmness but without rancor, sensitive to the pains born by growing numbers of congregants who have intermarriages in their families. Our goal should be to make the synagogue not only a religious center but also a place where young adult Jews can meet and interact.

We are convinced that we can change the trend, and we must act on that conviction.

Conversion

Mitokh she-lo lishmah ba lishmah “One who performs an act for other than its own sake may eventually come to do it for its own sake.”

If, despite efforts at prevention, an intermarriage seems likely to occur, we must encourage halakhic conversion to Judaism. We can never truly understand why a person decides to enter into the Jewish faith. It is for that reason that we pray that through the process of halakhic conversion that their intent becomes clear to themselves and to God. The process of conversion that is accepted by the Conservative movement has three parts.

  • Learning (a period of study as determined by the officiating rabbi) and growth toward observance of mitzvot.
  • Tevilah (immersion in the mikveh).
  • For men the additional requirement of Brit milah or Hatafat dam brit (circumcision or symbolic circumcision).
Mayyim Hayyim, a beautiful new mikveh in Newton, MA.

Mayyim Hayyim, a beautiful new mikveh in Newton, MA.

It is our belief that not only should the non-Jewish partner participate in extensive study but the Jewish partner should as well. It is through the learning process that we will strengthen the bond between the couple and between the couple and our rich tradition. We should make this process as inviting as possible so that the potential convert feels warmly accepted by our community in the hopes of helping that person embrace our people and our tradition with the utmost of sincerity. We know that sincere Jews by choice add enthusiasm and strength to our community. They enrich us by their adult understanding of Jewish values, by their quest for spiritual sustenance, and by their commitment to a Jewish way of life.

Keruv

In contrast to the notion of “outreach” in which we change our self-definition in order to count the mixed-married among our numbers, keruv connotes the attempt to bring Jews and their non-Jewish spouses closer to us and to our established communal standards.

The goals of keruv should be strengthening Jewish identity among Jews, and affiliation with the Jewish community leading to the establishment of a Jewish home and family in which Judaism is the only religious tradition that is practiced. The target population for keruv should include Jews and their non-Jewish significant others, together with unaffiliated and underaffiliated Jews, children of intermarried couples, and people in search of their Jewish roots. Keruv should offer as its priority exciting and enticing entry level programming which provides Jewish education and enrichment, rather than solely a “support group” setting, and intermarried families should be integrated into the life of the community rather than being segregated by their intermarried status. Segregation of the intermarried families in our midst may function to reinforce and perpetuate that status, and undermine efforts at conversion and the goal of an exclusively Jewish home and family.

Although it is certainly tempting from a membership standpoint to be as inclusive as possible, we should be willing to recognize that we cannot be all things to all people. For example, mixed families that are not interested in raising their children exclusively as Jews may be beyond the reach of the Conservative synagogue. Ideally, we would like to reach all mixed families and convince them to lead meaningful Jewish lives, but research shows this outcome is highly unlikely in many, if not most, cases.

Therefore, we reaffirm the following standards as set forth by the Committee on Jewish Law and Standards of The Rabbinical Assembly:

1. Matrilineal descent.

2. Rabbis and cantors affiliated with the Conservative Movement may not officiate at the marriage of a Jew to a non-Jew, may not coofficiate with any other clergy, and may not officiate or be present at a purely civil ceremony.

3. Only Jews may be members of Conservative congregations and affiliated organizations. However, non-Jewish partners are welcome to attend services and to participate in educational and social programs.

4. Ritual honors, such as aliyot to the Torah, are granted only to Jews. Some congregations offer non-ritual roles in life cycle events to non-Jewish family members.

5. Intermarriages should not be publicly acknowledged in any official synagogue forum. Congratulations may be extended to the parents or grandparents of a child born to an intermarried couple provided that the child is Jewish (born of a Jewish mother, or, in the case of a non-Jewish child, if both parents have committed themselves to converting the child).

6. Sincere Jews by choice are to be warmly welcomed by our community.

7. Sensitivity should be shown to Jews who have intermarried and their families. We should offer them opportunities for Jewish growth and enrichment.

In the midst of our confusion and pain we should not ask of Judaism to adopt strategies which do violence to its integrity.

While the Conservative Movement acknowledges the individual and social circumstances that have give rise to an increased rate of intermarriage, it is committed to the ideological imperatives of encouraging endogamous marriages and conversions. As always, at the very heart of this movement stands our belief that we must find the proper application of traditional Jewish norms and values to the modern context.

_____________________________________________________________________________

The following statement was adopted on March 7, 1995
by the LEADERSHIP COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM

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What really happened at Sinai?

What Really Happened at Sinai?

Henry B. Balser

Conservative Judaism, Vol.XLVII, No.2, Winter 1995, p.64-68

Non-Orthodox Jews are extremely uncomfortable with the question, “What really happened at Sinai?” You cannot ask a question afraid of the answer. Those intrepid souls who have tried to examine the issue have tended to disregard the account given in the book of Exodus and instead imposed their theology on it. For Mordechai Kaplan, revelation by a supernatural God is impossible, so the Sinai event is a mythological event, of little importance to him. Buber asks the question directly in his book Moses. He tries to make sense of the text but admits:

It is precisely when we make the most earnest efforts to establish a reality, a reality consisting of actual facts, that we are possessed by the feeling that the words of the Covenant, the Ten Words could surely not have entered the
world thus, in such optical and acoustical pomp and circumstance; and where the narrative reports them as having them been written on Tablets of Stone, things happen quite differently, in and solitude. We the late-born,
oppressed as we are by the merciless problem of Truth, feel in our own minds a singular echoing of the protest which found its expression in the story of the Revelation at Sinai.

We interpret the text in the light of certain assumptions. We reject the story we are given a priori; it could not have happened that way. But what is this Truth that oppresses us? Of course it is the truth of modern rationalism which assumes that the story left to us by our ancestors could not be true. God cannot be heard in a loud and clear voice. Nor can God be seen. Yet the Torah is very clear that the people heard and saw God. We start with assumptions that make the biblical story impossible, and then we try to interpret that story.

In practical terms, we can pretend that we believe they heard God, and we pretend that the text does not say that they saw God. But hearing God is no more rational, no less anthropomorphic than seeing God. So perhaps our ancestors heard the voice of catholic Israel at Sinai.

I propose taking the experience of our ancestors seriously. Without assuming that we accept the text literally, I would like at least to start with the possibility that the text we have received reflects a real experience. Once we get rid of our modern arrogance, the confidence that we certainly know more about Truth than they could possibly have known, we might be able to be struck with the same sense of God’s presence and have the same awe for God’s appearance that they did.

Modern biblical criticism does not prove anything about the nature of the Sinai event. It may show us that there is more than one source and that it was not all written down at the same time by the same author. But the text tries to tell us a story in which the voice of God was heard and the glory of God was seen.

I am making the following assumptions about the text: What we have is the memory of the event as it was passed down through the generations. I do not assume that the words are all from God. We have the integration of several stories of the event, but they do represent what was reported about a real event. We do not have to interpret the story exactly as they interpreted it, but we do have to take seriously their experience of it. And the heart of that experience is that they heard and saw God.

Is it possible to hear or see God? Or can God be apprehended only intellectually? To answer this question we have to go to Maimonides. According to Maimonides, all the prophets with the exception of Moses used their imaginative faculty in apprehending God’s message. In other words, they saw and heard certain things, but only Moses understood God’s message without the intermediary function of the imagination.

According to Maimonides, Moses had become pure intellect and had ceased to be a body. So he heard no sounds and had no visions. His understanding of God was purely rational. The text, on the other hand, is purely metaphorical when it talks of hearing God’s voice or seeing God’s kavod.

While Maimonides does violence with the text, his defense of the Torah can work within his intellectual framework. He can assert that Moses was the one and only human being to reach the level necessary to apprehend God, and so the Torah is the only form that God’s “word” can take once it is put into human language. Thus, the Torah, while it is written in the language of ordinary human beings, is the only purely divine document that we can possibly have. There is no revelation. Imagination would impose subjectivity and cultural bias on the Torah. Thus, if Muhammad had attained the same level of intellect and prophecy that Moses had, the Quran would have had the same commandments as the Torah. The only difference would be that the Quran would be written in Arabic for the benefit of its audience.

Maimonides assumes that God is pure intellect and can be apprehended, to the extent that it is possible, purely intellectually Words and pictures distort God. Intellect is totally objective, while imagination is subjective. But if we were to talk to God as pure consciousnrss, we might conclude that the rational faculty and the imaginative faculty are both avenues to apprehending God. Neither is purely objective and neither is totally subjective either. (A deconstructionist might say that everything is subjective. A modern Marxist might say that everything is based in class, gender, culture, and race bias. But I will assume that we are not fully in these camps.)

One of the most profound developments that has come from modern physics is the acknowledgement that there is no such thing as pure objectivity The Heisenherg Principle asserts that the observer always affects that which is observed. This does not mean that there is no truth in the observation, but it does mean that the observer is part of the picture or equation. This concept has been extended into other intellectual endeavors. The historian and social scientist, as well as the scholar of literature, must now be aware that they view the subject matter or the text from a particular vantage point.

We cannot maintain today that Moses was a totally unbiased, nonsubjective receiver of God’s message. There is no such thing. The cultural relativist will maintain that Moses was a product of his time and culture, and the Torah and the commandments are only artifacts of that time and culture. They therefore have no divine mandate. We assert, however, that it is possible for a limited human being, who speaks a particular language and is grounded in a particular society and time, to reach out and perceive God’s will, even though the perception will be influenced by who that person is.

Why should a rational perception of God’s will be preferable to an imaginative perception involving sights and sounds? If reason inevitably has an element of subjectivity in it, can we not assume that imagination has an element of objective truth in it? Is a Mozart symphony a purely subjective creation or does it contain elements of divine revelation? Would a painting by Rembrandt or Picasso be a more immediate way of expressing a truth from God than would be a logical train of thought?

Even Maimonides asserted that prophecy involved a flow that could be called superrational, in that it is above and beyond the limits of human language. Maimonides makes the assumption that any translation of the flow into the imagination faculty is necessarily a distortion Only Moses gets the message in a totally undistorted fashion. Today we must describe prophecy as the touching of the human consciousness by the pure consciousness which is God. Then, if we can avoid prejudging the relative merit of the internal dialogue which we call reason and the hearing of sounds and the seeing of visions, We come closer to understanding prophecy in genera] and Sinai in particular.

When consciousness flows from God to humans, we experience a bifurcation into reason and imagination. This, to a large degree, parallels the division in our brains into right and left hemispheres. Consciousness is not simply a product of the brain and its functions. The brain and its functions enable humans to tap into consciousness, but consciousness comes from God and returns to God. It is the rational faculty that reaches out from the human experience and drives us to seek the truth. It is the imaginative-creative faculty that allows us to tune into God.

When the flow of consciousness comes from God to the prophet, it splits into thoughts and immediate experiences and sensations. The two together make up the whole of the revelation. The rational side evaluates the experience: It questions whether this is truly from God; it attempts to filter out that which is not God. The imaginative side experiences it directly. If the critical side is totally dominant, we do not experience God at all. Indeed, we may question if there is a God or there can be revelation. If the imaginative side is dominant, it becomes increasingly difficult to separate the real from the unreal, that which is from God and that which comes from other sources.

Let me share with you an experience I once had lying in bed as I was drifting off to sleep. I found myself on the boundary between dreaming consciousness and waking consciousness. For a short while I was able to control the process and move back and forth between being awake and being asleep. I could see a thought turn into a picture and then reverse the process. The thought and the picture were two forms of the same thing. It was a startling experience. Neither was more true than the other. One was a critical rational experience, the other was a direct imaginative experience. If the only experiences that are real are those that are critical and rational, then we are truly oppressed and incapable of an active engagement with the consciousness that is around us. If we are incapable of critical distance, then we are imprisoned by our immediate sensations, which may or may not correspond to external reality.

Kaplan and Buber were both “oppressed … by the merciless problem of truth.” For Kaplan there is no consciousness beyond that which is in nature, so Sinai did not happen. For Buber, God’s consciousness does not translate into words, thoughts, pictures, or sounds. We, however, may not have to be oppressed by rational Truth as it is perceived by Kaplan and Buber. For those who are oppressed by the Truth, the biblical story at Sinai is either an invention of later generations or a hallucination.

This is the critical juncture for the non-Orthodox Jew. Is there really such a thing as prophecy? Did Sinai really happen? I have absolutely no reason to discredit the account passed down to us and preserved in the biblical record. The fact that the text has different versions of the experience does not trouble me. What we have is the event as our ancestors experienced it and passed on to the next generations.

Thus there was a group of escaped slaves who experienced their freedom from bondage as coming from God. At Sinai they encountered their God. He spoke to them. They heard Him and saw Him. Our rational faculty asks: Was what they heard truly the voice of God? Was what they saw truly the Glory of God? But if our rational faculty can be convinced that the imaginative faculty has its own way of perceiving truth, then we can begin to accept that they “heard” God and “Saw” God, not as we see the physical objects of the world, but as best as they could perceive, given their human limitations. What they saw and heard was God-as-Israel-sees-and-hears-Him.

We cannot separate the God of Israel from our experience of Him. Similarly, I cannot separate my wife and my children from my experiences of them. Surely they exist apart from me, but I cannot know them as they are totally apart from me. My feelings, needs, and understandings necessarily color my view of who they are. So God’s speech cannot be separated from our understanding of it. God’s appearance cannot be separated from our vision of it. Was it a hallucination? The people present certainly did not experience it as such. They were certainly critical of the appearances of other gods. In judging it, all we can say with our rational faculty is that we have an experience of God, one that we can reexperience in the life we live as Jews. On Pesah we are back in Egypt. On Shavuot we stand at Sinai. On Shabbat we stand both at Sinai and in Egypt. As we reexperience, not as nostalgia and not as a long dead story but as a living event, then we know that what happened was real and powerful.

Possessing critical reason, we understand that we can testify only to what our people experienced at the Exodus and at Sinai. That is our gateway God. It is true for us. When I say that, I do not mean that it is just a subjective experience that is true only for us. It is true for us because we can verify it as an authoritative experience. We then try to bring its truth into the world by our action, our mitzvot, and our testimony. Our job is to make the world into the image of our revelation. It then begins to ring true to others as the way the world ought to be.

Meanwhile, other groups have had their own experiences of God. Muslims have Muhammad and the Quran as their gateway. Christians have Jesus and his resurrection. I have no personal way to verify the veracity of their claims except by the witness of their experience. I also cannot attack the veracity of their relationship with God. I can only judge where their revelations may conflict with the truth of our experience. I start with truth of our revelation.

For modernists, for people whose world-view was framed by the idea that there exists an objective reality whose nature can be deciphered only by our rational intellect, Sinai remains a metaphor, a mythological event, or a hallucination. But if we assume that human beings grope for truth both through their intellect and with their creativity and imagination, them we have to acknowledge that the revelation at Sinai is as real as any other event, probably more so. It really happened. And our ancestors saw and heard God.
Henry B. Raiser is Rabbi of Congregation Shaarey Zedek in Winnipeg, Manttoba.

The realignment of American Orthodox Judaism

Hmmm…provocative ideas. On his blog, Alan Brill writes:

https://kavvanah.wordpress.com/2015/08/05/interview-with-adam-ferziger-beyond-sectarianism/
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At a recent conference, a speaker noted as a forgone conclusion that Chabad was the only force shaping the last decade of American Jewry. Prof Adam Ferziger responded strongly and loaded with data that the Yeshivish world has had a great influence in shaping the current American reality. His latest work Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism, examines this claim and in addition offers several other essays where he investigates the changes in American Orthodoxy of the last two decades.

….In his prior work, Exclusion and Hierarchy (excerpt here.) , Ferziger shows how 19th century German Orthodoxy evolved two different approaches toward the non-Orthodox majority. In the initial approach, that became associated with Ultra-Orthodox, the non-Orthodox Jews were simply excluded from the purview of the minority community.

In the predominant approach, which emerged in the context of Neo-Orthodoxy, Orthodoxy created space for the nonobservant but spawned a hierarchical culture in which some were seen as keeping the tradition better than others, and as such more “authentic” Jews than others. Hence only the top of the hierarchy could have public religious roles.

In his latest work, Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism, Ferziger arrives at the binary conclusion that American Haredi movements such as community kollels have been socially outgoing, pragmatically protean, and concerned with outreach.

In contrast, Modern Orthodoxy – once the pioneering Orthodox movement that engages the spectrum of American – has gravitated toward an inward looking, boundary drawing religious style , and is focused more on raising its own education level.

In short, the former has recast itself as outward and outreach oriented, while the later has become more centripetal focused on its own narrow enclaves.

The first part of the book is a collection of Ferziger’s articles on a wide range of topics in American Orthodoxy: Rabbi Yekutiel Yehuda Grunwald , the Lookstein dynasty, and the SSSJ- Student Struggle for Soviet Jewry.

The second part of the book is a theme and variations on the current approaches to sectarianism of American Orthodoxy. In 1965, Charles S. Liebman published a study dividing Orthodoxy into two groups, modern Orthodoxy and Ultra-Orthodoxy. Liebman based this division on the sociological distinction between a “church” group that seeks to be open and broad, as opposed to a “sectarian” group that is only concerned for its own members. Ferziger traces a narrowing of the gap between the two Orthodox trends and ultimately a realignment of American Orthodox Judaism.

Ferziger shows that significant elements within Haredi Orthodoxy have abandoned certain strict and seemingly uncontested norms. He shows how Yeshivish Haredi Jews in the United States are outward looking, non-sectarian, college educated and acculturated in American life. Much of the discussion focuses on the emergence of outreach to nonobservant Jews as a central priority for Haredi Orthodoxy pushing even its core population to new attitudes.

In his focus on Centrism, Ferziger has a long essay, first published a few years ago, on Rabbi Hershel Schachter’s creation of a social boundary by labeling feminism as heresy. Centrism [the right-wing of Modern Orthodoxy] uses this heresy boundary to police its own sect by hunting down violators.

He also shows how Rabbi Schachter created an entire historical vision and criteria for authority based on his own newly minted ideas of mesorah….

Beyond Sectarianism: The Realignment of American Orthodox Judaism

On a related topic see Rupture and Reconstruction: The Transformation of Contemporary Orthodoxy

Noah, by Darren Aronofsky

Noah: A very Jewish retelling of the story.
To criticize the film for taking a few plot liberties is to miss its superb message of morality.
By Rabbi Eliyahu Fink , Apr. 3, 2014
Noah movie

Noah: A very Jewish retelling of th

The story of Noah in the Bible is fertile ground for intense theological debate and controversy. Incredibly, the recently released film “Noah” has generated almost as much discussion as the biblical account. It is impossible to review the movie without first addressing some of the criticism directed at it.

The feature film is visually stunning and a technical marvel. Russell Crowe shines in his role as Noah and his co-stars live up to the lofty standard he sets for the cast. “Noah” is a modern retelling of the biblical epic – with a difference. The film does not rewrite the Bible story as much as it retells it by filling in the blanks. The sources and meaning of these gap-fillers have become a thorny issue.

Christian fundamentalists and political conservatives take issue, in particular, with some of the social circumstances of the antediluvian era. But many of these critiques are misguided, like the suggestion that the only sin for which mankind is punished in the film version of “Noah” is harming Mother Nature and that humanity’s many other moral shortcomings are ignored.

Many of the gap fillers are borrowed directly from Midrashic literature firmly anchored in the Jewish tradition. Other plot elements not found in scripture are adapted from the Midrash, other sections of the Bible, and fairly well known Jewish mysticism. The strangest addition to the cinematic story is a lifted directly from “The Book of Enoch,” an ancient Jewish text. Following the Midrashic tradition, director Darren Aronofsky uses inventive ideas to solve problems in the text, like a forest spontaneously appearing to supply wood and magical creatures helping to build the ark. Similarly, the incredible visuals of the creation story as it unfolds in the film are heavy on evolution imagery. Judaism is comfortable reconciling creation and evolution so I was right at home seeing this retelling of creation. Indeed, “Noah” is a very Jewish retelling of the story….

See the rest of the review here Noah A Very Jewish retelling of the story
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Rabbi Eliyahu Fink also writes on his blog:

For Jews, Midrash has such a prominent place in Torah study. There are many kinds of Midrash, and one form of Midrash adds details and background to the Biblical narratives. It’s common for great Torah scholars to learn a new approach or twist on a Biblical story found in a Midrash. Our versions of these stories encompass competing and contradictory views. Even today, long after the closing of the Midrash texts, many great rabbis, especially in Chasidic circles, will derive new lessons and find new twists in the story to teach an important idea. In that sense, Noah takes the Jewish approach. The movie strays very far from the text. In the Bible, the story of the flood is long on construction details and specific dates but short on lessons and drama. The movie contrives much of its drama, but it’s not completely Hollywood imagination. Many of the superimposed conflicts and stories have roots in Torah and Jewish tradition. Whether it’s borrowing from the Book of Enoch or adapting from actual Midrashic teachings, much of the movie, with one giant exception, felt familiar enough to me.

Perhaps the most vocal and most common criticism I’ve seen from conservatives has been their objection to the ecological overtones of the movie. Aside from my personal opinion that worrying about this kind of not subliminal, subliminal message in a movie is silly, the truth is that our tradition supports this idea.
One Midrash teaches us that until Noah saved the animals in his ark, Man was prohibited from eating meat. Adam was a vegetarian. The animal world was protected and Man had no right to kill for his lunch. Only because Noah was responsible for the survival of the animals was he permitted to eat meat after the flood. Another tradition says that we couldn’t eat meat for our personal pleasure until we entered the Land of Canaan in the time of Joshua. According to one stream of Jewish thought, even then, eating meat is not ideal. Rav Kook famously held that vegetarianism was part of the Utopian Messianic era. This is not hippy drippy Hollywood. This is Judaism.
Similarly, in our tradition Noah was named for his farming innovations. One Midrash says that Noah invented the plow. It’s not a disconcerting invasion of foreign modernity to see Noah as a symbol of agrarian life. Another Midrash teaches us that Noah was super sensitive to the needs of the animals in the ark. He was a sort of proto-animal rights activist. That’s not the liberal movie industry, that’s Torah.
Throughout the movie there is a magical light source called zohar. It can be mined like a precious stone and could provide light and fire if used the right way. I thought this was a clever adaptation of the Midrash that explains the “tzohar” that Noah placed in the ark for light. One opinion in the Midrash is that the tzohar was a precious stone that provided light. It seems obvious to me that this is the source for zohar in Noah. The movie simply turned tzohar into zohar (which means radiance) and assumed that these stones were available to everyone.
Here are some other adaptations from Midrash that occurred to me during the movie. Don’t worry, I won’t reveal how these examples are used in the movie. There is a Midrash that says that the animals came to the ark on their own. One Midrash teaches that people began to attack the ark as the rains began and the wild animals surrounded the ark to protect Noah and his family. Some rabbis teach that Noah had little faith and did not enter the ark until the water rose above his ankles. We have a tradition that Og was a kind of stowaway on the ark. There are more examples, but you get the picture. To someone familiar with Midrash, embellishments like these are expected and accepted. To Biblical Literalists, they might be offensive….

Noah Midrash Details

 

Survivors of Noah’s flood

From the Jewish Encyclopedia

Og, Amorite king of Bashan, who reigned in Ashtaroth and was conquered by Moses and Israel in the battle of Edrei (Num. xxi. 33), sixty fortified cities, with high walls, gates, and bars, comprising the region of Argob, being taken and given to the children of Machir, son of Manasseh (Deut. iii. 13; Josh. xiii. 31).
Og was one of the giants of the remnant of the Rephaim. His iron bedstead in Rabbath, the capital of Ammon, is described as having been nine cubits in length and four cubits in breadth (Deut. iii. 11).

In Rabbinical Literature:

Og was not destroyed at the time of the Flood (Niddah 61a), for, according to one legend, the waters reached only to his ankles (Midrash Petirat Moshe (Hebrew: מדרש פטירת משה) or Midrash on the Death of Moses, i. 128, in Jellinek, “B. H.” ii.).

Another tradition states that he fled to Palestine, where there was no flood (Rashi to Niddah, ad loc.); while, according to a third legend, he sat on a rung of the ladder outside the ark, and, after he had sworn to be a slave to Noah and his children, received his food each day through a hole made in the side of the ark (Pirke de-Rabbi Eliezer, פרקי דרבי אליעזר, or פרקים דרבי אליעזר, Chapters of Rabbi Eliezar, ch. xxiii.). Og was known also as “Ha-Paliṭ” (see Gen. xiv. 13).