I see the musical symbol above, a Fermata, as an eye, a perfect visualization of where we stand at the conclusion of the High Holidays, specifically Succot, the festival of vision. The first mention of the word Succah in the Bible is Sarah's birth name, Yiskah, at the end of this week's portion (Genesis 11:29), which is understood as her being a visionary. Succot guides us in visualizing how to sustain the transcendent experiences of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur and remain committed to our resolutions. We seek the Fermata; "the sustaining of a note, chord, or rest for a duration longer than the indicated time value, with the length of the extension at the performer's discretion."
We did not have much discretion in determining the length of our Fermata this year as we went directly from Simchat Torah into Bereishit, the beginning of the Torah. I searched for a Fermata in the creation story, found two, understood the two Noahs we meet in this week's portion, and why the portion ends with the introduction of Abraham:
"So God, the Lord, sent him from the Garden of Eden...and God, the Lord expelled him from the Garden of Eden (3:23-24)." Why did God have to expel Adam if He already sent him away? I believe that Adam refused to leave, holding onto his connection to the Garden; his Fermata, sinking roots of human connection to Paradise in the Garden's soil. Adam knew he would have to leave and was so insistent on maintaining a human presence in the Garden that God had to, "Station at the east of the Garden of Eden the Cherubim and the flame of the ever-turning sword, to guard the way to the Tree of Life (Verse 24)."
Adam's second Fermata sounds following Cain's death 130 years after the expulsion, "Adam knew his wife again (4:25)." Rashi explains that Adam separated from Eve for more than a century, blaming her for his downfall. It seems that the note Adam sustained the longest, was anger. He blamed Eve and hid from his responsibility just as he hid from God (3:8). No wonder we never find Adam attempting to confront the Cherubim and the flaming sword: he was hiding! The second Fermata overpowered the first.
We first meet Noah sustaining Adam's Fermata of connection, "Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noah walked with the Lord (6:9)." Noah hummed this note for the 120 years it took him to build the Ark, and for the year he lived in his own Divinely protected place. Almost everything outside was being destroyed, yet Noah's small world thrived.
Another Noah is introduced after the Deluge, "Noah, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent (9:20-21)." "Within his tent," is understood as describing people who hide from the truth (Amos 6:6). Noah, choosing Adam's other Fermata, hid from the world and his responsibilities. The second Noah displaced the first.
It is only Abraham who lives his entire life sustaining Adam's note of connection to Eden, and sets the agenda for his children to cling to that connection and repair the world (The Way of God 2:4:3).
Adam's two Fermatas resonate in the two Noahs, and the notes continue to reverberate in our souls as we struggle to retain our connection to the Garden, ready to receive the gift of, "To perfect the world through the Almighty's sovereignty," even as we often choose to hide from our responsibility to God and the world He created, the awareness with which we have lived since Rosh Hashanah.
Adam's two Fermatas each attempt to overpower the other as we segue from the Garden of the Days of Awe, our safe Arks, and our Succot, into the normal rhythms of life. We have fortified our connection to the Garden, and we now hear that other note, that of fear that we cannot face the challenge to maintain the connection outside the Garden, the Ark, the Succah.
The final chord in this week's portion is Abraham's, he who journeyed into different environments always hearing Adam's heart beating, "I belong in the Garden," and walked fearlessly into the future. Perhaps that is why the symbol of the Fermata looks like an eye: We dare not hide.
Rabbi Simcha L. Weinberg
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