“And all the days of Methuselah were nine hundred sixty and nine years; and he died” Genesis 5:27


The Torah records the extraordinarily long lives of those who lived from the times of Adam until Noah, several for nearly a thousand years. Some commentaries believed that this was a result of their proximity to the perfection of creation, or on account of their vegetarian diet. 

Others, however, believed their long lives were miraculous and intentional. Rabbi David Kimchi (Radak, 1160-1223) suggested that their long lives enabled them to study over a long period of time and record phenomena for posterity.

“A lifespan of 70 years as we know it today is simply not long enough to accumulate this type of knowledge,” he wrote. “Once these basic data had become known and recorded, later generations could study them out of books, making it unnecessary for them to live for so many years.” 

The accumulation and preservation of information was a matter of great importance to Radak. His family had escaped persecution in Arab Andalusia and resettled in Christian France. There men like his father, Rabbi Yosef Kimchi, set about translating important Jewish philosophical works from their original Arabic into Hebrew so that they could still be studied. 

They did so to help ensure that the philosophical approach to Jewish life which these works represented would not be lost. They laboured to preserve the rational Sephardic tradition of sages like Maimonides and Yehuda Halevi.

Today, we take the preservation of knowledge for granted. Data is easily recorded and retrieved through online databases and encyclopaedias. As a result, the digital age has revolutionised the object of our learning; it is no longer about memory but about ingenuity, and the world of ideas is therefore developing at a breakneck pace. 

For Jews this means that we don’t only need to occupy ourselves with the preservation of Jewish knowledge, but can focus our attention on how our rich tradition informs how we think about and engage with our changing world. To accomplish this there is an ever growing number of Jewish sources and articles online for all to study, even for those who cannot understand Hebrew, Aramaic or Arabic. 

This age of information has provided us with an incredible opportunity. We are fortunate to be living in an age of creation. In this respect we’ve returned to Genesis.

The sidrah columnists for 5780 are:

Rabbi Shalom Morris, 
Bevis Marks Synagogue

Ma’ayan Shoshana Landau, 
Barnet United Synagogue

Rabbi Dr René Pfertzel, 
Kingston Liberal Synagogue

Rabbi David Ariel Sher, 
Jerusalem Kollel graduate and postgraduate student in psyschology and education at Cambridge University

Rabbi Kath Vardi, 
North-West Surrey Reform Synagogue


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