A formula for the renewal of Judaism is found in this passage from Parshat Noah. It teaches the relationship between Torah values and secular learning as the relationship between Noah’s sons Yefet and Shem.
Renewal of life after the flood is symbolized by the branch from a tree brought to Noah by a dove. I will link the contemporary significance of Yefet dwelling in the tents of Shem to new growth emerging from the scars of the tree where its branch was severed. (See photographs and Torah tweets for Parshat Noah at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.com.)
The Torah tells us that Yefet is the father of Yavan (Greece). Yavan represent Greek philosophy and Hellenistic art. Shem, the ancestor of Israel, represents Torah learning that leads to actively embracing moral and spiritual values in everyday life.
The vibrant networked world of 21st century makes the emergence of Shem overtake the dominance of Yefet in Western Culture since the Renaissance. My book, The Future of Art in a Postdigtial Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness (http://future-of-art.com), relates to theologian Thorleif Boman’s seminal book Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek. He emphasizes the dynamic, vigorous, passionate, and action-centered characteristics of Hebraic consciousness in contrast to the static, peaceful, moderate, and passive Greek consciousness.
Yaft is usually translated as “expand.” It is also related to yafa, which means “beauty.” Yefet has expansive and beautiful potential.
The contemporary challenge of the Jewish People is to build a tent of Shem with such strong, durable and flexible fabric that the expansive beauty of Yefet is welcome. We have not implemented this Torah formula so vital for the success of our reborn Jewish State.
Just as Jochanan ben Zakai and his colleagues in Yavne renewed Judaism when Jewish sovereignty was lost, a second Yavne is needed now to renew the Judaism of exile so that it addresses our reestablished sovereignty in the Land of Israel in a networked world. Without Yavne’s creation of a redesigned Judaism to function with the loss of the sacrificial rituals of the temple in Jerusalem, the Jewish people could not have survived two millennia of exile.
How is the Torah formula of Yefet dwelling in the tents of Shem enacted in Israel today?
Secular Israelis attempt to live in the tent of Yefet feeling the tent of Shem is obsolete and irrelevant to contemporary life.
The Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) hide in a tent of Shem imported to Israel from 18th century Eastern Europe. They indirectly acknowledge the expansive power of Yefet by avoiding it like a plague.
Reform Judaism imported to Israel from America reverses the biblical passage by asking how Shem can be reformed to fit into the tents of Yefet.
National Religious (Dati Leumi) and Modern Orthodox Jews see the value in both tents. They are commuters moving between the tents of Shem and Yefet. Separate departments of serious Torah studies and high-level research in the sciences and humanities have been created at Bar-Ilan University.
Implementing the formula posed by the Torah for Yefet to dwell in the tents of Shem is major challenge for Jewish People in the 21st century. In my books The Future of Art in a Postdigtial Age: From Hellenistic to Hebraic Consciousness and Photograph God: Creating a Spiritual Blog of Your Life http://photographgod.com, I offer a model of a vital dialogue between Yefet and Shem in a tent of Shem designed for a postdigital future. My son Rabbi Ron Alexenberg (Merkaz Harav) is a also scientist (Ben-Gurion University) who explores interrelationships between Torah and science in his research and teaching.
The emergence of the Jewish State after our nation’s branches were cut off during two millennia of persecutions, inquisitions, pogroms and the Holocaust, is expressed by new life sprouting from the very places that a tree’s branches were sawed off in the photographs that I took in Petah Tikva (Opening to Hope). See them at http://bibleblogyourlife.blogspot.co.il/2014/01/genesis-2-tree-of-renewed-life.html