Enoch makes a brief appearance for four short verses in Genesis 5:21-24. Aside from being the father of the world’s oldest man Methuselah, who lives for an astonishing 969 years, he has another claim to fame.
He is described twice within these verses as one who “walks with God” and his death, unlike those who preceded or succeeded him is described as “being taken by God”.
Who was Enoch and why does he get given this title?
The rabbis of the Talmud explain that Enoch was a shoemaker. They describe how with every stitch he would achieve “spiritual unifications”.
This term is generally reserved for one who is steeped in the study of authentic Kabbalah and elevates the mundane to a more spiritual plane.
Rabbi Eliyahu Dessler, in his classic work Michtav MeEliyahu, explains there was nothing mystical going on here at all.
Rather, as Enoch made his shoes, each and every stitch would be accompanied by the desire to benefit others, to make sure the shoes would be as strong and as comfortable as possible.
His sole motivation (pun intended!) was to give to others.
Yes, he took payment for his work, as he was entitled to do, but his main drive in life was not the accumulation of wealth, rather the well-being of others.
Rabbi Dessler explains that people are either givers or takers.
Of course life involves “give and take”, but it is our primary motivation that determines whether we are “giving for the sake of taking” or “taking for the sake of giving”.
One who gives is emulating God, Who is the ultimate giver. Having come to this realisation, Enoch “unifies” heaven and earth.
He raised the mundane act of being a cobbler to a spiritual experience through focus and motivation alone.
Rabbi Jonny Roodyn is the educational director of Jewish Futures Trust @rjroodyn