This week’s parashah is the second of what Biblical scholars classify as “pre-history.” Last week we studied the creation stories found in the first weekly section called: “Bresheet”. This first parashah ends with the first acts of terrorism, the mass murders committed by Lemech. Lemech not only committed mass-murder but also bragged about his exploits. The text tells us that G-d found humanity’s actions to be so reprehensible that G’-d decided that the only possibility was to start again. It is at this point that we begin the book’s second parashah.
This week’s section is called Noach (Hebrew word for Noah). You will find it in Genesis 6:9-11:32. Scientists have long debated the scientific truth behind the flood. Was there such a flood? Was this the first recorded act of we now call climate change? If so, is the tale teaching us that climate is always changing or is it teaching us that humanity has a role in what happens on the earth?
The parashah begins with one of the Torah’s great mystery lines: Noach ish tzadik tamim haya b’doratav et ha’Elokim hitahalech Noach/Noah was in (for) his generation (times) a righteous man and a whole-hearted (naive) man who walked with G’d”. (6:9).
Once again we face multiple questions. Was Noah righteous? Is it the ultimate act of righteousness to be righteous (tzadik) when everyone else is not, or is such righteousness mere foolishness (tamim)? In a world filled with evil, should we fight to better it or does the wise person simply know when to leave? Does the Hebrew word “chamas” mean only physical violence or the verbal destruction of others to advance a particular agendum?
The text presents us with more questions than answers and forces us to read it in the context in which we live. Did Noah agree with G-d that the time had come to start again? Noah’s reaction to a world filled with physical and verbal terror was to do nothing. He appears to have simply stood back and taken the position that as long as the floodwaters did nothing to his family or to him then what happens to the world was not his business.
What does the Noah tale tell us about the impact of our own moral climate on humanity’s path through time? Are we flooded with a climate of selfishness and self-absorption? Have we replaced dialogue with violence and mob rule? Are we so certain of our own righteousness that we have ceased to hear other opinions and instead shout the other person down or worse?
Thus, we are left with the question: Was Noah righteous only because everyone else was less so, or was he a righteous man for all times? What do you think Noah should have done? Were you in Noah’s place what would you have done differently or the same? These are essential questions that define the world in which we live.
Jewish Philosophy Article
You can find Rabbi Tarlow’s monthly philosophy article, published in the Bryan Eagle at:
Youtubes of the week:
The Ark Song:
Judy Garland Sings “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”:
Hoping that the world continues Hanah Senesh “Eli Eli”: