Monthly Services

In October our Shabbat Service will be held at the Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building
23186 Myrna Peters Rd, Rodanthe, NC 27968.

23186 Myrna Peters Rd


Please join us!

Upcoming Service:
Date:
Saturday, October 20, 2018
Time: 10:00 AM


Parsha Noach
Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

     It’s only been a year since we last read this parsha, so I’ve made an extra effort to find some new meaning to it.  Last week, we would have read the first parsha of the Torah, Bereshit, in which the stories of creation were presented.  This week we read from the second parsha of the Torah, called Noah.
     I am sure most of you that Noah is the story of the Great Flood, but the way the story is written in Genesis is not the way Russell Crowe acted it in the movie that came out few years ago.
     If you read the early portions of Genesis, one the thing you quickly notice is that while it seems that Adam and Eve were the first people created, there were obviously lots of other peoples in the nearby areas.  When Cain was punished, he was sent out east of Eden, where he met his wife and had children.  In chapter 5, the Torah lists the generations after Adam and concludes with the birth of Noah and his sons.  However, by chapter 6, verse 5 it is said “that God saw the wickedness of man was great in the earth”, and God decided to blot out every living creature, including man and beast.
     Before I continue with a summary of the entire parsha, let me tell you that I am dismayed that God could not find a single other person who merited being saved.  Consider your friends and your acquaintances, and from a humorous perspective, politicians.  Can you not find ONE redeeming characteristic in any of them?   Even in these stressful times, most people have something positive going for them.  Let’s look at it another way.  If God decided that you were as noble, good and decent as Noah, wouldn’t you say something to God once you realized that you and your family were the only ones marked for survival?  Does that sound fair or logical?  While I understand that other religions talked about a Great Flood, the way our God chose to cleanse the world bothers me a bit.
     Now let’s move on from my perspective and see what’s in the actual text.  I have commented at times that of the first 4 people created, 3 failed to live up to God’s expectations and the fourth was killed by his brother.  While the rest of Bereshit mentions a few people who perhaps lived up to God’s standards, in general, most people did not. 
     Parsha Noah begins with the phrase, "These are the descendants of Noah," yet it does not go on to list any people other than his 3 sons.  Rather it begins with a discussion of Noah's attributes. This teaches us that what a person "leaves behind" in the world is not only their children, but also their righteous deeds.  The Mourner’s Kaddish gives us time to remember the good deeds of the departed.
     Noah is said to have been "perfect in his generation and walked with God." Scholars point out that had Noah lived alongside someone like Abraham or Moses, he would not have been considered very righteous. However, in Noah's generation, the world had become so corrupt that a reasonably righteous man (like Noah) would easily stand out among his peers.  Coming right after the High Holidays, Noah’s character indicates that while we are all equal at birth, it encourages us to be the best that we can be, regardless of our station in life.  It is ultimately the deeds of those who stand in the shadows that determine how others less fortunate will live.  The Amidah leaves it up to all of us to work with God to help the fallen, heal the sick, bring freedom to the captive and keep faith with those who sleep in the dust.
     Because Noah’s generation was guilty of the "three big sins," those being murder, idolatry and sexual immorality, Noah was given the task of executing God’s plan to cleanse the Earth by building and populating an Ark (Hebrew: Tayvah) that will survive the Great Flood.
     Noah selected seven sets of clean beasts and two sets of unclean beasts, and scholars differ as to what clean and unclean mean.  Some argue about kosher and non-kosher, others state it was animals that looked healthy versus animals that were blemished in some way.  In any case, Noah would have tried to take a small representative of every living creature except for man.    
     We recently read the Book of Jonah in which God gives the people of Nineveh a short time to repent before the city would be destroyed, and it appears they did so.  It is surprising, therefore, that since it supposedly took Noah 120 YEARS to build the ark, none of his contemporaries repented in that time frame.  Of course, unlike Jonah, Noah was not asked by God to tell his neighbors to repent.  Even if the time frame is greatly exaggerated, the ark was a big object so surely his neighbors would have asked him what he was doing.  Perhaps they did, but God never told Noah to include human beings except for his wife and his sons and their wives.
     I wonder why did the waters needed to cover the Earth for an additional 150 days after the 40 days of rain?  Is there some notion that God forgot that he had destroyed the entire world?  Noah then sent out a raven (who did not return) before sending out a dove (who came back with an olive branch).  But Noah waited even after the dove returned before he opened the ark and released the inhabitants; actually it took a total of 13 lunar months (one solar year) from the start of the rain until the exit from the Ark began.
     The parsha also reveals that there are at least 3 symbols of our covenant with God.  In historical order, the first is during the initial story of Creation, and we recall it when we sang the V’shamru, as we recognize that Shabbat is a weekly sign of our covenant.  The second occurs after the flood waters abate when, after Noah builds an altar, God says he will never again destroy humankind, and sets a rainbow as evidence of this covenant.  The third symbol occurs in the story of Abraham when the practice of circumcision is described.
     There is a little gem hidden in chapter 9, verses 20-28, and we heard about it in the sixth aliyah.  One of the first things Noah did was to plant a vineyard, and he apparently got drunk one night and passed out in his tent naked.  His son Ham saw him naked, yet did nothing but mention this to his brothers Shem and Japheth.  The brothers carefully covered up their father without observing him naked.  Noah cursed Ham and his descendants, the Canaanites, saying they would be slaves to the descendants of Shem and Japheth.  The Chumash uses this event to teach us to recognize that our parents are not infallible and that our children should try to overlook their parent’s faults and rejoice in their good qualities.  While I don’t think Ham did something disrespectful, idea of the teaching is a valid one.
      The parsha’s last aliyah includes the ten generations of Noah’s sons all the way to Abraham, along with 9 verses in Chapter 11 that tell the story of the Tower of Babel.  Apparently the descendants of Noah did not scatter, but remained a single people with a single language and culture.  For some reason, they decided to build a great Tower to heaven to symbolize their invincibility.  God met this act of defiance by confusing their single language so they could no longer understand one another.  The result was that work on the Tower was halted and the people scattered across the face of the earth, splitting into 70 nations.  The name of the place, Bavel, and our repronunciation of it as Babel, certainly reminds me of the concept of “babbling”, something of which I am accused of doing.
     The parsha ends with the death of Abraham’s father, Terach, after he takes Abraham and Sarah, and Lot and his wife, and journeys out of Ur towards the Land of Canaan.  There they settle in the city of Haran in western Mesapotamia.
     Before I get to the Haftorah, let me pass along a thought from bimbam.com.  The presenter says that in Noah’s day, there should have been 2 types of righteous men, and he equates them to the raven and the dove.  The raven went out, saw the earth was somewhat dry, and didn’t come back to tell Noah.  The dove felt it was important to tell Noah that it was safe to leave.  As I commented earlier, Noah was not told by God to warn his neighbors and give them a chance to repent, so Noah just built the ark and did as he was told.  From the presenter’s viewpoint, Noah was a raven.  Of course, if Noah had acted like a dove, the whole story of populating the ark would have been different, so I guess being a raven isn’t that bad after all.  At least God recognized a human raven because there were no human doves.
     Finally, the Haftorah comes from the second half of Isaiah.  It includes a reference to the Great Flood, and Isaiah is apparently trying to compare the repopulation of the world after its destruction to the prophesized repopulation of the Promised Land and the rebuilding of Jerusalem by the Exiles after its destruction by the Babylonians.  In both cases, the claim is made that a return to a “new world” will be followed by a return to God.  These themes in 750 BCE are as relevant today as they were almost 3000 years ago.  We need to make the right choices in order to make our world a better place to live in, and while being a raven is OK, trying to be a dove is always worth striving for.

     Before we finish our service, I want to point out that 4 days after the start of Yom Kippur, we begin to celebrate Sukkot, which is the final harvest holiday. We build a hut to remind us that during the final harvest, everyone stayed out in the fields until the harvest was completed.  At my last shul, our sukkah was a simple rectangular tent which we covered with corn stalks.  Each day’s prayers would include saying a blessing over a lulav, which is a mix of fronds from palm, willow and myrtle trees, and also an etrog, which is a special type of citrus fruit.  There is also a complex technique used to properly say these blessings.  Sukkot lasts 8 days, the last of which is Simchat Torah, which celebrates the completion of a Torah reading cycle.  This occurred just two weeks ago, since last week we read Bereshit, the first parsha.  If we had a bigger congregation, I think it would be fun to celebrate Sukkot in our own sukkah.  I even know some people who have their own private sukkah.
     Incidentally, the Hebrew month of Tishrei, which is NOT the first month of the year, has more significant Jewish holidays than any other month.  And now it’s time to get back to our service.