Monthly Services

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

Rodanthe-Waves-Salvo Community Building

Please join us!

Upcoming Service:
Saturday, October 21, 2017
Time: 10:00 AM

Parsha Noach

Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

     At Rosh Hashanah, we 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.
efore I begin, let me tell you that the way the story of Noah is written in Genesis is not the way Russell Crowe acted it in the movie that came out a few year ago.  The movie wasn’t bad, but it definitely did not follow the text.
     One of the things I quickly noticed 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.
     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 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 children, but also his 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 just 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.  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 sons and his wife.

     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?  The raven versus the dove has implications on the condition of the world as the waters were abating, for it took an even longer time before Noah opened the ark and released the inhabitants; actually it took a total of 13 months from the start of the rain until the exit from the Ark began.

     I also learned 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 Noah builds an altar, God says he will never again destroy humankind, and then 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, the eventual father of the Caananites, 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.  I do not see how this teaching comes from this episode as there is very little text involved to suggest that Ham did something disrespectful, but the 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 regularly.

     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.

     Finally, the Haftorah comes from the second half of Isaiah.  It includes a reference to the 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.  This theme in 750 BCE is as relevant today as it was almost 3000 years ago.  We need to make the right choices in order to make our world a better place to live in.