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Parashat Noach

October 28, 2022
3 Cheshvan 5783
Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

“A righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.” (Genesis 6:9)

This description is how we are introduced to Noah. Yet, when we take our leave of him, he is severely reduced. At the end of his life, we find him drunk and naked, needing to have his nakedness covered by two of his sons. The scene feels tragic.

Who is Noah? He is the builder of an ark, the one who listens to the voice of the Divine and takes action. He is capable of building an ark big and strong enough to survive a flood filled with his family and animals of every kind. After the flood, the Divine uses the rainbow as signifier that never more will the world be destroyed by Divine intervention. Once more on dry land after expressing his gratitude for being alive, Noah plants a vineyard and drinks too much.

There is a Hasidic tradition about Noah that describes him as a “tzaddik im pelz” -- a righteous man in a fur coat. A man in a fur coat warms himself, whereas a man who builds a fire warms those around him. He is seen as a man who only cares for himself.

Let us take a more generous view of Noah and his inability to warn his neighbors of the oncoming flood. After all, they watched him build an enormous ark and didn’t get involved.

If we look at the situation from a distance, we have one individual who was looking out for himself. At least Noah was able to hear God. We might also posit that at the end of his life, Noah turned to drink in the face of his inability to speak up when he had a chance. One might even say that he was traumatized by his own inaction in the face of disaster. Noah was not a leader; he had the opportunity but did not take it. 

In troubled times, the Torah teaches us that speaking up matters, even if we cannot change the outcome. Not acting when we have the opportunity has consequences, both for those around us and ourselves.

Yes, Noah listened to the voice and was righteous in his time, but that is not enough. It is simply not enough! Our task is to take a stand even if we cannot change the outcome. It is not enough to be good. We are not here alone. A moral life is one we share with others and we have responsibility toward one another. 

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Linda Shriner-Cahn

Thu, July 18 2024 12 Tammuz 5784