Shabbat Shalom with a Heart-Healthy Dose of Torah – Noach

Noakh ish tzaddik, Tamim b’dorotov. Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noah built an ark because God warned that the flood was coming. Noah put his family on the ark and, in an orderly fashion, brought two of each animal (7 sets of each kosher animal) onto the ark, saving them from the promised flood waters. The rain came and came … and came. For 40 days and nights the rain fell. The waters overflowed the banks and filled the valleys. By the time the rain ceased to fall, the earth was covered in water, passed the highest of mountain peaks. Presumably the fish of the sea survived, but all other life on earth perished. Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation.

Noah never asked about anyone else. Noah did not even ask to save his grandfather Methuselah. Noah never asked about the innocent animals. Noah took care of Noah. Noah was a righteous man … perfect in a generation that merited the flood for their behaviors that served only to destroy humanity. At least until he got drunk after emerging from the ark, Noah never offered a word of remorse or regret.

Maybe he got drunk, not knowing what to do with his grief over a world destroyed. Certainly, the innocent animals died for no reason other than that they were not the first two of their species in line. Perhaps, he got drunk unable to cope with having to live amidst all of the rotting bloated corpses of everything that drowned, and now lay on the open ground since the water had receded. Perhaps he just got drunk because even as a drunk, he was still the best his generation had to offer. Either way, Noah inherits a world where death is larger than life and where growth of anything alive happens only in the shadow of the rot and decay of human and animal flesh.

We have spent thousands of years manipulating the stories presented in Torah to teach relevant moral lessons. Each generation has read some different nuance into the text, using it to solve some sociological problem it faced. This elasticity is built into scripture. The ability to manipulate the text serves the purpose of having a text … it begins conversation.
History is a completely different animal. Yes, history is always seen through the eyes of the historian. When, however, we start revising history to twist the truth so that it comports with a politically or sociologically manipulative agenda, we damage the foundations of society. When we become so politically motivated that we have to win a debate, even at the cost of truth, we destroy a piece of the world. When, like Noah, we show concern only for our own immediate and tangible network, at the expense of all other life, the world may not be worth inheriting.

Over the ages, we have seen politicians and military leaders trying to rewrite history. The American Civil War had nothing to do with slavery. The Confederate Flag has never been a hate symbol. September 11 happened because the Supreme Court was liberal. Now we read that Jews have no history on the Temple Mount. We read about a young boy “executed” by Israelis after he stabbed a Jewish child just for being Jewish. We then see a picture of him in an Israeli hospital … very much alive, being medically treated by the very people he vowed to destroy. What is maddening is that people believe the nonsense.

Buying into revisionist history destroys the world because it causes us to behave in ways that history should teach us are only destructive. Scripture is malleable, history is real. Yes, there will always be nuanced readings of history, but we cannot try and pretend that things that happened did not or that people who existed did not. I do not know whether there was a Moses or not. I absolutely know that there is a nation rooted in the foundations of Judaism that lived and thrived in Jerusalem with a religious life focused on the temple that stood atop that area where the two great mosques of Islam now stand. I know, absolutely that in the 1967 War, when Israel reclaimed the area of Old Jerusalem that includes the retaining wall and Temple Mount, the Rabbis refused to let the Military destroy the mosques because it was now shared holy ground. 

Our Temple and their Mosques shared the same holy ground. Of what purpose could rewriting this history serve, except to alienate people from each other, a clear violation of everything that Jews and Muslims hold sacred. My colleagues have declared this to be “Solidarity Shabbat.” As Jews are being randomly attacked with knives, we have to hold sacred the lives forever altered by hate: the lives of the victims and their families and the lives of the perpetrators who gave in to the message of hate. Solidarity cannot be a matter of holding tight to one victim over another. My prayer for solidarity is for the Godliness … “Allah-ness” that should help us appreciate each other and the blessings that we can share with each other will see us past the distractions that make us lose focus on each other’s holiness.

However one chooses to read the Noah story, he failed at being humane. One cannot know what would have happened if he only said, “God, please … no, there has to be a better way.” We cannot fail. This week, show solidarity with each person with whom we share the same creator. It is time for the voice of unity to sing loudly that this is not my world or your world. Every time we try to change that truth, it becomes a world that welcomes neither of us. We are each made in the very same image of God; a child of the same miraculous phenomenon of birth. I have no hope for the future if I have no ability to love you today. Shabbat Shalom.