Shabbat Shalom with a Heart Healthy Dose of Torah–Noach

Over the years, I have really struggled with the Noah story. Noah is the best of a bad generation. He never pleads for the life of anyone (including his own grandfather), and then gets drunk in front of his kids. Lots of innocent animals drown. How this story got white-washed to being the “perfect” nursery decoration, I may never understand. That said, the portrayal of the character Noah teaches us a lot about living. I don’t know how I would react to carrying the weight of human existence on my shoulders. I do not know how I would respond to getting off the ark only to find myself living amongst all of the rotting corpses of people and animals left to the elements after the waters all receded. I do not know whether Noah’s grandfather (Methuselah) was a saint or gang ringleader.

What I do know is that every time that I read this story, I have to scratch my chin and experience another “aha” moment. This week, mired in the “news” revolving around the ugliest election of the modern age, I have been seeking shelter. I need some quiet place away from the vitriol that seems to plague the tongues of our world.

The Torah says that it took Noah 100 years to build the ark. Okay, this is “Torah speak” for a long time. No, he did not plead for everyone; perhaps he was hiding from the calamity happening all around him. Torah tells us that people were acting with only evil intent towards each other. If I were in Noah’s shoes … could I pray for the well being of the leader, or any active member, of the KKK? I am not that good. “Noach ish tzaddik tamim hayah b’dorotov. Et Elohim hithalech Noach – Noah was a righteous man, the perfect of his generation. With God Noah walked.” While being the best of a generation that deserved the flood does not say much, that Noah even understood that God exists demonstrated vision and hope. And, it is so hard to keep from getting caught up in the mob mentality.

Perhaps this 100 years was a form of Shabbat; a respite from the noise; an opportunity to reflect, to meditate … to heal from the madness surrounding him. I know that it gave Noah some perspective. In building the ark, he focused on living. He focused on saving as much innocent life as he could. He took a long time hoping that someone might notice and ask questions or, perhaps, join in the building. So many of us try hard to stay above the ugliness. We try to speak and demonstrate kindness in a way that may lead others to leave the noise, as well. This is the woman approaching the barrier of armed soldiers lined side by side opposing unarmed protesters, who peacefully inserts a flower in the barrel of each gun. These are the people protesting a pipeline that violates a sacred treaty with the original inhabitants of this land we hold dear and sacred. This is also the person who walks into a coffee house and changes everyone’s day simply by paying for the coffee ordered by the person next in line; impelling each successive person to do the same for over an hour. While I pray that kindness is our default, we are propelled into hurtful responses by the madness that surrounds us. Noah simply focused on saving what life he could, doing his best to do no harm along the way.

There will be a day after the elections. We find ourselves mired in a frenzied disdain; a hate for anyone disagreeing with our narrowly focused politics. That day is next week. Can we put the hate rhetoric aside, look in the mirror and disgusted with how far we have devolved, return to each other? Or, given the frenzy, will those who lose resort to political, emotional, or physical violence in retaliation for the loss? We need to take a note from Noah. “Kol Yisrael aravim zeh b’zeh – each of us is faithfully responsible for each other.” We do have the power to change the madness. We need time to withdraw and rethink … refocus; we need to commit to saving life … and the dignity of everything that lives, even if, as did Noah, only a few lives at a time. Shabbat Shalom.