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Noah 5783 ~ Oct. 28, 2022

Noah and the Flood is one of those stories that is a favorite of all ages. The Biblical author thought so, too. It is such a relatable story to children and adults because of its poignant graphics: an ark floating on the water with a myriad of animals who marched up “two by two.” When story telling was the sole means of teaching lessons, both child and adult alike could visualize a world that was lush and green with so many different kinds of animals roaming everywhere being overtaken by flooding waters.

The messages are also quite vivid. A world gone wrong; one that even God is not proud of. So God wants a redo with the hope that Noah, his sons and their families might learn from the previous generations how to be more reflective of their roles in God’s world. More importantly, that they may glean on how to interact with one another.

It is a powerful story of God’s awesome power and ability to destroy a world, just as easy as it is for God to create a world.  And, having been created in the image of the Creator, the message is not only one to God, but to us to understand our unique roles to either enhance the world, or destroy it.

Unfortunately, as we get to the end of the Biblical story, we realize that one of its messages is that people will still be people – it is part of our inherent nature. Noah becomes inebriated upon leaving the ark, perhaps out of witnessing the destruction first hand. Or perhaps out of a recognition that he had an opportunity to save the people of the world from their own destruction, but hadn’t taken the challenge seriously enough. What follows in the narrative, when his sons find him in a most compromising way, defines the choices that each one of them can make. Needless to say, it is not only a story, but a lesson.

The story is also one that speaks loud and clear that “a promise is a promise” and a “promise made is a promise kept.” It is not only related to our daily interactions, but the fact that just as God made a promise never to destroy the world, it is a promise we too must strive to keep.

David Wallace-Wells in this weeks’ NY Times Magazine offers a glimpse of hope in one of those ongoing promises.  In “Beyond Catastrophe A New Climate Reality Is Coming Into View” Wallace-Wells writes:  “Over the last several months, I’ve had dozens of conversations — with climate scientists and economists and policymakers, advocates and activists and novelists and philosophers — about that new world and the ways we might conceptualize it. Perhaps the most capacious and galvanizing account is one I heard from Kate Marvel of NASA, a lead chapter author on the fifth National Climate Assessment: “The world will be what we make it.”  (NY Times October 26, 2022) And in that regard Kate Marvel maintains that the change in climate politics during the past five years, the continuing scientific papers and actions by scientists and some governments have created some degree of positives. Five years ago we might have been thinking about an apocalyptic reality. Today, with people taking on a degree of responsibility for our world’s future, the effects have been somewhat promising.

The question is not only related to our climate, but to our own human interactions with others. The stories in the news can be uplifting; but more often than not they are stories that our world hasn’t changed, not from before the flood of Noah’s time, but the afterward - once Noah and his sons disembark from the ark.  It becomes more visible as we witness the political narrative playing out before us here in America on the “eve” of a mid-term election, in Israel and in the politics of the U.K.

Perhaps the responsible response is to continue to follow in the Torah how God worked through the challenge made out loud to Noah that the world will never be totally devastated and destroyed. In the image of God, it is our responsibility to fulfill our promise as well.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi K

Sat, April 1 2023 10 Nisan 5783