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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Noach

Brave New World

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The saga of Noach – the original Castaway, Robinson Crusoe & Dr. Doolittle, all in one – is one of the most colorful & captivating in all of literature. Afloat for a full year, while the Earth & all its inhabitants are ravaged, Noach had a ride like no one else ever experienced.

When the rains stop & the waters abate, it is time for Noach to step out & encounter a Brave New World. But Noach is reluctant; he must actually be commanded by G-d to leave the ship; only then does he venture forth.

Significantly, the Torah uses the name Elokim here ("Vay’daber Elokim el Noach: Tzay min haTeyva!") rather than "Hashem." Elokim denotes strictness, indicating that G-d had to forcefully "evict" Noach from his place of residence, & that He was somewhat perturbed that Noach did not want to exit the Ark of his own volition.

But we can fully sympathize with Noach’s mind-set. The world he had known is now gone forever; it has become a global "ghost-town," no doubt littered with corpses & rubble everywhere. Where will he go; how will he start over? Is it any wonder that he immediately turns to drink, trying to drown out his despair & depression?

Noach prefers to stay inside the Teyva. There, despite the squawking & baying & barking of the four-legged passengers, Noach is safe. He has his family, he has his memories, he has his work with the animals to keep him occupied. Why leave that sanctuary to enter the unknown; why must HE be the one to repopulate Earth?

Noach’s feelings are genuine, human, understandable emotions. We should be sympathetic to Noach, for we would probably feel exactly the same way. Starting over – particularly after experiencing a tragedy – is traumatic & terrifying. But Hashem commands it, & so. like it or not, we must go.

Is this not the pattern of our own lives? We are nurtured by our parents in our own little "Ark" – perhaps even with a pet or two! – but then we must grow up & go out. We attend Yeshiva, or university or kollel, & wish we could spend our whole lives there. But G-d has other ideas; He wants us to face the world - & hopefully change its face for the better.

Is this not also the microcosm of our entire national history? Were we not forced to rebuild our ravaged communities? Did we not see our worlds destroyed, & then be told we must begin again? That we have done, for so long, with amazing success. Let us hope that the Ark has now finally come to rest, here at home, in Eretz Yisrael.
Rabbi Stewart Weiss
Was ordained at the Hebrew Theological College in Skokie, Illinois, and led congregations in Chicago and Dallas prior to making Aliyah in 1992. He directs the Jewish Outreach Center in Ra'anana, helping to facilitate the spiritual absorption of new olim.
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