Noach is the parsha for this Shabbat. It is the 2nd weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle.
We’ve all grown up hearing schmaltzy stories about Noah’s ark, with cutesy pictures of the ark and the animals. It made for a great children’s fable, but today we’re going to explore the grown-up tale.
Why did GD want to send a Flood to destroy humankind?
The world of humankind had become a den of iniquity overrun by depravity, senseless hatred, corruption and violence.
In the Torah, GD commands Noah to take seven of each Kosher (clean) animal and two of every non-Kosher (unclean) animal onto the ark.
It took Noah 120 years to build the ark. During that time, the people of his hometown, Shurupaak, did not try to amend their behavior, despite the many warnings GD sent them. In fact, while Noah was building the ark, his neighbors mocked and bullied him.
The Hebrew word used to describe the ark is tevah. This word only appears in one other story in the Torah to describe the basket that floated baby Moses down the Nile to safety. Tevah is a metaphor for ‘safe supportive space.’ It’s our bridge over troubled water.
What kind of bird did Noah send?
After 40 days and 40 nights the rain stops and Noach (his Hebrew name) sends out a raven to see if the waters have abated. Ravens are known to be shrewd, clever and highly intelligent. Spiritually they symbolize mystery, guidance, healing, transformation and prophecy.
The raven goes out, but keeps circling the ark, leaving Noach fermished (confused) without a clue or an answer.
In Midrash the raven tells his side of the story. The raven talks to Noach and accuses him of trying to kill him. Since there are only two of his kind on the ark, the raven thinks Noach is trying to destroy his species by sending him out first.
After the raven debacle, Noach sends out a placid dove. He sends the dove three times, even after receiving a sign on the second try that the waters had abated, indicating that he did not fully trust the process. (Genesis 8: 8-12)
Was the raven right in believing Noach thought of him as inconsequential? The raven was no fool. We all know when we are not valued.
In Melachim I – I Kings 17 GD entrusts ravens with bringing the prophet Elijah (Eliyahu) meat and bread twice a day while he was hiding in the Kerith Ravine. We all need someone to affirm our value after we’ve suffered a blow to our self-worth.
The Torah tells us the earth was not as lush and fertile after the flood, requiring humans to eat animals to survive, when initially GD said all the seed-bearing plants and seeded fruits will be your food. (Genesis 1:29).
After the flood, GD makes a covenant with Noach and all his descendants:
“Whenever humanity is unworthy and thoughts of destruction rise before Me, I will cause a rainbow to appear among the clouds. This will remind Me of My covenant, and I will hold back.”
This is why we say a special bracha (blessing) whenever we see a rainbow.
What is the takeaway message?
Maimonides (Rambam), said the tale of Noach is a warning about the dangers of living with people who don’t share a value system.
The people of Shurupaak did not share a value system and did not create a “tevah” (safe space) for all members of their community.
This parsha is conveying the importance of building a communal or congregational Tevah and creating a vision of how we want to construct it.
The RamBam’s message is clear. We all need an ark (safe sanctuary) among our people where we can connect, contribute, self-actualize and belong. No one wants to feel expendable like the raven.
©️ 2020 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED // GD is my way of spelling G-D without the customary hyphen often used in Judaism.