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Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

JCC Association joins with rabbis and leaders of the Reform, Conservative, Orthodox and Reconstructionist movements and the Conference of Presidents in declaring this weekend, October 16 – 17 (Parshat Noach), as a special Sabbath of Solidarity with Israel. We encourage JCCs to incorporate Israel into their weekend programming and show support for our brothers and sisters in Israel who are facing escalated violence in their communities.

“And God saw the earth and behold it was corrupted,
for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.” (Genesis 6:12)

Parashat Noach raises important questions about God’s relationship with humanity. God chooses to destroy the world because of its wickedness (unspecified). God saves Noah, his family, and the animals to recreate a new (and hopefully, improved) world. But what makes Noah special?

The obvious reason is because, “…Noah was a tzaddik, a righteous man, perfect in his generation.” (Gen. 6:9). In fact, Noah is the only person in the entire Jewish Bible labeled a tzaddik. This reason is supported by God’s testimony to Noah as he enters the ark, “…For it is you I have seen to be righteous before me in this generation (Gen. 7:1). This assumes God’s behavior is ethically consistent: Noah is saved because he is different; he is righteous. All who are not saved therefore must be evil.

However, the Torah offers another possibility: “But Noah found favor in the eyes of God. “ (Gen. 6:8) This verse can be interpreted to mean God saves Noah simply because God likes him (Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 108a). And that means others just as righteous as Noah may have perished in the flood (Midrash Tanhuma, Re’eh, 3).

It is troubling to imagine God plays favorites for no apparent reason. And this is Abraham’s concern when he learns of God’s plan to destroy Sodom and Gemorrah: people will assume God is arbitrary, as in the story of Noah (Midrash Tanchuma Vayera 8). The Flood “reboots” God’s relationship with humanity, and triggers a march toward a more ethically just foundation. This process begins with Noah on Mt. Ararat, continues with Abraham, and reaches its peak with Moses on Mt. Sinai.

Gut Shabbos/Shabbat Shalom

David

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