For the week ending 9 October 2010 / 30 Tishri 5771

Parshat Noach

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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It is ten generations since the creation of the first human. Adams descendants have corrupted the world with immorality, idolatry and robbery, and G-d resolves to bring a flood which will destroy all the earths inhabitants except for the righteous Noach, his family and sufficient animals to repopulate the earth. G-d instructs Noach to build an ark. After forty days and nights, the flood covers even the tops of the highest mountains. After 150 days the water starts to recede. On the 17th day of the 7th month, the ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat. Noach sends out a raven and then a dove to ascertain if the waters have abated. The dove returns. A week later Noach again sends the dove, which returns the same evening with an olive leaf in its beak. After another seven days Noach sends the dove once more; the dove does not return. G-d tells Noach and his family to leave the ark. Noach brings offerings to G-d from the animals which were carried in the ark for this purpose. G-d vows never again to flood the entire world and designates the rainbow as a sign of this covenant. Noach and his descendants are now permitted to slaughter and eat meat, unlike Adam. G-d commands the Seven Universal Laws: The prohibitions against idolatry, adultery, theft, blasphemy, murder, eating meat torn from a live animal, and the obligation to set up a legal system. The worlds climate is established as we know it today. Noach plants a vineyard and becomes intoxicated from its produce. Cham, one of Noachs sons, delights in seeing his father drunk and uncovered. Shem and Yafet, however, manage to cover their father without looking at his nakedness, by walking backwards. For this incident, Canaan is cursed to be a slave. The Torah lists the offspring of Noachs three sons from whom the seventy nations of the world are descended. The Torah records the incident of the Tower of Bavel, which results in G-d fragmenting communication into many languages and the dispersal of the nations throughout the world. The Parsha concludes with the genealogy of Noach to Avram.


For The Birds

"From each bird according to its kind, and from each animal according to its kind.(6:2)

World events have shown that anti-Semitism is alive and well and living in all those centers of civilization in which it was considered extinct half a century ago.

The existence of a Jewish state, the 19th century Jewish intelligentsias ultimate panacea against anti-Semitism, has failed to prevent the emergence of an anti-Semitism as potentially virulent as any strain to date with the ultimate irony that we are now dubbed the new "Nazis"!

What is all this supposed to teach us?

The existence of the Jewish People in an other-worldly phenomenon. The "unhistory" of the Jewish People has perplexed historians and left them either wanting to change their professions or fudging the facts. Logically, they say, we shouldn’t be here at all. And in a sense, they’re right. We don’t belong here. We occupy this world as a piece of rented real estate. This is not our place. We are an other-worldly people.

The Jewish People is likened to a bird. In its natural element, the bird can soar to the heights, leaving its earth-bound cousins far below. However, when you enclose a bird in a cage, not only does it no longer soar, but its very advantages become its weaknesses. Its feet are not suited to walking around. Its wings atrophy. Its plumage wilts.

In this week’s Torah portion, when the animals entered the ark, the Torah lists the birds before the land animals: "From each bird according to its kind, and from each animal according to its kind." However, after the entry to the ark it mentions the land animals before the birds: "And the animal that is not kosher, or the birds." And when about to leave the ark, the order reverts to the birds being mentioned before the land animals: "Every living thing that is with you of all flesh, of birds, of animals."

Why did the Torah change the order?

The ark was a microcosm of the world. Just as the world has three levels of holiness, so too the ark had three levels. Just as the world has a sun that radiates light to it, so too the ark had a precious jewel fixed in the ceiling that radiated light to it.

Outside the ark the birds can fly. They are pre-eminent. However, when they are cooped up in an ark, they become the least of the animals.

We are a nation that has been designed to soar to the skies, but if we choose to lock ourselves into an ark of physicality we will find ourselves as sprightly as a Dodo.

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