Ritual Wisdom

Ritual Wisdom 10-23-2020

This week’s Torah reading, Noach is about the story of the Great Flood and Noach’s Ark. The reading ends with the birth and life of Abraham and Sarai (Sarah).

Q. How long did it take Noach to build the Ark?

A. 120 years. Noach began building the Ark when he was 480 years old and completed it at age 600.

Q. Why did it take him so long?

A. To give people a chance to repent. When people asked Noach why he was building an ark, he replied that G-d was bringing a Great Flood unless people would repend and better their ways. Yet, 120 years of exposure to building The Ark and telling people why, they still didn’t repent and G-d eventually brought The Flood. Also, G-d waited for Noach’s grandfather, Mesushelach, to pass away.

Q. The Torah proclaims Noach to be a righteous person. Noach was the one who built The Ark and was responsible for saving life on this planet, yet, the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 54) refers to The Great Flood, which brought so much destruction, as Mei Noach, “the waters of Noach.” Placing partial responsibility for the Flood on Noach. How could a righteous person (Tzaddik) like Noach, who, he and his family were saved from The Flood, be blamed somehow for The Flood?

A. Our sages explain the apparent contradiction with the following parable: Many people were sitting in a cold room. Two of the people decided they couldn’t take the cold any more.

One person went and put on his fur coat. Although he was now comfortable, everyone else was still freezing. The other person decided to get wood and make a fire. He not only warmed himself, but everyone else in the room too.

Abraham, who was a descendant of Noach, was like the second person. When G-d wanted to destroy the cities of Sodom and Gomorra, Abraham prayed to G-d to save the people of those cities. But Noach was similar to the first person. Noach was indeed righteous, but he didn’t go out of his way to save the rest of his generation.

Only when asked why he was building the Ark, he told them, but he didn’t go out of his way to  call people to repent. He also didn’t pray that G-d spare the people. Because he didn’t do enough to prevent the disaster of The Great Flood, the prophet calls it by his name – “The waters of Noach.”

The Torah portion of the week is not a lesson in history, but to teach us a lesson. The lesson here is that if one doesn’t do enough to set another person on the right path, they too bear some of the responsibility for the other person’s negative actions.

This week’s Torah reading, Noach is about the story of The Great Flood and Noach’s building of The Ark.

This Torah reading is the second reading of the Torah. In the first Torah reading, Breishis, the Torah records the story of creation. In the second reading, Noach, we read about the enormous destruction which G-d brought through The Great Flood. Only Noach and his family were saved in The Ark. Also, seven of each of the kosher animals and two of the non kosher ones were saved in The Ark.

Q. What was the reason for this enormous destruction on such a global scale?

A. The Torah states that it was a punishment for immoralty, murders, idol worship and robbery on a global scale. All the descendents of Cain (who killed his brother Abel), perished in The Flood.

Q. Does the Torah give any reason for the name Noach?

A. The Torah states that his father, Lemech, called his son, Noach, which comes from the Hebrew word “Nechama,” comfort, saying, “This one will bring us comfort from our hard labor in the field which G-d cursed.” Indeed, Noach developed tools which made it easier to cultivate the land.

Q. How old was Noach when The Flood began?

A. Noach was 600 years old when The Flood began.

Q. How many people were saved in The Ark? Who were they?

Eight people were saved: Noach, his wife, their three sons and their wives.

Q. How old was Noach when the first of his sons was born?

A. He was five hundred year old.

Q. How long did The Great Flood last? How much time did they spend in The ark?

A. The waters of The Great Flood came down for forty days. Even after the rains stopped, the waters kept on rising and gaining strength from beneath until they covered all the mountains. It was half a year before the waters began receeding. They were in The Ark for over one year.

Q. How did the animals behave in the Ark? Whay did they eat?

A.  Everyone got along, even the lion and the sheep, just as in Moshiach’s times. Meat was prohibited for them to eat. They all ate vegetation. Only after The Great Flood did G-d permit them to eat meat.


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