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עשה תורתך קבע – אמור מעט ועשה הרבה

Noah – He found favor

Posted by rabbiart on November 3, 2016

I’m sitting in Jerusalem on the highest hill in the city.  Or so says the material in our apartment at Window of Jerusalem.  Tonight we’ll be making shabbes with friends from our annual Israel Ride on behalf of the Arava Institute and Hazon.Our friend Carl Jacobs is hosting us and another couple of riders for shabbes dinner.

These might be the  five most important words in the Torah, or in the Tanach.  V’Noach matza chen b’einei hashem.  (after a several verse description of how rotten the eath and it’s inhabitants had become) we read. Noah found favor in the eyes of HaShem.  (Did Noah go around saying “he likes me, he likes me”?  Probaby not.

This is the first time in the Torah, in the entire Bible, that we find a human being “finding favor” with HaShem.  Fortunately? for darshanim everywhere tuhe next verses are a little less clear, leading to a debate that continues to this day.

“These are the tales of Noah.  Noach was a man and a tzaddik, he was tamim in his generation. With Elohim walked Noach.”  The latter part of the middle sentence sparks the debate.  Was Noach a tzaddik compared to his generation, or in spite of it?  The verse does say that Noah “walked with” HaShem.  But what does it mean?  Is it important to know which it is?  Maybe it was both.

Many readers might understand the 7th  binyan as being “reflexive”, but it has other meanings as well.  Consider this phrase harchov mitmalei anashim. “The street filled with people.”  A street does not fill itself with people, obviously.  In this case the 7th binyan is “developmental”.  In other words, the street filled with people over time.

In our verse we have et haelohim hithalech Noah. Noah did not simply “walk with HaShem”; that would be halach.  Noah was developing, learning to walk with HaShem over time.  Apparently, in our story, he had learned to walk well enough to be chosen to build the ark.

In our so called “advanced civilization” it is apparent that we are still learning to walk with HaShem.  The Torah’s description of the conditions that led HaShem to clean the earth and start over… well, it could easily describe our time and the conditions on the planet today.

It feels like all around us the world is in not a physical storm, but a spiritual one. 

The opening of Parshat Noah is a darshan’s dream, because the lesson is both so critically important and easy to understand.  Noah was learning to walk with HaShem.  He had learned enough to be chosen to build the ark, but had he become someone who walked completely! with HaShem.  We are all Noah; building an ark, learning to walk with HaShem. And possibly, just possibly, being the vehicle through which the world is redeemed.

Shabbat Shalom


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