In this parshah, we learn that the world is filled with corruption and violence and there was only one righteous man whose name was Noah. G-d instructs Noah to build an ark because the world will be destroyed by a flood and the only survivors will be Noah, his family and the two members of each animal species.
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Rain starts falling for 40 days and nights, and the water destroys every living creature outside of the ark, and another 150 days later the ark settles on Mount Ararat. G-d commands Noah to exit the ark and repopulate the earth. Noah builds an altar and makes sacrifices to G-d. HaShem promises that he would never destroy the earth again because of the humans’ deeds and makes a covenant with man setting a rainbow as a testimony. G-d forbids murder and eating of the flesh and blood taken from a living animal.
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Noah starts working by planting a vineyard and making wines. He gets drunk and passes out naked. Noah’s sons, Shem and Japheth, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, but his third son, Ham is punished for committing a transgression of his debasement. The ten generations after Noah remain unified in terms of culture and language. However, they defy G-d by trying to build a tower to emphasize their greatness and perceived invincibility. G-d acts swiftly by confusing their language and scattering them across a wide geographical area into seventy nations. The parshah ends with Avraham´s journey from his birthplace, Ur to the land of Canaan and with the chronology of ten generations from Noah to Avraham.
There are different opinions on exactly what happened when Noah passed out and Ham, saw his “nakedness”. One thing is certain; Noah had too much wine. Wine has many health benefits for mankind, it nonetheless remains, a beverage for enjoyment. While there is nothing wrong with man experiencing certain enjoyments, it should be a worthwhile activity in the proper manner and for the right purpose. For example, enjoying the Sabbath with abundant and delicious food to express the significance of the day is doing a great mitzvah. On the other hand, certain enjoyments and pleasures promote materialism and are against God’s commandments. For example, being a slave of money, committing adultery or eating unclean food, etc.
HaShem did not create us to use the world as unlimited and uninhibited indulgence. Rather, we are expected to serve HaShem and utilize the physical potential of the world for a greater purpose. When we use our money to perform acts of charity and kindness, when we are obedient and eat clean food and nourish our bodies, when we provide support for those who are in need, etc., we are achieving that purpose.
We must learn from Noah and not repeat his mistake. In our lives we are constantly being tempted for pleasures for the wrong reasons, however we must resist the wrong kind of pleasures and achieve the task that we have been given to accomplish in this world, which is:– to serve Hashem!
Shabbat Shalom and let’s enjoy the Shabbath with a cup of wine for kiddush praising Hashem! ~~~~~~~~ Yosef
Read the September 2015 newsletter from the European Union for Progressive Judaism.
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Read Torah from Around the World #294: Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)
By: Rabbi Danny Burkeman, Rabbi at The Community Synagogue in Port Washington, NY. He is a previous member of the WUPJ Board and was formerly one of the Rabbi at West London Synagogue. He has a weekly Torah commentary “Two Minutes of Torah” available on iTunes and you can read more of his writings on his blog.
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