Table Talk: Noach
Natural or Miraculous: The deluge was certainly a great miracle; it was not a natural occurrence. Yet, God instructs Noah to construct an ark, so that he will have a practical way to save his family, the animals and himself. This is not the first time that God wants human beings to use something natural to deal with something miraculous. God planted an Cherub to guard the path to the Tree of Life, something miraculous, but He then placed a flaming sword in the angel’s hand. It seems that God is teaching us to use practical strategies to deal with challenges that seem to rise above the course of nature. Why do people so often turn to miraculous solutions to their problems? Childless women who go to sit in a chair that magically brings them blessing, older singles traveling to the grave of Yonatan ben Uziel to pray for a shidduch, desperate parents begging a Kabbalist for a blessing for their sick child, are all far too common. When is it appropriate to search for a miracle?
After Noah spent 120 years building the ark, he refused to enter the ark until the waters had risen up to shoulder height. How can someone dedicate more than a century to preparing for an event and then, in the final moments, manifest a lack of belief that it would happen? Is it possible that Noah believed deep inside that God would relent? He believed that God had decreed the Deluge, but also believed that God’s mercy would win the day? My uncle Noach zt”l often spoke of the potential holocaust of assimilation, yet many people did not react to his dire warnings with a sense of urgency; “God will save us,” was a frequent refrain. Reb Noach would often laugh, “These same people don’t rely on such miracles when they, God forbid, have a child who is sick!” Do we suffer from the same weakness in faith as did Noah?
“And Noah, the man of the earth, began and planted a vineyard.” (Genesis 9:20) There are three verses in the Torah that describe planting: 1) This verse. 2) “God, the Lord, planted a Garden in Eden.” (Genesis 2:8), and 3) “And he (Abraham) planted a tree in Beer Sheva.” (Genesis 21:33) The Sages taught that Noah planted his vineyard and Abraham, his tree, using saplings from the Garden. (Chapters of Rabbi Eliezer 23) Unless we believe that Noah and Abraham were actually able to enter the Garden, which would make us wonder why they didn’t eat of the Tree of Life, this Midrash is hinting to a metaphorical connection between the Garden, Noah after the flood, and Abraham after his covenant with Abimelech. What are the possible connections between these three events?
We invite you to see the following articles about this week’s portion on The Foundation Stone™ Blog:
Gardeners or Warriors
Fear of Change
Fathers and Sons
Apples and Oranges: The Comparison Game
To Hear and To See
From Past to Future