To Hear & To See
They listened and they watched for over a century, but they didn’t hear or see a thing. The farmer who, according to the Sages, invented the plow, changed careers, and gave up his work to become a carpenter in order to build a huge ark. He signed up at the local college for certification as a veterinarian, and pretty much kept to himself. People first attributed Noah’s change of course as a midlife crisis. After all, almost five centuries in one job is a little too much for anyone.
But people began to wonder at the size of his pleasure boat. When asked, Noah would answer. He warned people of their impending doom. His hammers banged through the neighborhood. His saws would often put people to sleep. People watched Noah build his monstrosity far away from any water. They heard and observed for the 120 years it took Noah to build his ark, but they were deaf to his words and blind to his efforts.
People lost their hearing again soon after the flood. They knew what God had done when angered. They could see the effects of the flood generations later. They listened to the stories, they observed the damage, but again they chose not to hear and not to see.
“God descended to look at the city and Tower.” (Genesis 11:5) People chose not to see so God ‘descended’ to earth to teach the sons of man how to see.
They chose not to hear, so God said, “That they should not hear one another’s language.” (Verse 7)
How interesting it is that our matriarch Sarah is introduced as “Yiskah” – “she could see the future by holy inspiration.” Sarah is presented as a visionary, and God appeared to Abraham in visions, “After these events, the word of God came to Abram in a vision.” (Genesis 15:1)
Abraham and Sarah observed and saw. They took what they saw to heart.
We live in a world in which people choose what they want to see and hear. I have attached a video of a commander of the British army, Col Richard Kemp, addressing the UN Human Rights Commission. His words are powerful. His audience chose to not hear.
We know what happens to those who choose to not hear and not see. Have we learned from their mistakes, or are we too, willing to miss the boat?
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