This week we study Parashat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32).
* I thought we’d start by me giving Rabbi Rabbs an Aura Soma reading. After all, you are the colors you choose.
* Then we’ll do a cooking show. Tonight I’ll demonstrate how to prepare raw oats with almond milk. First you take the raw oats. You pour them into your bowl. Then you go to the frig and add almond milk. Mix. Sit down in front of your computer and eat.
Rabbi Ari Kahn writes: “Rashi paints the practice of taking two wives in unmistakably negative terms: this is the behavior of the generation of the flood. One wife was wed for solely utilitarian purposes: she was to bear children and work in the household. The other wife was designated for pleasure: she would be rendered infertile by means of a birth-control potion, for the sake of maintaining her figure. This “trophy wife” would dress in beautiful clothing and eat delicacies while the other wife worked.4 While this practice was not the main transgression of the generation of the flood, it is certainly among the morally reprehensible behaviors our sages regarded as the cause of the flood.5 In fact, similar practices continued to draw harsh rebuke in the words of the prophets – and are tragically echoed in our own day and age. The prophets Malakhi and Yeshayahu saw this practice as an expression
of immorality and disloyalty, and warned that God Himself would treat
whoever was disloyal to “the wife of his youth” in kind.”
* I have this problem in my relationships. I often chose girlfriends for pleasure and I made them take a birth control potion for the sake of maintaining their figure. Oy vey!
Rabbi Ari Kahn: “The Talmud stressed that the bonds between a young man and his bride are sacred in a way that no other union can equal.”
“The Jewish ethos abhors the rejection of the first wife. This is the case not only when a man takes two wives, but also if he casts aside the first wife, the older woman who has borne his children and built her life around him and their home, in favor of a younger woman. Lemekh was the first to create the impossible situation of “eating your cake and having it too” – one wife for work and one wife for play.”
* What does it mean the world became corrupt? Rashi says sexual immorality and idolatry. The problem was that the society made this corruption legal. They celebrated it. Rashi on Gen. 6:1 says the society was so corrupt that they took whatever woman they wanted, or whatever man they wanted or animal they wanted. And this was legal. According to the midrash, this society was so corrupt that when two men got married, they had ceremonies for it. It is one thing to be raped. It is another thing to find yourself married to the rapist. Now we get the Noahide laws forbidding homosexual, adulterous and incestuous relations. (Rabbi Ari Kahn, 75% thru lecture)
* I’m amazed at how much one rabbi can influence a synagogue. If he’s a powerful enough personality, a rabbi can shape a whole shul in his image. This has happened for instance at Bnai David-Judea and YICC. Beth Jacob’s power is distributed between the rabbi and the board. In Hasidic shuls, the rebbe can hold particularly dramatic sway.
What do I think is the best measure of a rabbi’s influence? How much he can get his congregants to study Torah.
By contrast, the story of Noah shows that a righteous man can have no effect on those around him if they’re wicked. A decent person such as myself can be influenced to study more Torah and to observe more commandments and be more of a mentch, but many people can not be changed for the good.
Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “It is not the trauma of the Flood itself that so depresses Noach as much as it is that somehow he has not found a way to communicate his message to his society and even to his own family. We are told little about Noach after his family disappointments upon emerging from the ark. He is apparently sapped of his will to influence others after so many years of being rejected. He sees no basic difference in post-flood humankind than in pre-flood humankind.”
“The true test of spiritual leadership is what happens after one’s dreaded disappointments have proven to have been accurate. Since Noach could not save his generation prior to the flood, he somehow gave up on the generations after the flood as well.”
Almost everything we build up over our lifetimes will fall apart. Almost all of our achievements will turn to sand.
* Rabbi Wein writes: The deleterious effects of alcohol abuse are clearly evident in this week’s parsha. Noach, after the trauma of the great flood and the destruction of his society and world, somehow drowns his sorrows in wine and becomes drunk and loses control over himself. From that incident, further tragedies, curses and disasters arise until it seems that the entire exercise of the flood seems to have been purposeless and irrelevant.
The scourge of alcohol related tragedies that was for many years almost unknown in the Jewish world is today commonplace in our society. Binge drinking by kippah-wearing youths is now an accepted way of life in the Diaspora and here in Israel as well. If one has any doubts about the effects of such behavior on family life, employment success and social interactions, let him spend five minutes speaking to Dr. Abraham Twerski. He will quickly disabuse (no pun intended) you of such a fanciful untrue notion. Automobile fatalities, broken families and homes and marriages, violent behavior and an attitude of uncontrolled hedonism all are products of the vineyard of Noach.
Because of this alarming situation in the Jewish world there are now synagogues that ban any form of liquor except for kiddush wine from being served or located on its premises. The excuses of Purim and Simchat Torah may have been valid for previous generations of sober minded Jews. In a generation of over indulgence and uncontrolled materialism, such as ours resembles, alcohol has become lethal to Jewish life, behavior and values.
* Rabbi Wein writes: God’s promise regarding floods and ice ages not recurring in such a cataclysmic fashion is, according to the rabbis, limited to only the destruction of the world by water. It does not address other forms of potential disaster.
Noach’s world was one of greed, oppression, financial and physical corruption and unbridled sexual excess and licentiousness. Well, tragically and unfortunately, our world also resembles such a state of human affairs. Noach is apparently unable to cope with his world. He builds his protective ark and rides out the storm.
…Noach, so to speak, does not move on from the events of the flood. All of his previous years of effort in building the ark and obeying God’s commandment are seemingly wasted because of his inability to capitalize on his miraculous survival. Though he survives, he is also a victim of that flood. This explains, in a way, his strange decision to plant a vineyard, harvest the grapes and then himself become drunk on the resultant wine.
* Nimrod was a charismatic black man who came to rule his society and dramatically increase the role of government. He wanted to pass universal health care coverage. “Yes, we can!” was his slogan.
Rabbi Berel Wein writes: “So the world‘s peoples spoke only one language and spoke only of one way and one goal. This unity, which at first glance always appears to be so desirable, soon sank into a cold, ruthless and murderous conformity. Big Brother Nimrod controlled everything and everybody and anyone who dared to express a dissenting opinion – such as Avraham – was immediately consigned to the furnace of destruction.”
“I do not think that there is a greater diversity in any section of Jewry than the one that exists in the religious, observant sector. Yet, the Jews that compose this core section of Jewry, in spite of political and even ideological issues of significant difference, still retain a certain sense of unity of purpose, behavior and affinity one to another.”
“The rabbis in the Talmud stated, “Just as no two human beings are ever exactly alike physically, so too no two human beings ever share exactly the same opinions and thoughts [about life and events.]” The rabbis were not complaining about this state of affairs. They were merely pointing out the reality of the human condition. Thus they saw unity of purpose for good causes – those advocated by the Torah and Jewish tradition – as a positive goal to be achieved. But they warned us not to confuse unity of purpose with conformity of thought and style. Conformity is an outer feature of life – everyone dressed the same and apparently behaving in like fashion – while unity is more a matter of the heart and soul, of the inner self of the Jew.”
* Rabbi Wein writes: “The grandeur of our times is that even though many Jews have given up on themselves, have intermarried, assimilated, secularized, and disappeared, the Jewish people as an entity has followed the path of Avraham and not Noach. Not only is the State of Israel an example of Jewish determination and constancy, but the strong development of a Torah life-style amongst large numbers of Jewish communities the world over, is a testimony to dealing with and defeating tragedy.”