Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32), Shabbat Rosh Chodesh (Num. 28:9-15)

Today and tomorrow we mark Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) Cheshvan, aka Marcheshvan, Mar Cheshvan, etc.  Stuff I didn’t know, from  : 

             ‘Before the Babylonian exile, the month was known as Bul; it appears in the Bible in I Kings 6:38, which reports that King Solomon had completed the building of the Temple: “In the eleventh year in the month of Bul — that is the eighth month — the House was completed according to all its details and all its specifications. It took him seven years to build it.”

                ‘Following the exile the month was called Marheshvan, frequently shortened to Heshvan. Marheshvan is believed to be etymologically linked to the word Arahsammu, the Assyrian word for “eighth month.” Because Heshvan is the only month in the Jewish calendar that does not contain any festival or fast observance, it has become popular to claim that the prefix “mar,” which means “bitter” in Hebrew, relates to the absence of special observances.’

Because it’s Rosh Chodesh, we add Hallel (most of Ps. 113-118), a second Torah reading (Numbers 28:9-15) about the Sabbath and New Moon sacrifices and a special haftarah, Isaiah 66:1-24 (then repeat 23 to end on a positive note).  

The Torah portion is Noah (guttural “h” in Hebrew).  The earth has become so corrupt after only roughly 1500 years that the Lord wants a do-over and decides to destroy almost all of the inhabitants with a flood.   Noah, apparently the one decent guy, is told to build an ark and to rescue his family, a breeding pair of each type of “not clean” animal, and seven such pairs of each “clean” animal (“clean” = can be used for sacrifices).  It rains for 40 days and Noah et al. spend close to a year on the ark while the waters subside.  Once they can disembark and Noah is able to make some sacrifices, we are told, in a single verse (8:21), that the Lord really likes the smell of the meat and then decides never to destroy the earth again by a flood (does that juxtaposition attest to the power of barbecue?).  The ensuing verses are reminiscent of the Creation stories – not surprisingly, since humanity is starting over – as Noah is told to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. The Lord makes a covenant with Noah that humanity will never again be wiped out with a flood (thereby leaving a loophole for other means) and sets the rainbow as a sign of this contract.  Humans, for their part, are required to obey certain laws, seven as expounded in the Talmud:  no idolatry, no murder, no theft, no sexual immorality, no blasphemy, no eating living flesh, and they must set up a legal/judicial system (to deal with the stealing, murder, etc. that they aren’t supposed to do?). The next human experiences aren’t particularly encouraging.  Noah plants a vineyard, discovers wine, and gets drunk.  His grandson then behaves improperly toward him (interpreted as various types of “sexual immorality” by the rabbis).  The generations pass, and in the city of Babel (Babylon), the inhabitants, who still speak a single language, decide to built a tower up to heaven.   In response to such effrontery, the Lord divides them by language so they can no longer communicate well enough to work with each other.  Finally, we come to the time of Terah, his son Abram, grandson Lot, and Abram’s barren wife Sarai.  They leave their home in Ur and head toward Canaan, but only get as far as Haran, where Terah dies.

Some interesting items from Professor Rendsburgs’s Teaching Company course:

        You’ve probably heard that there’s a Mesopotamian flood story, part of the Gilgamesh epic, that very closely parallels the biblical one; the main difference is that only the Noah story has moral content (why the flood, why is Noah chosen, etc.).  Which story came first?  The use of a flood is one clue (of many) pointing to a Mesopotamian, rather than Canaanite, origin of the story. The Tigris and Euphrates rivers flooded in ancient times, sometimes devastatingly, according to archeological evidence.  That was not a danger in the much drier Canaan, where drought and famine would be far likelier mythical weapons of choice.

        An important item that is in the Noah story and not the Gilgamesh epic is the covenant, the contract between humanity and the Lord, which foreshadows the later covenant with Abraham.  In ancient polytheisitic mythology, there was generally a chasm between the gods and humans which could be bridged in a few circumstances, e.g., when a god would procreate with a human or when a human became divine, such as the Pharaohs after death.  In Genesis, in contrast, the gap between the Lord and humans cannot be bridged that way, yet there is a closeness between them that is concretized by the covenant in a way new to the ancient world.

Shabbat shalom,

Noah’s Ark Jokes

After the Ark had successfully landed on Mt Ararat, the survivors went forth. After a while, one of the wives noticed her father-in-law sitting on the ground and chewing animal hides.  Every now and then, the father-in-law would chew a particularly hirsute hide and make a notation on a tablet.
The wife asked her husband what his father was doing, to which the
son replied, “What can I say, there is Noah counting fur tastes”.

One day, God speaks to Noah. “Noah”, he says, “I want you to build another Ark.”
“What, like the last one?” asks Noah.
“Yes,” replies God, “Except this time, I want it to have 14 decks.”
“And shall I lead all the animals into it, two by two, like last time?’ asks Noah.
“No, this time I only want you to lead fish into it”.
Noah is a little puzzled. “Just fish?” he asks.
“Yes,” says God. “In fact, just carp.”
“Just carp? Why carp?” Noah quizzes.
“Well,” says God, “I’ve always wanted a multi-story carp Ark!”
Life Lessons From Noach’s Ark

  by Posted: 07-23-2006(Viewed 533 times) 

– Plan ahead. It wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark.
– Stay fit. When you’re 600 years old, someone might ask you to do something REALLY big.
– Don’t listen to critics — do what has to be done.
– Build on high ground.
– For safety’s sake, travel in pairs.
– Two heads are better than one.
– Speed isn’t always an advantage. The cheetahs were on board, but so were the snails.
– If you can’t fight or flee — float!
– Don’t forget that we’re all in the same boat.
– Remember that the ark was built by amateurs and the Titanic was built by professionals.
– Remember that the woodpeckers INSIDE are often a bigger threat than the storm outside.
– Don’t miss the boat.
– No matter how bleak it looks, if God is with you, there’s always a rainbow on the other side


 [a lot of parody contracts can be found at this site]

Dental Contract

Does the very thought of a dentist set your teeth on edge? Is pudding too challenging to chew? This contract should help mitigate your pain.

AGREEMENT entered into this ____ day of ________, 20__ by anxious Patient and drill wielding Dentist.

WHEREAS, Patient views dentistry as legalized S & M; and

WHEREAS, Dentist enjoys pillaging mouths almost as much as yachting and golf;

NOW, THEREFORE, Dentist and Patient hereby agree as follows: [shortened a bit]

1. Dentist shall instruct his receptionist not to ask, “How are we today?” If we were well, we would not be here.

2. Dentist acknowledges that Patient’s time has a modicum of value. Accordingly, for every minute Dentist keeps Patient waiting, one dollar shall be subtracted from Patient’s bill. Double, if the waiting room is filled with kids.

3. Dentist shall not try to persuade Patient that X-rays are safe. Such assurances lack credibility when piped in by a Dentist who’s encased in protective gear and cowering next door.

4. Dentist shall not say “You have so many fillings, I can’t read the X-rays.” Otherwise Patient shall say, “Your invoice has so many dollars, I can’t pay the bill.”

5. Dentist shall not do any work until Patient’s mouth approaches actual numbness. Dentist concedes that a dinner engagement eight hours after dental excavation isn’t the best time for the Novocain to kick in.

7. Dentist agrees that a mouth crammed with blood-soaked cotton and dental weaponry isn’t capable of a clear “Yes” to the question “Does it hurt?” To improve communications, the following definitions are agreed on:

        a. “Urghh.” — “It hurts a little, but I think I can stand it.”
        b. “Uuurrggh!” — “Maybe you should give me another shot.”
        c. “UUUURRRGGGH!!” — “If you don’t drop that drill, I will kill you.”

8. Dentist promises to avoid the phrase “This may sting a bit,” prior to inflicting serious pain. Violations of same shall be reciprocated.

10. Dentist shall improve his drool-mopping skills and buy a saliva-sucking machine that actually sucks saliva.

12. Patient shall not be required to gaze at X-rays and/or pretend to see the cracks, craters, and crevices which Dentist proudly points out. Patient doesn’t understand the X-rays, doesn’t want to understand the X-rays, and thinks they look like ink blot tests.

13. Dentist shall not grin while discussing abscessed teeth and/or extraction. Moreover, Dentist shall contain his glee while figuring his fee.

14. In the interest of good taste and an improved IQ, Dentist shall switch from Muzak to Mozart. Dentist shall also upgrade the office artwork by ditching the happy-tooth cartoons his kids drew right before they left for Yale.

16. Dentist will stop trying to impress Patient with glossy, high-class magazines. Patient doesn’t want to read “Town & Country.” Patient wants to get the hell out of here.

17. Dentist shall not prescribe aspirin for post-visit pain. Dentist shall prescribe something that works.

19. This agreement shall be deemed effective for all future dental work that Patient may be desperate enough to seek.

WHEREFORE, We affix our signatures.


From the Akron Beacon Journal, 11/3/06.

Sent out 3 years ago.

Foreign Language NIGHTMARES…
RS: “Ow July den?…pry, boy, pooch?”
G : “Oh, the eggs! How do I like them? Sorry, scrambled please.”
RS: “Ow July dee bayhcem…crease?”
G: “Crisp will be fine.”
RS : “Hokay. An San tos?”
G: “What?”
RS:”San tos. July San tos?”
G: “I don’t think so.”
RS: “No? Judo one toes??”

G: “I feel really bad about this, but I don’t know what ‘judo one toes’ means.”
RS: “Toes! toes!…why djew Don Juan toes? Ow bow inglish mopping we bother?”
G: “English muffin!! I’ve got it! You were saying ‘Toast.’ Fine. Yes, an English muffin will be fine.
RS: “We bother?”
G: “No…just put the bother on the side.”
RS: “Wad?”
G: “I mean butter…just put it on the side.”
RS: “Copy?”
G: “Sorry?”
RS: “Copy…tea…mill?”

G: “Yes. Coffee please, and that’s all.”
RS: “One Minnie. Ass ruin torino fee, strangle ache, crease baychem, tossy singlish mopping we bother honey sigh, and copy….rye??”
G: “Whatever you say”
RS: “Tendjewberrymud!”
G: “You’re welcome.”

This is meant to be read aloud (for the full effect). By the end of the conversation, you will understand what ‘tendjewberrymud’ means.

This was nominated for one of the best e-mails of 1999. The following is a telephone exchange between a hotel guest and room service at a hotel in Asia which was recorded and published in the Far East Economic Review.

Room Service (RS): “Morny. Ruin sorbees”
Guest (G): “Sorry, I thought I dialed room-service.”
RS: “Rye..Ruin sorbees..morny! Djewish to odor sunteen??”
G: “Uh..yes..I’d like some bacon and eggs”
RS: “Ow July den?”
G: “What??”

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