Today and tomorrow is Rosh Chodesh (New Moon) Cheshvan, also called Marcheshvan, “mar” meaning bitter, because we have no holidays to celebrate. Nowadays, of course, instead of “bitter Cheshvan” I think “peaceful” or “restful” Cheshvan is more appropriate. No, we haven’t taken the sukkah down yet. Anyhow, because it’s both Rosh Chodesh and Shabbat, tomorrow we add Hallel (Ps. 113-118) and a second scroll reading about sacrifices (as always) and chant a special haftarah, Isaiah 66:1-24. [Two out of three of which will be done by my husband at our shul tomorrow, BTW.]
The weekly portion, Noah (guttural “h” ), includes the flood story, how the Lord was so fed up after a mere 1500 years or so that everyone was to be destroyed except for Noah, his family, and two of every kind of animal (plus other animals to be saved on the ark but sacrificed later). Yes, I know there are a lot of ancient tales about floods, the one in the Mesopotamian epic of Gilgamesh being the most well-known. But two items appear unique to the Biblical story: there is a reason for the flood (immorality) as well as a reason Noah was chosen to live (he’s moral, or at least less immoral than the others); and the Lord forms a covenant with humanity, tied up in a rainbow, that they will never again be wiped out by a flood. They must meet certain requirements – set up a legal system and obey seven “no’s”: no murder, no idolatry, no murder, no theft, no sexual immorality, no blasphemy, and no eating living flesh). The story looks backward and forward, having echoes of creation when the survivors disembark, and foreshadowing the covenant to be made with Abraham.
Noah is often compared with Abraham, usually to Noah’s detriment. Yes, he “walked with God” but Abraham walked before God. He was a righteous man in his generation? Does that simply mean he was OK while everyone else is horrible? And so on. What I see this year is that a major theme in the Torah is the relationship between humanity and the Lord. We start with the childlike Adam. Then Noah has something of a relationship with the Lord and is at least worthy of being saved (OK, then he discovers grapes and wine, gets drunk, and is (ahem) treated disrespectfully by a grandson. Not a paragon.). Yet Noah doesn’t argue with the Lord when it comes to destroying everyone else (that’s in Nehama Leibowitz’s Studies on Bereishit). Then we move on to Abraham, whose relationship becomes more two-way, to the point that he is able to argue on behalf of Sodom and Gomorrah, but not successfully. Eventually, we come to Moses, who not only has a wonderfully intimate relationship with the Lord, with who he can not only argue, but argue successfully.
After the years go by, people decide to build a tower that will reach to heaven, the Lord and angels grow alarmed at their effrontery, and the people start speaking a variety of languages and can no longer understand each other, thus ending the project. David Hazony, at http://www.jewishideasdaily.com/content/detail/continue-reading-tower-of-power points out a few additional interesting features (thanks, Stanley), e.g., that we’re not explicitly told what is bad about the people’s ambition, that there’s a disproportionate amount of detail on making and using bricks, and that a moral often overlooked is that absolute unity can be evil.
The portion ends with the genealogical line leading to Abram (not yet Abraham) in Haran, setting up next week’s story.
Passed along by my sister Sarah. [Thanks!]
Noah and the Ark Jokes
What did Noah say as he was loading the Ark?
“Now I herd everything”
What animal could Noah not trust?
What kind of lights did Noah have on the ark?
Which animal took the most baggage into the arc?
What animal took the least?
The elephant took his trunk.
But the fox and the rooster took only a brush and comb between them,
Where did Noah keep the bees?
In the ark hives.
Who was the best financier in the Bible?
Noah. He floated his stock while the whole world was in liquidation.
Working Replica of Noah’s Ark Opened In SCHAGEN, Netherlands .
[Many more pictures are at the website.]
The massive central door in the side of Noah’s Ark was opened the first crowd of curious townsfolk to behold the wonder. Of course, it’s only a replica of the biblical Ark , built by Dutch Creationist Johan Huibers as a testament to his faith in the literal truth of the Bible. The ark is 150 cubits long, 30 cubits high and 20 cubits wide. That’s two-thirds the length of a football field and as high as a three-story house. Life-size models of giraffes, elephants, lions, crocodiles, zebras, bison and other animals greet visitors as they arrive in the main hold.
A contractor by trade, Huibers built the ark of cedar and pine. Biblical scholars debate exactly what the wood used by Noah would have been. Huibers did the work mostly with his own hands, using modern tools and with occasional help from his son Roy. Construction began in May 2005. On the uncovered top deck – not quite ready in time for the opening – will come a petting zoo, with baby lambs and chickens, and goats, and one camel.
Visitors on the first day were stunned. ‘It’s past comprehension’, said Mary Louise Starosciak, who happened to be bicycling by with her husband while on vacation when they saw the ark looming over the local landscape. ‘I knew the story of Noah, but I had no idea the boat would have been so big.’ There is enough space near the keel for a 50-seat film theater where kids can watch a video that tells the story of Noah and his ark. Huibers, a Christian man, said he hopes the project will renew interest in Christianity in the Netherlands ,where church going has fallen dramatically in the past 50 years.
I used to think it was a silly affectation to drink different wines from different style glasses, but I have finally become a convert. I now definitely prefer drinking hearty, macho reds from my Spiderman glass and lighter, fruity whites from Sponge Bob.
A woman was sipping on a glass of wine while sitting on the patio with her husband.
She says, “I love you so much, I don’t know how I could ever live without you”
Her husband asks, “Is that you, or the wine talking?”
She replies, “It’s me…talking to the wine.”
(Photo credit: Ldolphin.org)
Quiz Master: What was the Tower of Babel?
INVESTMENT BANKER: Wasn’t that where Solomon kept his wives?
Jokes on Translation and Languages
An African chieftain flew to the United States to visit the president. When he arrived at the airport, a host of newsmen and television cameramen met him. One of the reporters asked the chief if he had a comfortable flight. The chief made a series of weird noises….”screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z-“…and then added in perfect English, “Yes, I had a very nice flight.”
Another reporter asked, “Chief, do you plan to visit the Washington Monument while you’re in the area? The chief made the same noises…”screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z”…and then said, “Yes, and I also plan to visit the White House and the Capitol Building.”
“Where did you learn to speak such flawless English?” asked the next reporter.
The chief replied, “Screech, scratch, honk, buzz, whistle, z-z-z-z…from the short-wave radio.”
Two translators on a ship are talking.
“Can you swim?” asks one.
“No” says the other, “but I can shout for help in nine languages.”