Appropriately enough for the week in which the Torah portion is Noah (guttural “h”), we had some heavy rain this morning, which is appropriate since the Torah portion this week is Noah (guttural “h”). It’s clearing up now, and the weekend forecast looks good. I think I’ll actually take down the sukkah on Sunday.
As I expect you learned in Sunday School, the Lord decided to flood the earth to get rid of every living thing and start over, saving only Noah, his family, and a breeding pair of every animal (which, according to creationists, explains the demise of dinosaurs: they didn’t fit on the boat). After 40 days, the rain stopped, the waters receded, and they all disembarked, and the Lord pledges not to do that again, signing the pledge with a beautiful rainbow, and they all began to live happily ever after. [I don’t think I actually saw a rainbow in the sky until I was about 20. I don’t know why it took so long. Maybe I just wasn’t looking up at the right moment, between storm and clearing. I do remember I was unhappy at the time and the rainbow seemed like an omen. My children saw rainbows as children, at the end of our street.]
Not exactly. Noah takes not just the breeding pairs but other animals intended to be sacrificed. Also, while it rains for 40 days, they are actually on the ark for roughly a year as they wait for the waters to recede and the land become livable again. Further, the covenant between the Lord and humanity has requirements, the “Noahide laws”: no murder, no idolatry, no murder, no theft, no sexual immorality, no blasphemy, no eating living flesh, and set up a legal system for enforcement. And, while Noah is considered a good enough soul to re-start humanity, he and his family are not saints. Noah does not argue that more of humanity should be saved (see last year’s item, at https://igplotzk.wordpress.com/2011/10/ ). After the flood, he discovers wine, gets drunk, and is treated immorally by his grandson. And their descendants develop enough arrogance to decide they are capable of building a tower to heaven. They are thwarted when the Lord “confounds their speech,” so they can’t understand each other, and scatters them all over the earth. The portion ends with a listing of descendants leading up to Terah and his family (son Abram, daughter-in-law Sarai, and nephew Lot), who leave Ur to go to Canaan. They stop instead in Haran, where Terah dies. Next week, Abram gets instructions from the Lord.
One can regard the flood as a second Creation and Noah as a second Adam (I think I remember some supporting textual parallels in the two stories, but I’d have to look them up and don’t have time right now. Sorry.). Since the flood was triggered by humanity’s corruption, and the source of humanity’s corruption was ostensibly the bad behavior that resulted in the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden, i.e., Adam’s “fall”, one might say that, because the world begins all over again with the flood and its aftermath, Adam’s “fall” is thereby wiped clean, or, as my friend Stanley put it, “overridden and rendered null and void.” So much for the need for a theology of “original sin.”
“Build an Ark”
The Lord said to Noah, “In six months, I’m going to make it rain until the earth is covered with water and all the evil is destroyed. I want you to build an ark and save two of each animal species. Here are the blueprints for the ark.”
Six months passed. The skies began to cloud and rain began to fall. Noah sat in his front yard, weeping.
“Why haven’t you built the ark?” asked the Lord.
“Oh, forgive me,” said Noah. “I did my best, but so many things happened. “The blueprints you gave me didn’t meet the city’s code and I had to change them. Then the city said I was violating the zoning ordinance by building an ark in my front yard, so I had to get a variance. The Forest Service required tree-cutting permits, and I was sued by a state animal rights group when I tried to gather up the animals. The EPA required an environmental impact statement concerning the flood. the Army Corps of Engineers wanted a map of the proposed flood plain. The IRS seized all my assets, claiming I was trying to avoid paying taxes by leaving the country, and the Equal Opportunity Commission said I wasn’t hiring enough Croatians. I’m sorry, Lord, but I can’t finish the ark for at least five years.”
Suddenly the rain stopped, the skies cleared and the sun began to shine. Noah looked up and said, “Lord, does this mean you’re not going to devastate the earth?”
“Right,” said the Lord. “The government already has.”
I just got off the phone with an old friend who could, well, really work on his pronunciation of words in the English language. It reminded me of the story I share with you below.
Tendjewberrymud, and enjoy! You’ll soon see what I mean by that! — Alex 🙂
Foreign Language NIGHTMARES…
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?”
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?”
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.”
G: “I mean butter…just put it on the side.”
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”
G: “You’re welcome.”