Noach: The Opportunity to Begin Again
The holiday season is always very busy, but I'm back with another blog! Several years ago, I was involved with a leadership development company called Life Leadership. Their goal was to help people improve their lives in various areas called the 8 F’s: Faith, Family, Finances, Freedom, Fitness, Friendship, Fun, and Following. More recently, I’ve been listening to the Rabbi Daniel Lapin podcast and his goal is also to help people improve their lives in these areas, though, his focus is on 5 of the F’s instead of 8. Our purpose on this Earth is to manifest the gifts that G-d has given us in order to bring goodness and holiness to this world. By improving our lives in the areas mentioned above, we can achieve our purpose.
Parashat Noach begins with the words “This is the line of Noah. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; Noah walked with God. The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness. When God saw how corrupt the earth was, for all flesh had corrupted its ways on earth, God said to Noah, “I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for the earth is filled with lawlessness because of them: I am about to destroy them with the earth. Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch (Bereishit 6:9-14).”
אֵ֚לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִֽתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ
וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס
וַיַּ֧רְא אֱלֹהִ֛ים אֶת־הָאָ֖רֶץ וְהִנֵּ֣ה נִשְׁחָ֑תָה כִּֽי־הִשְׁחִ֧ית כׇּל־בָּשָׂ֛ר אֶת־דַּרְכּ֖וֹ עַל־הָאָֽרֶץ
וַיֹּ֨אמֶר אֱלֹהִ֜ים לְנֹ֗חַ קֵ֤ץ כׇּל־בָּשָׂר֙ בָּ֣א לְפָנַ֔י כִּֽי־מָלְאָ֥ה הָאָ֛רֶץ חָמָ֖ס מִפְּנֵיהֶ֑ם וְהִנְנִ֥י מַשְׁחִיתָ֖ם אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ
עֲשֵׂ֤ה לְךָ֙ תֵּבַ֣ת עֲצֵי־גֹ֔פֶר קִנִּ֖ים תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה אֶת־הַתֵּבָ֑ה וְכָֽפַרְתָּ֥ אֹתָ֛הּ מִבַּ֥יִת וּמִח֖וּץ בַּכֹּֽפֶר
The Torah tells us that we capable of being both builders and destroyers. On the one hand we strive to connect with others and co-operate. On the other hand, we compete and fight with others. Before the flood, the people were evil and did not treat each other with respect, after the flood G-d established a covenant with Noach that the world would never be destroyed again with the rainbow as the sign (Bereishit 8:20-21).
G-d recognized that we are not naturally good due to the yetzer hara, evil inclination. The yetzer hara causes us to sin. Rabbi Sacks says that the antidote to the yetzer hara is the covenant.
Humankind was given a second chance to begin again after the flood. Our challenge is to keep our reactions in check. Rabbi Sacks says “The problem is that these rapid reactions can be deeply destructive.
Often they lead to violence: not only the violence between species (predator and prey) that is part of nature, but also to the more gratuitous violence that is a feature of the life of most social animals. It is not that we only do evil. Empathy and compassion are as natural to us as are fear and aggression. The problem is that fear lies just beneath the surface of human interaction, and it can overwhelm all our other instincts (Noach).”
I’ve heard in the past a story about a man sitting on his front porch with his dog. A neighbor walks up to him and they begin talking. Periodically throughout their conversation, the dog begins to groan in pain. The neighbor asks “what’s wrong with your dog, is he hurt?” The dog owner responds “he’s just laying on a nail. It bothers him enough to groan, but not enough to move to a different spot.” It is so easy for us to get comfortable and to accept the status quo. Sometimes it hurts us dearly, but we don’t want to change. We attack anything that is new or different. We shut down new ideas or thoughts that go counter to the status quo. We lose when there is no ebb and flow of life; when there is no opportunity for renewal. When we are capable of controlling our reactions, we have the ability to leave our comfort zone and take advantage of the opportunity to grow.
Rabbi Yaakov Wolbe says that the seasons were created as a result of the flood. The seasons give us opportunity for a new beginning “a fresh start”. Every season gives us the opportunity to transform ourselves to become better. We have perpetuated the sins of our forefathers, yet we are improving.
Yesterday, I listened to a Valuetainment podcast with Patrick Bet-David. He interviewed Dr. Marian L. Tupy. Marian L. Tupy is the editor of HumanProgress. org, a senior fellow at the Center for Global Liberty and Prosperity, and coauthor of The Simon Project. He specializes in globalization and global well‐being and politics and economics of Europe and Southern Africa. He was born in Communist Czechoslovakia. Throughout the interview, he explains what it was like growing up there. His parents weren’t supportive of Communism, but many in the country at the time were, therefore, they had to keep their ideas private. One of the biggest takeaways from the interview is that our world is becoming much better than it was in the past. Millions of people have been lifted out of poverty, access to food and healthcare is much better, the opportunity to build and create wealth is easier than it’s ever been.
The greatest gift G-d gave us is freedom to use our gifts to improve ourselves. When we have spiritual, political, and economic freedom, we are able to grow, counteract the status quo, and truly make a difference in this world. It’s never too late to begin again. Choose a few of the 8 F’s that are most important to you and blast out of your comfort zone. May we merit to have the ability to take advantage of the opportunity placed before us. Shabbat Shalom!