NOACH - GENESIS
A little bit of Torah to bring in Shabbat!
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D'var by Rabbi Danielle Leshaw
Noah built the ark for 120 years. Or was it 52 years? Maybe it was only five. Our rabbis can’t agree on how many years it took Noah to create and design, to cut wood, to find strong and reliable help, to assemble the pieces. But they do agree that it took Noah a bit of time, and that he was commanded to build the ark in front of everybody, on a mountaintop, for all to see. Noah didn’t build the ark in seclusion, like, say, in his wood shed, or behind a row of evergreen trees, or in dribs and drabs, fashioning it beneath a big blue tarp, waiting for the great reveal. Noah built the ark out front, and he didn’t rush to piece it together.
The rabbis want our good deeds on display, for all to see. Our actions – those that will help others towards goodness – are supposed to be witnessed. We can influence people. Noah’s slowpoke ark building was intended to help those around him see their evil ways and turn towards God. It didn’t work. Quite the contrast to what happens in the book of Jonah, where arks and stormy waters are also present, but where repentance takes place at lightning speed.
There’s a skeleton of an ark on Route 81, someplace in the middle of Pennsylvania. A big sign reads: Ark Being Built! Or something like that. I’ve passed it so many times I’ve either got it right or have muddled the memory. The ark has been under construction for the 15 years that I’ve been driving the region (and probably for much longer), and it never seems close to being finished. I’ve often wanted to ask the builders if this is intentional. Is their hope that every generation see not a completed ark, but rather the building of the ark? Do the folks who live in a farmhouse in a field in central Pennsylvania know the midrashic and rabbinic literature? That the public process of building something big, remarkable, godly, and sacred, is capable of helping others get on the right path?
Time and materials and guidance matter, for sure, but the ultimate rabbinic message of Noah’s building remains clear. Be for yourself and for others a builder of good works, and you may very well inspire yourself and those around you.