Parshat Noah: what did the HOA think?

Parshat Noah: what did the HOA think?

According to the midrash, Noah spent 120 years building the ark, including growing trees to specific measurements (the longest was exactly 450 feet) so they would not have to be cut to size.  The idea was that the other people would see him making the ark, learn about the flood, and do teshuvah.

Why didn’t the plan work?  Why didn’t everyone do teshuvah?

The Torah says at the time, the giants were on Earth.  The midrash suggests that these other people were giants, and they believed that because they were so tall, they could hold their heads above the water.  They felt they were “above it all,” and were not worried about a flood destroying everything:

We are giants, and we control the universe.  Should God bring water from above, it will not reach further than our necks since we are so tall.  Should God bring water from below, we will step on the wells with our heels to hold them back.  No power in the world can harm us.” (Pirke D’Rebbe Eliezar 22)

These giants, believed (falsely) that their strength and stature rendered them invincible, safe from any harm from the natural world.

When I read about the environmental devastation happening in our world today–global warming, fires and hurricanes, the rainforests becoming savannah, songbirds dying off- it seems to me that, like the giants, we think we are above it all.  Nature is something we can like or dislike, but is something separate, outside of our urban and suburban realities, something we relate to as occasional tourists, not as residents.  We think that we can survive it because, ultimately, nature is something we don’t live in or need, so it’s sad if it disappears but not an existential threat.  Like the giants who think they can step on the wells, we think we can continue ecologically harmful behaviors and stomp out the dangerous results through technology,  We are not listening to the prophets of destruction.

To me, Noah calls us to a covenant with God not to destroy the earth, to understand that we are not above nature but that we are part of nature, and like Noah in the ark with the animals, that we are all in it together.  In Noah’s days it was God who nearly destroyed the Earth; today will it be us?

May we all, like Noah, be prophets calling our generation to recognize what is coming, and to change our ways to preserve the beauty of the world.

Shabbat Shalom

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Rabbi David Siff