|How difficult was it to be Noah?
He had to have felt rather lonely both before and after the Flood. Before it, the Torah tells us, he stood out as the one righteous person worthy of saving, since the rest of humanity “had corrupted its ways on the earth.” Even in the opinion of the talmudic sage Rabbi Yohanan, who said that Noah was just the best of an awful generation but not particularly righteous on a general scale, we’d have to give Noah some credit for rising above societal expectations–or lack thereof.
Then, after the flood, he and his sons are charged with repopulating the earth. Did Noah suffer from survivor guilt? Some say that in planting a vineyard and drinking to the point of inebriation, Noah demonstrates an inability to manage the emotional burden of being chosen. He has had enough of standing out, of being holy; by becoming a man of the soil, he transforms himself from holy to average–hol–as implied by the words “Vayahel Noah ish ha-adamah.” In other words, he becomes soiled by his choices.
Is Noah showing that there’s only so long we can stand against the tide of public pressure, and eventually we become just like others around us?
This is a particularly poignant question to ask this year, as Parshat Noah falls two days before October 31. Halloween is one of those American traditions that challenges Jews to decide: are we Noah before the Flood, determined to be different, no matter how much we stand out? Or are we post-Flood Noah, preferring to blend in?
On Shabbat morning in shul, we will talk about Noah and the varying Jewish responses to Halloween. See you then!
Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,