Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In Parshat Noach, Avraham Avinu Comes on Stage

L'ilui Nishmato shel Avraham ben Avraham
For the ascendancy of the Soul of Abraham son of AbrahamThis is the sky in transition from summer to winter. In Israel the summer is dry, no rain and in the mountain range of Shiloh, Jerusalem, Hebron and Shechem, where our forefathers wandered, our priests taught, our prophets preached and our kings ruled, there is hardly any humidity for a few months.

In ancient times one had to plan well, since there was no fresh water for drinking or irrigation until after the first rains. If one didn't plan well, there would be neither food nor water during the summer months and nothing to hold one over until the winter harvests.

ה וַיַּרְא יְהוָה, כִּי רַבָּה רָעַת הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ, וְכָל-יֵצֶר מַחְשְׁבֹת לִבּוֹ, רַק רַע כָּל-הַיּוֹם.
5 And the LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
ו וַיִּנָּחֶם יְהוָה, כִּי-עָשָׂה אֶת-הָאָדָם בָּאָרֶץ; וַיִּתְעַצֵּב, אֶל-לִבּוֹ.
6 And it repented the LORD that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him at His heart.
ז וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, אֶמְחֶה אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָאתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה, עַד-רֶמֶשׂ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם: כִּי נִחַמְתִּי, כִּי עֲשִׂיתִם.
7 And the LORD said: 'I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.'
ח וְנֹחַ, מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָה. {פ}
8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD. {P}

How did Noach manage to remain unaffected while his surroundings were so corrupt? What was his trick? Was it in his name? נח "noach" means relaxed, and חן "chen," grace has the same letters as Noach, just reversed. Look at the 8th verse again. G-d was refreshed, relaxed, relieved when he encountered Noach.

Noach had a confidence, and that confidence made it possible for him to ignore what was happening around him. He was too "laid back" to argue and fight with the people or tell G-d that it wasn't right to destroy all of the other humans. Noach had a aura of goodness, like an oasis in the desert.

This stayed with him until he left the ark. That's when he fell. He wasn't a leader. His strength was in ignoring the corruption and depravity. Once he was top man he planted his vineyard, made his wine and got drunk. He reminds me of the politicians who excel at being leaders of the opposition, like Menachem Begin, who drunk with power think they can play G-d, be diplomatic and "make peace."

כז וְאֵלֶּה, תּוֹלְדֹת תֶּרַח--תֶּרַח הוֹלִיד אֶת-אַבְרָם, אֶת-נָחוֹר וְאֶת-הָרָן; וְהָרָן, הוֹלִיד אֶת-לוֹט.
27 Now these are the generations of Terah. Terah begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran; and Haran begot Lot.

When Avraham (Abraham) was born, it was not, yet apparent that he was something special; he even had a different name, Abram. Unlike Noach, he grew and developed and thrived on the challenges.
לא וַיִּקַּח תֶּרַח אֶת-אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ, וְאֶת-לוֹט בֶּן-הָרָן בֶּן-בְּנוֹ, וְאֵת שָׂרַי כַּלָּתוֹ, אֵשֶׁת אַבְרָם בְּנוֹ; וַיֵּצְאוּ אִתָּם מֵאוּר כַּשְׂדִּים, לָלֶכֶת אַרְצָה כְּנַעַן, וַיָּבֹאוּ עַד-חָרָן, וַיֵּשְׁבוּ שָׁם.
31 And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran, his son's son, and Sarai his daughter-in-law, his son Abram's wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there.

Avraham wasn't a loner. He was part of a powerful clan. Contrary to the popular Medrash, Legend, his father was a very positive role model for him. His father was on his way to Canaan when he died.

This week's parsha ends with Terach's death. Next week we will read how Avraham heard G-d's instructions to get himself moving and obeyed...
א וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה אֶל-אַבְרָם, לֶךְ-לְךָ מֵאַרְצְךָ וּמִמּוֹלַדְתְּךָ וּמִבֵּית אָבִיךָ, אֶל-הָאָרֶץ, אֲשֶׁר אַרְאֶךָּ.
1 Now the LORD said unto Abram: 'Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father's house, unto the land that I will show thee.

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