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Abraham and Noah

October 4, 2012

Abraham by Rembrandt

The Torah, which contains the first five books of the Bible, is the most realistic of books:  every character is described without any white-washing of the facts, in real human terms with warts and all.  Despite their blemishes, the Torah is filled with heroes and heroines, many whom we can clearly say are role models for living.  Noah is one exception to the long line of biblical leaders.

 The rabbis were ambivalent about Noah.  By the way in the chronology of the Bible Noah was not Jewish, for Abraham was the first Jew, the first monotheist.

 What does Noah do wrong?  He is uninvolved in saving his generation.  God tells him the Earth is going be destroyed in a flood.  Does Noah question God; does Noah do anything at all to save the world?  No!  He simply does what must be done to save himself and his family.

 Does that sound familiar?  We simply do what has to be done to save ourselves and we stop right there.

 Contrast Noah with Abraham, who fought with God to save even the people of Sodom; and Moses, who repeatedly intervened to save the people of Israel.

 It was the world’s lack of involvement that allowed the Holocaust to occur.  The sin of silence is still alive today, as it has always been.  Uninvolvement is the easy way out, not only for nations and communities, but for each of us.  When we stop caring, every institution involved suffers from our religious institutions to the public schools.

 The French writer, Albert Camus, tells of a successful lawyer who sees a woman drowning, but does nothing.  Years later, he is ruined and he asks himself, “What happened to you one night on the banks of the Seine, you who managed never to risk your life?  O, young woman!  Throw yourself into the water again, so that I may have a second chance to save us both.”

 May we learn from Noah’s failings:  involve yourself that your life might make a difference in the time God gives us.

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