Parashat Noach 5780

Rabbi Aaron Goldstein – 1 November 2019

Can you imagine how smelly it must have been in the Ark? All the species of the land and air confined in the rooms that covered three decks. Just a door in its side that one presumes could not be opened for fear of letting the waters of the flood in and an opening near the roof for a chink of daylight and air. Noah and his family would have had to work exceedingly hard to muck out each room everyday. If you have ever worked in chicken houses on Kibbutz in Israel, taken a holiday on a farm or been to the zoo early in the morning, you might get a strange sensation in your nostrils right now!

However, it might be argued that the stench inside the Ark was nothing as compared to the rottenness of the society outside that God metaphorically chose to destroy. A world in which violence and the abject lack of morality created a stench like that of a pyre bereft of its purifying incense.

Can you imagine what that first breath of fresh air felt like for Noah and his family when they emerged from the Ark. They walked into the Ark sensing the malaise of their society all around them. They were physically reminded of it inside the Ark as the animals and birds went about their business. Then, as they exited their ghetto made of gopher wood, a scent that must have reminded the DNA in their nasal membranes, of their ancestral Gan Eden – garden of Eden – sweetened the burden of their existence.

Through the story of the flood, our ancient ancestors identified the essence of the human task. God’s promise never to bring another flood to destroy the face of the earth again, presents us with probably our greatest challenge: How to perfect society in the face of the fatal flaws that are inherent in humanity. God is not going to do it for us. Never again will we be shut away in an Ark, immune to the stench of society, kept from harms way from those who would wish to damage our society. It is God’s desire that we, humanity, will learn the lesson of the flood and forever seek a return to Gan Eden.

The flood story acknowledges that in humanity there is a stain, one which might always be with us. It is the stain that is brought when human beings feel that they cannot live with another sector of society. It is generally wrought by greed and envy but also by fear of the loss of basic human rights to accepted levels of existence in any given society. This includes the human dignity bought about by being employed in body and mind. It is the wicked few that prey on fear, greed and envy who cause corruption and violence in our society.

Everything that underpins Liberal Judaism points to an approach of inclusivity and equal rights for all. It is our unique position in society that must see us strive for the fresh, pure air of Gan Eden. This means raising our voice within our own Jewish Community to insure that the pressure towards inclusivity does not abate.

As we approach new polls, whether a General Election or another Referendum we must be heard to insure reasoned debate that pushes the mainstream political parties to do everything with the power that we have devolved to them, to wipe the foundations of hate that some have sought to manipulate.

We accept God’s challenge that we live in an imperfect world and resolve to use our living breath to create a society that befits the joy offered by life, a breath of fresh air.

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