Parashah Noach

October 8, 2021Joanne B. Fried

Interpreting the words, "Noah was a just man, and perfect in his generations," Rabbi Johanan taught that Noah was considered righteous in his generations, but would not have been considered righteous in other generations. Resh Lakish, however, maintained that if even in his generation Noah was able to be righteous, then he certainly would have been righteous in other generations. 

Rabbi Judah contrasted the words "Noah walked with God" with God's words to Abraham, "walk before Me." Rabbi Judah compared it to a king who had two sons, one grown-up and the other a child. The king asked the child to walk with him. But the king asked the adult to walk before him. Similarly, to Abraham, whose moral strength was great, God said, "Walk before Me." But of Noah, who was feeble, "Noah walked with God." 

Similarly, a Midrash read the words "Noah walked with God" to mean that God supported Noah so that Noah should not be overwhelmed by the evil behavior of the generation of the Flood. The Midrash compared this to a king whose son went on a mission for his father. The road ahead of him was sunken in mire, and the king supported him so that he would not sink in the mire. However, in the case of Abraham, God said "Walk before Me," and regarding the Patriarchs, Jacob said "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked." For the Patriarchs would try to anticipate the Divine Presence and would go ahead to do God's will. 

God shared God's purpose with Noah, saying, "I have decided to put an end to all flesh. “God asked, "Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do?" The responses from Noah and Abraham are very different. Noah does as God commands, without asking if any other righteous people could be spared. Abraham, on the other hand, had a conversation with God about the righteous. 

Seeing the difference, which is the path that one should take? Should one do what is instructed without question or should one question the instructions? Authority and righteousness and law may and does change with time and knowledge. 

Look at the resolutions that WRJ has had since 1913: immigration, poverty, maternal and child health, gun control, anti-poverty, extremist movements, civil rights, birth control, genocide, human rights, equal pay, religious education, Palestine, Israel, Vietnam, Soviet Jewry, hunger, peace and disarmament, missing children. These are but a few. 

We as women started by walking with God, doing as instructed. We learned to find our voice and speak. We now have our conversation with God. And it continues as we grow stronger from the conversations that we have with ourselves, with others, and with God. 


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