“Excuse me, where can I find car oil”?
“Hahaha”, laughs the cashier at the big, well-stocked, grocery store, “that will be the day!” After much thought (‘where on earth is there a place that sells such obscure stuff?’) she suggests a gas station on some corner or an auto specialized store on the other side of the neighborhood. In the land of bicyclists, runners and walkers, my “Blue Stallion” is a lone wolf… But then, if no one has cars around here, what makes all the traffic??
Noah, too righteous
There he is: Noah, the good old man among the ugly, evil doers who hears G-d and builds an ark; a devotee turned carpenter, long white beard (of course) and cute animals all around…
For the rabbis, Noah has been a challenge: on one hand, the Torah describes him as “tzadik” – a righteous person, and on the other, how can a “righteous person” spend 120 years building an ark the size of a football field to save only 9 people? How did they sail away watching everyone else drown?
The question is really, is that righteousness? Is that good enough? Especially during dark times in history, that was a critical issue: Is it good enough to be good compared to those around us, or is there some standard? If Noah is a tzadik and Abraham is a tzadik, are they the same or perhaps, there are different levels?
According to the Kdushat Levi (1740-1809), there are indeed two kinds of “tzadikut” (righteousness): one, doing right and good between people, and one – between people and G-d. Noah was of the latter but not of the former. Further, he says, Noah had faith in G-d but not in himself (!). Because Noah had no faith in his own self, he did not have the wherewithal to dare stand up to G-d, and say, ‘hey, no way You’re going to destroy our world (see Abraham coming up in a couple of weeks)!!’ He was the overly meek and humble, and therefore, did not believe that he deserves anything. Walking off, looking for his tape-measure and hammer, he (possibly) shrugged; or maybe that evening, he told his wife; ‘eh, so G-d decided to destroy the world and save me (us), oh well, sure, whatever He wants; honey, pass the lentils please’…
Obviously, from the simplistic Torah text, G-d “favored” Noah, and for sure, he was righteous, but for our sages, a “yes-man” is not the ideal. Strict obedience is not enough and not our way.
What was her name? Who is she? What was her reaction? What did she do and what could she have done? I go back and forth between thinking of her as the most loving wife in the Torah, and between wondering; She couldn’t have told him to take the neighbors too? she couldn’t talk to her friends? what if she was different?…
The Lit Ark
G-d, who knows Noah, doesn’t leave anything for Noah’s imagination regarding the measurements and material of which the teiva should be built. The last piece is the window. Well, not quite a window, but a tzohar, צהר an unusual word that appears only here (and from which in modern Hebrew we get tzohorayim, צהריים noon, the time of extra or double light).
Rav Hirsch connects tzohar to zohar, זהר to illuminate, and Rashi, based on the midrash, says about the tzohar that is can mean both “window” or “a good gem”, both being a source of light for those in the ark, with an important distinction: The good gem would light inside for those inside the closed ark from within, while, in contrast, the window is something that allows light from the outside. Where does light comes from for us? Is it something we have independently within us, something that emanates from us, which we share with those around us – or – is it something far away, incomprehensible, we look for outside of ourselves, and get only a glimpse of?