October 30, 1984. Goodbye hugs at the “old” Ben Gurion airport; a giant backpackers backpack towering over my head; sleeping-bag tied below; winter coat for trekking in Nepal; shorts for the islands of Thailand; malaria pills; cassettes with Israeli songs recorded off the 4 o’clock “best hour” on the radio; a Walkman; notes on the route; a journal.
Dear journal, it will be 8 months before I’m back here again; my stomach is in knots; I packed everything… did I pack everything? Why am I doing this, travel, leave? I love this place; I tour guide and teach teens to love it too… Dear journal, only 8 months to loop around the world and so much to see!! I’m so excited!! Soooo excited!! I can’t wait to get on the plane already and visit all these exotic sites I saw in pictures from the National Geographic! And take a break from this little “bathtub” where everyone knows who I am and what I could / should / would do since before I was born; ok, ok, enough with the teary goodbyes and sticky hugs; one more sandwich for the road… Only 8 months! less than a year!! I’ll be back before you know it….
The Jewish people celebrate their journey anniversary every year with lengthy stories, food, drinks… Mine, of course, was celebrated on a flight. 35 years later, and not a day older… I am back.
Which is worse: actions of humans against humans or actions of humans against G-d? This week’s Torah portion allows us a quick comparison: Noah’s generation does excessive evil against each other, while the Tower of Babel story, tells of people’s actions against G-d and of their desire to be “bigger” than Him. At the latter events, G-d semi-smiles. Though saddened by the people’s idea and efforts to eliminate Him from their lives, He is confident enough about Himself and His abilities. In one “poof” He scatters everybody to different corners of the world, to live happily ever after – or not – on their own. But Noah’s generation is a different thing. The most “righteous” person who “walks with G-d” and “finds favor in Hashem’s eyes” can barely save himself and his family, and has no power – or interest – to save anyone else, ending up in a dull destruction of everyone, even the animals and plants who were left outside the ark.
Perhaps the Torah tells us that a world where people have “issues” with G-d, is manageable, but a world where people carelessly harm each other, is not worth keeping.
The word for ark in this story, teiva, appears in the whole Bible only in two contexts; here and in the story of “baby Moses”. In both cases, a teiva is a life saving vessel, floating on the water (not a boat or basket-) and its purpose is survival rather than arrival somewhere. Interestingly, in Hebrew, the word teiva can also be used for “word” or syllable (as in rashei teivot). This would mean that G-d invites Noah to come into the “word”.
Which word is G-d inviting Noah into?
G-d’s name is yod, heh, vav, heh. Yod = 10; Heh = 5; Vav = 6; Heh = 5.
What are these numbers? A fun coincidence: these are the measurements of the ark:
וְזֶ֕ה אֲשֶׁ֥ר תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֖ה אֹתָ֑הּ שְׁלֹ֧שׁ מֵא֣וֹת אַמָּ֗ה אֹ֚רֶךְ הַתֵּבָ֔ה חֲמִשִּׁ֤ים אַמָּה֙ רָחְבָּ֔הּ וּשְׁלֹשִׁ֥ים אַמָּ֖ה קוֹמָתָֽהּ׃
This is how you shall make it: the length of the ark shall be three hundred cubits, its width fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits.
On Rosh Hashana we say that G-d remembers Noah with love. G-d has a lot of issues with Noah. Noah is far from perfect. He “finds favor”, which means, some of his bad qualities were overlooked. But he was saved. Indeed, remembering someone is – love.