4 Cheshvan 5783

Are you building your ark?

The Recorded message: https://youtu.be/uPrW2d-L7vk

This week the tire of my car blew out on the street. I hadn’t changed one for years, and at the beginning I choked a bit, not because I didn’t know how to do the job, but because the lug nuts were so tight that I had to stand on the cross wrench, pull with all my strength until I was exhausted and still nothing happened, the nuts didn’t budge. After 30 minutes of fighting, I said: “God, please help me”!

After taking out the spare tire, a man appeared out of nowhere, thin, maybe 30 pounds less than me, about 40 years old, and said: Do you need a “jack”? I told him, no thanks, I’m having a problem with the lug nuts. I was surprised that the man took the lug wrench, climbed up, and took them off on the first try. My jaw dropped… How is that possible? And he told me at the end: If you need anything else, I have my food truck around the corner. We said goodbye and I thanked him for his help. My surprise was that 15-20 minutes later after I had replaced the tire, I couldn’t find the man; he didn’t exist, there was no food truck; I realized that it was an angel of the LORD!

Noach, נֹחַ means rest; it is such a beautiful name and in Hebrew, it is a play on words. When we put the Chet first and end with the nun, we get the word חן, chen which means grace.

Tehillim 125 says: “A song of ascents. Those who trust in the LORD are like Mount Zion, which shall never be removed but shall remain forever. As the mountains are around Jerusalem, so the LORD is around His people from now and to eternity. For the rod of wickedness will not rest upon the lot of the righteous, because the righteous do not stretch out their hands toward wrongdoing. Be good, O LORD, to the good and to the upright in their hearts. And those who turn to their crooked ways – may the LORD lead them away with the workers of iniquity, [and may there be] peace on Israel.”

This is the case of Noach, the only man who the Eternal says in the Torah: (6:9):   אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה, בְּדֹרֹתָיו:  אֶת-הָאֱלֹהִים, הִתְהַלֶּךְ-נֹחַ נֹחַ ” Noach ish tsadik tamim hayah bedorotav et-ha’Elohim hitchalech Noach.” “Noah was a righteous and innocent man in his generations; Noah walked with God” and then the same expression is repeated in 7:1 ” Come you and all your house into the ark: for I have seen you righteous before Me in this generation” בֹּא-אַתָּה וְכָל-בֵּיתְךָ אֶל-הַתֵּבָה:  כִּי-אֹתְךָ רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי, בַּדּוֹר הַזֶּה. “bo-atah vekol-beitecha el-hatevah ki-otecha ra’iti tsadik lefanai bador hazeh”. 

Thus, Noah has the title of being “tzaddik”, not because of the men who followed him, or because of the merit of any other man, but simply because the Eternal considered him to be righteous. This “common” man had managed to become a tzaddik in his generation because of his decisions. Being tzaddik צדיק, comes from tzedakah which implies doing what is just and right, like well-calibrated or just weights which are called מֹאזְנֵי צֶדֶק Moznei Tzedek in Lev. 19:36. The tzaddik is as much a man as any other human being; he sleeps, he cries, he laughs, is happy, gets angry, is frustrated, has leisure, and enjoys the company of others. For a tzaddik, everything that exists is a means to connect with an infinite God. A tzaddik is not a perfect man, without blemish, is most pure or puritan or one who does not make mistakes. In his case, Noah achieved a level of connection with his Creator, such that the Eternal rewarded him with being a “second Adam” from whom all men on earth would descend today, and would live a new beginning, a new era.

Let’s examine some simple facts concerning Noah’s merits: first, he refrained from behavior that unleashed the wrath of God: such as corruption, promiscuity, sexual immorality, blasphemy, idolatry, and violence (in Hebrew, the word for violence is חָמָס chamas). According to our sages the people continued their behavior against God during the 120 years of the construction of the Teva (the Ark) referring to Chapter 6:3 And the LORD said: ‘My spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he also is flesh; therefore, his days shall be a hundred and twenty years.” Then we see God waited another 7 days in Chapter 7:4 “For yet seven days, and I will cause it to rain upon the earth forty days and forty nights; and every living substance that I have made I will blot out from off the face of the earth.”  This is like shiva where again according to our sages, the Eternal waited for the death of Methuselah מתושלח whose name means “his death shall send”. Noah had to learn to trust that the Eternal had literally spoken to him so that he “blindly” built the Ark without knowing whether the predicted event would actually occur. He also had the merit that his family was saved with him, thus the Eternal “shut him in” (7:16) to protect him from the flood and save them all from destruction.

We tend to generalize about a situation; how is it possible that God destroyed this entire generation? Where was His mercy? There are gray areas, but I can say in fact, that God did show His goodness toward men; they had 120 years plus the 7 days to reconsider and correct their corrupt actions, but they didn’t do it, rather when they saw that God’s punishment was delayed, they increased their wickedness as it says in 1 Kefa (Peter) 3:20 says “To those who were disobedient long ago while God waited patiently in the days of Noach, during the construction of the Teva (Ark) in which only a few people, that is eight, were delivered from the flood”.

We might say that the fruit of this new generation was not better than the previous ones, as we see even today in our generation, because as the Eternal said in chapter 8:21 “for the intention of the heart of man is evil from his youth ”.  So, by this initial purification of the earth by water, God continues to remind us through the rainbow of His attributes of judgment and mercy. How? When we see the rainbow, it is a sign, a reminder that God will not destroy the world with the waters of a flood to the end of this earth, and that we are presently within this “period” of 120 years (remember that, in Hebrew thought, one year is equivalent to a “set period of time”…not necessarily 365 days). Here God is giving humanity the opportunity to rectify their behavior, because the rainbow is also a reminder of Divine judgment i.e., the flood.

Noah knew how to wait upon God; that is the very essence of his name which means “he rested”. And he trusted in the Eternal, patiently, while he cut the wood, while he convinced his family to accompany him in the process, while he placed the wood and the pitch, while he waited for the Eternal to send the animals, and while they entered the ark; he waited one hundred and twenty years, and as fruit, he found “grace” or favor from the Eternal.

Today, we live in a society, corrupt with violence, sexual promiscuity with all kinds of aberrations, blasphemy of God, man believing to be superior to the Eternal, where Chesed (compassion) is not viewed to be a habit of life. God tells each of us: “build your ark”. Where do we keep the Torah in the synagogues? In an ark, it’s a very profound message. Will we trust in the Eternal? Will we decide not to contaminate ourselves and behave like the rest of society? Will we practice Chesed? May the Eternal give us merit to wait and trust in him, so that He may show us His salvation always, as the psalmist said “Adonai, be kind to the good and to those who are upright in their hearts” and Tehilim 27:30 “The righteous will inherit the earth and live on it forever.”

Shabbat Shalom
Mauricio Quintero

The recorded Discussion: https://youtu.be/7ajcDkIRffc