Noah’s Decisions

By Jane Snerson. D’var Torah, November 1, 2019.

The Torah portion this week is Noah. Noah who was told by God that the people were so wicked they were beyond help and God was going to start all over again—almost. God designated Noah to build an ark that would accommodate Noah and his wife; his sons Shem, Ham, Japheth and their wives; and pairs of all the animals, fish, birds, and creeping things—everything in the world that would be needed in the future for the survival of everything that was on the ark. Really. Noah had to make his decisions based on the knowledge that destruction was imminent and what he saved was really important.

Thank God we are not Noah, but we are being faced with disasters, changes current and pending which loom ahead and will affect lives, property, environment, and extinction of things we have taken for granted. People in states that are burning, or in the path of hurricanes, floods, and tornadoes, have to answer the questions of what to save, what to listen to, what to leave behind as they flee. Immigrants on the run from fear and persecution are confronted by life-altering choices.

How can we plan permanence and survival for our families, friends, and neighbors? How do we show compassion for others while we are consumed by worry about our very own loved ones? Hope and faith in God helps me as I contemplate what might be. I don’t have a specific plan, but I do consider options for helping myself and others in a time of need that might come. A story that got me thinking is this:


A very religious man was once caught in rising floodwaters. He climbed onto the roof of his house and trusted God to rescue him. A neighbor came by in a canoe and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll paddle to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I am sure he will save me.”

A short time later the police came by in a boat. “The waters will soon be above your house. Hop in and we’ll take you to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. “I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”

A little time later a rescue services helicopter hovered overhead, let down a rope ladder and said, “The waters will soon be above your house. Climb the ladder and we’ll fly you to safety.”

“No thanks,” replied the religious man. I’ve prayed to God and I’m sure he will save me.”

All this time the floodwaters continued to rise, until soon they reached above the roof and the religious man drowned. When he arrived at heaven, he demanded an audience with God. Ushered into God’s throne room he said, “God, why am I here in heaven?  I prayed for you to save me, I trusted you to save me from that flood.”

“Yes, you did,” replied God, “and I send you a canoe, a boat, and a helicopter. You never got in.”

Source: Unknown

Unlike the man on the roof, Noah did survive and take the help that God offered. Noah did as God commanded, built the ark, gathered the creatures and all living things–sorry about the unicorns–boarded the boat and trusted in God to see them through. Nowhere is there mention of Noah feeling sadness, not is there any discussion with God about the possibility of saving the other inhabitants of the earth. The Torah does not speak of compassion from Noah who was great but did not become the father of a new religion. Perhaps his single-mindedness about his enormous task left him with no room for thoughts of anything else.

We all grapple with the unexpected and try to keep things in order so our lives will have some stability. We try to keep things in perspective and to differentiate between needs and wants. We hope to achieve a balance between important and really important. We attempt to be self-reliant and self-sufficient—but somewhere down the line we realize we are part of a community that we need and that needs us. We here are grateful for that.

We pray as if everything depends on God and act as if everything depends on us. Remember to hold on to our dreams, hold on to each other, and say I love you!

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