Noah 5770

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Tyler Dratch

October 24, 2009/6 Heshvan 5770

This year, let’s dig a bit deeper into Parshat Noah past the story about the flood and the ark. Later in Parshat Noah we find nine short verses that make of the story we all know as “The Tower of Bable.” The people of the world decide to build a tower that would reach the sky. Midrash adds that this tower would be higher than God. God comes down to look at the tower, and is not happy. “If, as one people with one language for all, this is how they have begun to act, then nothing that they may propose to do will be out of their reach (Genesis 11:6). God then proceeds to scatter the people all over the world and give them different languages.

Something isn’t quite right here. Why would God not want the people to be able to accomplish anything they put their minds to? There are two answers to this question. First, God knew that even though the people could accomplish great things, they would not always accomplish them ethically. Midrash tells us that towards the completion of the tower, if a person fell off the tower and died, the rest of the builders would not stop to mourn. However, if a brick fell of the tower, the people would mourn, due to the fact that they would need to send another brick all the way to the top of the tower.

Second, God knew that as humans, we cannot be the rulers. God knew that if humans could do anything they wanted, there would be no need for a God, and no need for a covenant. People would ignore the valuable teachings of the later formed Judaism. So remember, that while we are humans, we will always need the help of God to help make our lives meaningful. Shabbat Shalom!

Seventh-Day Stretch:

#5: Friday is called Erev Shabbat, and the same holds true for any day before a festival (e.g. Erev Pesach). I find it significant that we look at this day through the lens of Shabbat – that it’s night just Friday, but it’s the day before Shabbat. It is important to spend this day preparing oneself to be in the mindset of Shabbat. You would not show up to prom in the clothes you had just worked out in without having “gotten ready.” Likewise, we do not greet Shabbat in the midst of the chaos of the week; rather we put on nicer clothes, shower, and tidy ourselves in whatever ways possible. For me this often means cutting my nails and shaving. A joke we sometimes use at camp goes, why do we wear bigdei Shabbat (Shabbat clothes)? Because Shabbat is a Big Day! The more we are both physically and emotionally prepared for Shabbat, the more special we make it.

A Midrash from the Talmud discusses the angels that visit our homes at the beginning of Shabbat. If the home is not set up for Shabbat and everyone is still running around chaotically, the “bad angel” insists that all Shabbatot in the future should be like that one, and the “good angel” must say “Amen.” If, however, the table is set, everyone is dressed well, and the house has the Shabbat atmosphere, the “good angel” insists that all Shabbat should be like that one and the “bad angel” must answer “Amen.”

Things you can do to prepare for Shabbat, besides the ones mentioned above:

  • Clean your room/house
  • Give tzedakah
  • Study the Torah portion
  • Listen to Shabbat music
  • Meditate!
  • Bake a special dessert or create something special for Shabbat

Shabbat Shalom U-mevorach!