THISSHABBAT: Pray a little, sing a lot, study even more

Candle lighting for Friday, Oct. 20, is at 5:49 p.m. DST

Shabbat ends on Saturday with Havdalah at 6:50 p.m. DST

This Shabbat, God acts on His disappointment with the humans He created by sending a world-engulfing flood, destroying all life on the planet, save Noach, his family, and a representative collection of all the animals Noach brought onto the ark. God then realizes He made a horrible mistake, because nothing changed; humans were still evil "since their youth." He establishes a covenant with humankind never again to destroy the world, and He sets a rainbow in the sky to remind Him of that promise when His anger is kindled. To download this week's Shabbat booklet, click here.

THIS WEEK: Shabbat Rosh Chodesh

Parashat Noach

B'reishit 6.9-11.32, pages 41-63

Added reading: B'midbar 28.9-15,

pages 930-931

SECOND ALIYAH: "All the fountains of the great t'hom [deep] burst forth," says the text in verse 7.11. What is most significant about the word "t'hom"?

SIXTH ALIYAH: The word for naked in verse 9.22 is ervah. In B'reishit 2 is arom. What is the difference, and how does that explain how the episode progresses?

A special haftarah, Yishayahu 66.1-24, begins on Page 1220.

NEXT WEEK: Shabbat Parashat Lech L'cha

B'reishit 12.1-17.27, pages 69-93

FIRST ALIYAH: Avraham has been severely criticized for placing his wife's honor at risk, and rightly so. Yet, there is a hint that Sarah was complicit in this deception from the outset. What is that hint?

SIXTH ALIYAH: The sign of the covenant God makes with Avraham includes male circumcision. In what way do we know that this covenant is not gender-specific, but includes women?

The haftarah, Yishayahu 40.27-41.16,

begins on Page 94

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QUESTIONS FOR

TORAH STUDY

ABOUT THIS WEEK'S READING

BLIND OBEDIENCE IS NOT

WHAT GOD WANTS

    Noach is one of the most tantalizing figures in the Torah, and nowhere is this more evident than in the first and last glimpses we catch of him this week. The opening is full of expectation: "Noach was a righteous man, faultless in his generation. Noach walked with Hashem (6.9)"

    No one else in the Torah receives such accolades. Yet, the end of his life is full of pathos: His sons discover him drunk and naked. How had the sole human worthy of rescue during the flood fallen so low? The midrash provides many answers. One is surpassing in its sharpness:

    "Once the waters had abated, Noach should have left the ark. However, Noach said to himself, "I entered with Hashem's permission, as it says, 'Go into the ark' (7.1). Shall I now leave without permission?' [Hashem] said to him, 'Is it permission that you are seeking? Very well..., come out of the ark.'" (Tanchuma, Noach, 13-14)

    This Midrash is quite unmistakable in its note of exasperation. When it comes to rebuilding a shattered world, you do not wait for permission. Yet this is the Noach we know. What does Noach say to Hashem when told the world is about to perish? The answer is: nothing. Instead, we read four times of his silent obedience (see 6.22, 7.5. 7.9, and 7.16). Noach is the paradigm of biblical obedience. Yet the Torah tells us obedience is not enough.

    Hashem does not command blind obedience. If He sought no more than mindless submission to the Divine will, He would have created robots, machines, or genetically programmed people who responded automatically to commands as dogs to Pavlov's bell. Hashem wants us to be mature, deliberative, to do His will because we understand or because we trust Him when we do not understand. He seeks from us something other and greater than obedience, namely responsibility.

     Noach saved only himself and his family. At least on the evidence of the text, Noach did not even try. Noach's end—drunk, disheveled, an embarrassment to his children—eloquently tells us that if you save yourself while doing nothing to save the world, you do not even save yourself. Noach could not live with the guilt of survival.


—Adapted from the writings of Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks


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