The animals they came on, they came on by twosie, twosie X2
Elephants and kangaroosies-roosies, children of the Lord
We all know the song. What a happy number for such a portion that is is filled with turmoil from start to finish. Parashat Noach.
We should know that something is amiss when the portion itself begins with a backhanded compliment to Noah. Noach eesh tzadik, tamim hayah b’dorotav — Noah was a righteous man, he was blameless for his generation. That’s like saying “he’s a good guy — but you should see his friends.” And then we learn that the world has become so corrupt that God decides to put an end to all flesh. So Noah is called upon to build an ark. In the ark will go his family and two of each animal — a male and a female – so that life on earth can continue. Seven pairs of animals used for ritual purposes were also taken along. Noach did what he was told — no questions asked.
And then the rains came. Picture it: you’re in this ark, really a big box, floating in the turbulent waters. There is no steering, you have no control. Can you imagine how that must have felt?
Later, after the ark lands and all settle on dry land, there is an incident with Noah and one of his sons. It’s not really clear what happens, but it’s not good, and the sons eventually scatter to different parts of the earth.
Even more turmoil.
We hear the story of the Tower of Babel. The people, who all spoke one language at this time, decide to build a tower higher than everyone else. To be the best? To stand higher? Maybe to see if God has a big toe as Rabbi Marc Gelman supposes in his modern midrash. So God creates various languages so the people can no longer speak to each other. And they scatter.
You would think that with all this turmoil, that this would be the end of the story. But 10 generations after Noah, there is Abraham. And our story continues.
So what is it about turmoil? Does it unify us? Does it divide us?
We have been living in particularly tumultuous times. But In the recent past we have seen dictators fall, the redemption of Egypt, Libya, and Iraq — to democracies, perhaps. Who knows what is happening in Syria.
Last year we saw a little protest become occupy Wall Street, and occupy Wall Street has become Occupy Boston, Occupy Atlanta, Occupy Miami, and so many other places all over the world. It was turmoil.
But then, we began to see some structure. Was the “Occupy Movement” a temporary event or did it just create a new generation of community organizers? One never knows where being a community organizer might lead.
And just recently we saw much turmoil in the attack on our embassy in Libya leading to the horrific murder of four, including our ambassador, Chris Stevens, who by all accounts was a real mensch. And while the events leading to Ambassador Stevens’ death are still murky, condemnation for his killing has come from a wide variety of sources, and who knows where this turmoil will lead.
Turmoil may at first seem to bring the negative, but turmoil can bring much that is positive. We do not yet know what long lasting changes will come from our recent turmoil, but like Noah, sometimes you need to go along, have a bit of faith in the future, and remember that staying in place is not always a good thing. Because sometime the earth beneath our feet may change.
So rise and shine, and give God your glory, glory….