We are into the fast-paced section of the Torah. In just one portion, we covered all of creation, Adam and Eve, Eden, Cain and Abel and more. It seems that last week God create the earth and this week, God was ready to destroy it. Instead, God decided to just destroy almost all of its people. I’ve often wondered if this was simply a downgrade and whether there was a planet before earth that God completely destroyed and with this planet God is just trying a bit of temper control. So God goes to Noah and tells him to build an ark. Most of use know the general story.
It starts with “Eleh toldot Noah – These are the generations of Noah, Noah eash tzadik tamim hayah b’dorotav – Noah was a righteous man, he was innocent in his generation.” When a name is repeated in the Torah, there is clearly a reason and the commentators have great discussions on this. If Noah was the most righteous of his generation, does that mean he was actually a good person (whatever that may mean) or was he just better than the others around him? Were the people around him so sleazy that he didn’t have to do much to pass the test?
The portion goes on to say that the earth became corrupt, so corrupt that God looked down and decided to end all living beings on earth. So God chose the best, or maybe one of the best, who had a family that could perpetuate life, to lead the movement to carry on. And as the song says, “the animals, they came on, they came on by twosies twosies…” I can’t help wondering, if this were to happen today, who would God choose. Would God look down at our government and even find one Republican congressman to pick? Would it be John Boehner, the leader of those who have shut down the government, endangering our economy? Would it be Iowa Representative Steven King who has used his discretion to keep his salary and to not furlough any of his staff so they can still afford groceries at Safeway? I heard him say on the radio that this is war and we are not going to reduce our staff in a time of war. Really? War? Really? Would it be Rep. Marlin Stutzman who said “We’re not going to be disrespected. We have to get something out of this, and I don’t know what that even is.” Sounds like the average two year old at the check out line, grabbing any prize that mommy will give him. And if we look at the senators, I wonder if it would be Ted Cruz, one of the presumed leaders of this movement, who is dead set on stopping the Affordable Care Act which was voted on by Congress, affirmed by the Supreme Court, and affirmed by the people of this country by the reelection of the President. He has said, that once people get healthcare, it will hang around, and they’ll like it. Yup! Just like Medicare I suspect. (Don’t worry, for some reason, Medicare is not affected. I bet it’s because Congress knows that the people who receive Medicare would have them on a spit if they cut it!)
Somehow, I doubt it would be any of them, even though they all claim to be good, religious folk. Somehow, I would like to think that God wouldn’t pick a person who is relishing in the shutdown when it means that the National Institutes of Health must cancel drug trials to help the sickest. When it means that VA processing just gets more backlogged. When average folks who don’t make a lot of money like the people who clean government offices or work in the museum gift shops can’t feed their families. Many of those folks have already been furloughed 1 day a week because of the sequester.
Personally, I think Congress is more like a scene out of the end of today’s portion. The people all spoke one language and they decided to build a tower so massive and so tall that they would “na-aseh lanu shem – make a name for ourselves.” They wanted to show how big they were. As a child I was told that they were building a tower to God, but as I read the text, I am not so sure. It seems that just like the folks in Washington, they wanted to show how big they could be, how important they could be, and how powerful they could be. As the folks in the Torah’s story grow the tower larger and larger, God confounds their speech and all of a sudden, people are speaking different languages and they can no longer work together. It seems the same is true with our Congress. No one seems to be speaking the same language. Everyone is speaking their own language and there is no communication.
So maybe we need to go back before the Tower of Babel. Maybe if Congress could forget about how massive and powerful they are, or think they are, they can talk to each other and get this country rolling again. They may all be speaking English, but they are certainly now communicating. It may seem like a trickle now, but if this goes on much longer, there will be a flood nearly as destructive as the one Noah survived.