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Hurricane Noach

Friday, 1 November, 2019 - 4:15 pm

Until half a century ago names became infamous only due to bad human behavior. But in 1953 we started giving names to hurricanes and tropical storms and for New Orleans peeps the name “Katrina” is a frightful memory and for Northeast Coasters the name “Sandy” can be traumatizing. Try saying “Harvey” to East Texans and see how it makes them feel...

Of course, there is no need for the Katrinas, Sandys and Harveys of the world to feel self conscious about this since these names are determined by a strict procedure established by the World Meteorological Organization. So there is no insinuation that someone named Katrina had anything to do with the destruction of New Orleans in 2005. But the historic flood that wiped all life off the face of the earth has been named for the man who was instrumental in ensuring that there would be survivors to rebuild the new world.

Every Shabbat, after we read the Torah portion during Synagogue services, we read a section from the Prophets containing a message similar to what we just read in the Torah scroll. This is called the Haftarah.

The section we read in connection with the story of Noach and the flood comes from Isaiah chapter 54 which discusses the redemption of the Jewish people after a long and arduous exile. G-d promises us that exile will never happen again, just as he promised Noach that life will never be destroyed from the earth again.

"For this is to Me [as] the waters of Noach, as I swore that the waters of Noach shall never again pass over the earth, so have I sworn neither to be wroth with you nor to rebuke you.”

Notice the prophet refers to the terrible flood as the “waters of Noach.” Why does Noach deserve to have his name associated with the waters that destroyed life, when he was actually the one to achieve the restoration of life after the disaster?

As I discussed last year, Noach failed to inspire his generation to repent. He spent over a century building his lifeboat without managing to persuade anyone outside of his immediate family to repent. As the face of morality of his time, he was expected to do more to avert the flood altogether. Since he chose not to lead, the flood is on his record.

But in Noach’s defense it is important to realize that humanity in his time was so earthly, coarse and egotistical that sensitivity to the divine was impossible. This is why G-d chose to restart civilization through the purifying energy of water.

The name “Waters of Noach” means “Waters of Serenity” as well. Just as water gathered properly for a Mikva can remove ritual impurity and make someone worthy to enter the Holy Temple, the waters of the great flood purified reality, paving the way for the revelation at Sinai and for Torah to serve as a light for all nations to attain the greatest moral, ethical and spiritual heights. Preparing our world for an era of peace and serenity with the coming of Moshiach.

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