Torah Portion: Noah B’resheet/Genesis 6:9-11:32
HafTorah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5
Today we study the saga of the flood and in some ways the beginning again with Noah and his family. We also read of the animals that entered into the ark. I would like to begin with a look at the word translated in English as ark. In Hebrew this word is “tevah,” which has a number of meanings. Here it is used to describe a wooden box. This is a very large box some 450 feet long.
This word tevah can also mean “word,” such as a spoken word or written word. If we look at tevah with this additional meaning we could say Noah and his family entered into G-d’s word for protection from the storm. This family survived the storm by being in the word of G-d. How do we survive the floods and storms of our lives? Psalms 93:3-4 and Psalms 77:16 give us a clue. G-d is our protection and refuge in a storm. When we stay in Him the storms of life will be quieted by His Word. Noah and his family weathered this storm by being wrapped in the word of G-d. We can rest in Him, devoting time every day to study and prayer knowing He is able. I heard a man talking about his survival of the hurricane this week. He said the only explanation was that G-d was with him. When we go through storms in our life the outcome of the storm is not the real issue. What matters is how we go through it. Only with G-d will we find peace in the middle of the storms of life.
Now on to the question of the week, I asked you to read B’resheet/Genesis 1:26-27 and also a section of our portion today, B’resheet/Genesis 9:6 and see what the difference is in the verses that talk about man being created in the image of G-d. To help us it is also important to look at two words that occur in each. In chapter 1 the word “tov” or good is written 7 times. While in chapter 9 the word “brit” or covenant is written 7 times.
B’resheet/Genesis one tells us that we are in the image of G-d. However in chapter nine we read where the other person is also in the image of G-d. The first chapter tells us about the dominance of man over the rest of creation. In chapter nine we read about the sanctity of life and the prohibition of murder, the moral limits on the power of man. We learn in chapter nine that our power may not be used to take the life of another person by murder.
In chapter nine the use of the word covenant introduces a different idea into humanity. Chapter one speaks about the individual while chapter nine brings relationships into the equation. A covenant speaks about the moral bond between people. Here G-d is teaching us that all people carry the image of G-d. We are called to view people, all people, as having value and worth. This may be easy when we see people who are like us, however it gets more difficult when we encounter people who look or act differently than we look or act.
The real test is, can I see G-d’s image in one who is not in my image? People normally fear people not like themselves. The stranger or the foreigner is almost always seen as a threat. Maybe the next time we see someone radically unlike us we can try to see their difference, not as a threat but as a possibility of making a new acquaintance. G-d asks us to see His image in one who is not in my image. Adam knew he was in G-d’s image. Noah and his descendents, which includes all of us, are told to see, to remember, that all people are in the image of G-d.
Our challenge is, can we see the trace of G-d in the face of a stranger? This is not easy for any of us. However that does not mean we are exempt from taking the steps to reach out to whomever G-d puts in our path each day.