Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Who ate the cake- NOAH, NOAH!

And who made the cake? It was Inna!

A Midrash on Noah:
Anonymous was a woman, they say. Anonymous are the wives of Noah, Shem, Ham, and Japhet, unnamed in this parashah. Who were these women? What were their thoughts? What were they doing while all the world drowned? Can we hear their voices? What would they say to us, in 2003? In my imagination, I hear them speak . . .
“I am Na'amah, the wife of Noah, daughter of Enoch and sister of Tubal-cain. (see the previous chapter of Genesis) My name is taken from ne'imim meaning 'pleasing' - some say because my deeds were pleasing. I have joined with my daughters-in-law, Tirzah, Tikvah, and Tanni, as we demonstrate our love of god by honoring the god within all of us. We work for the scorned and dispossessed of this world. We reach out to those in need. I am proud to call them my daughters.
“We live in difficult times. The world is filled with Shichet - corruption: greed, dishonesty, distrust, - and - Chamas - lawlessness: violence, terror and hatred. Humans take advantage of each other. Not everyone is bad, mind you, for there are those who strive to be just and fair. Their righteous voices are all but drowned out by the evil din of obfuscation surrounding them.
“So many scorn god, and in their greediness, they destroy the fabric of trust, solicitude and honesty that form the warp and weft of a civil society. They care for nothing beyond their own gain. They disingenuously justify their petty, hurtful actions with twisted rhetoric. They use subtle means to intimidate and traumatize those who dare to challenge their authority or even raise questions about their outrageous behavior.
“My daughters and I doubled our efforts when Noah told us that god planned to destroy this proflagate world and all that was in it. How cruel, how unfeeling to condemn everyone, even those innocents who were not deserving of such a fate.
“So we worked to repair the world. Tirzah watched the children while young mothers went into the fields to harvest food. Tikvah housed the poor in communal shelters. Tanni repaired rags and wove clothing for the sick. And I, Na'amah, worked to preserve the earth and our natural resources. Planting, renewing and replacing became my passion.
“Noah has been called 'a righteous man in his generation.' He loves god, unquestionably. He does what he is told. He is what some rabbis have called tzadik im pelz - 'a holy man in a fur coat.' He is a good man who will save his family but is not so open to the suffering of his neighbors. He is a survivor - but will always be haunted by the memory of all who perished. Such a terrible burden: to survive and remember! Enough to drive a body to drink!
“Noah hoped that people would see the error of their ways and return to god; notice his building the ark and repent of their lies and brutality. He did not argue or plead. He simply did as he was told. The 120 years from the planting of the trees to the deluge went quickly. All that time, all that effort, all those resources - going to save so few! Noah proclaimed it was all 'god's will' - that nothing we could do would alter fate, while my daughters and I put our energies into righting wrongs. Alas, to no avail!
“In the end, we joined the men and the animals on the ark. Shut up in that dark, confined space, hardly breathing, working in the sour stench of frightened animals, we sought some semblance of order amid that chaos, with the wind and rain howling and swirling about us, in the roiling waves, without benefit of the warmth and comfort of our husbands' bodies. In the end, I stepped onto the sodden ground and wondered what we had proven, and where we would go next, and what we would become in the years ahead. ”
What have we learned from all this?
That we are all survivors.
That we must continue to curse those cruel, insensitive people who act deceitfully - and strive to banish their misbegotten deeds from our world.
That we must steward the earth, renewing its resources, rather than squandering its gifts.
That we must honor the god within each of us, celebrating our differences.
That we must begin anew, and somehow, do better next time . . .
So much to do...so little time.

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