Thursday, October 18, 2012

Noah the Balanced

Noah, about whom we read in this week's Torah Portion, is famously described as being "righteous in his generation". The Rabbis wonder whether we are meant to understand this to mean that in the morally corrupt generation in which Noah lived he was good, but he would not have been considered much if he had lived in a different time. Or, the Rabbis also consider, is this meant in a more general sense, that yes, Noah, was a good man and would have been good no matter when or where he lived. There is no way to know for sure, but that's okay. Wrestling with both answers teaches us something we wouldn't learn from just one. It can be very easy to think that you're great if you are surrounded (or surround yourself with) people who are not as good as you are at some skill. When I was in high school, I was probably the number one biggest fan of Gilbert and Sullivan at Oswego High School. But did that really make me an aficionado, or simply someone who knew just a bit more about a crazy topic than my classmates? This probably doesn't matter a lot when we are talking about light opera, but in real life it can make a difference. It can lead us to be lazy and uninspired, or worse, to be tyrannical and abusive, if we find ourselves in such a position. The beauty, then, of these two teachings about Noah, is that together they teach us to both cultivate and proud of the skills and talents we have and in which we seem to excel, but also we are taught to be thoughtful and even humble about them at the same time. Maybe this was the case for Noah. Maybe he both aspired to be a truly good man, but was limited by his surroundings in how righteous he could become. If so, this recipe for a balanced approach is a good one - for Noah it allowed him to save the world. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Benson

No comments:

Post a Comment