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(After the flood) Noah built an altar for G-d… he offered burnt offering on the altar. G-d smelt the burnt offerings, saying to Himself: ‘… I will never again destroy all living things (6:20-21).
This act is the first time Noah is recorded to have shown significant initiative. Up until now, he ‘walked with G-d’ (6:9) – he did what G-d told him. Obedient, yes: ‘Noah did exactly as G-d instructed him’ (6:22). So far: no more, no less. But on having survived the flood and out of thanks of being saved, he took upon himself to do that major act of worshipping G-d on his own initiative. He took part in starting the Creation anew, as a positive act of rebuilding. In doing so, he was ‘walking before G-d’, rather than merely ‘walking with G-d’ (as Abraham would, c.f. 25:40).
And G-d responded positively.
Yet the story of Noah ends on rather a sour note. The final act shows him having compromised himself by getting drunk from wine made out of his very own grapes in his very own vineyard. As the text recounts:
Noah became a farmer and planted a vineyard. He drank and became intoxicated, and was naked… Ham, Canaan’s father, saw his father’s nakedness, and told his two brothers outside (9:20-22).
Rashi comments on the verb ‘vayahel’ – which can also mean that Noah debased himself in choosing to plant a vineyard. He could have farmed other things which do not involve intoxicating drink.
However, it could be argued that it was not what Noah planted, but what he did with the final product. Wine can be used as an act of sanctifying – as in the Temple, as in kiddush and havdalah. Indeed, the Rabbis introduced a special beracha to be said when partaking of a superior second wine during the meal: hatov ve-hameitiv – ‘What is good, and does good to others’.
This was not Noah’s approach. Instead of thanking G-d as the first post-flood vintage came into maturing, he just drank from the wine.
And G-d said nothing. Even though Noah had plenty to say afterwards.
It is one thing to thank G-d for deliverance from a sudden disaster, whereby the Hand of G-d is clearly visible. It is far more difficult to see G-d’s Hand in something which takes place gradually, especially if there is no change in ‘the laws of nature’…
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Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.com/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
Also by Jacob Solomon:
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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