This week's Torah reading takes us to the familiar tale of Noah and the Ark. It's one of the most famous of the biblical stories, having been depicted in every form of popular cultural reference. Breifly, in this story, a righteous man, Noah is given instruction by G-d to build a ship large enough to float himself, his family, and an untold number of animals for many months, along with food and other supplies. This was to protect them from the devastating flood G-d was about to descend upon the Earth. It has been speculated that it took Noah 100+ years to complete the ark, amid the jeers and insults from his neighbors, but he succeeded.
As a child, I can remember stating many times upon seeing a rainbow in the sky, that it was a reminder from G-d that He would never again destroy the world with a universal flood, as mentioned in the Bible. For the adult me, however, the biblical narrative raises more questions than assurances. Like why would an omniscient, benevolent Deity create a world that was so irrevocably corruptible that it would need to be destroyed in order to be corrected? Could not those bugs have been worked out on the drawing board? And why a flood? Why not just use Your celestial dry eraser and start over, or simply snap Your omnipotent fingers? Poof! No suffering required.
Generally when it comes to my study of biblical stories, I tend to ignore the fact, such as in this case, that sometimes older, parallel narratives from other cultures have been unearthed by archaeologists. Historically, chronologically, Parshat Noach is the third retelling, to our knowledge, of the legend of a flood that cleansed the Earth ... or is it the fourth? Anyway, my focus is usually on understanding the message and gleaning the lesson from these tales. I like to see where they fit into a modern society, so I can apply their ancient wisdom to my everyday life, if possible. To that extent, who told it first, although academic, becomes irrelevant.
My summation of this fascinating story is that it is a work representative of the quality and efficacy of perseverance. That the ability to remain steadfast and unwavering in that which we know we can and must accomplish is vital to our success. The supposed 100-year plus completion time of the ark suggests to me that Noah was probably not the most punctilious user of time, but then neither am I. Besides, the biblical text merely states that Noah was righteous, not that he was perfect (wink).
Let's all endeavor to be steadfast and determined in the accomplishment of our tasks. Who knows what the future rewards might be?