Tag Archives: noach

Rashi on Noach

Oh boy, am I behind. Can I at least use the excuse that I just got married? Of course not! But I will anyway. Right now, I am several weeks behind. In the Weekly Torah Portions, we are now up to the death of Abraham, while my postings are only now at the beginning of the Abraham story. But, before I can write about that, I will do my summary of some of Rashi’s thoughts that I felt were interesting on the Noach portion.

Like in the previous portion, I’m not going to comment on the lion’s share of Rashi’s comments where they are illuminating a particular passage, but rather pull out some of the particularly interesting items of commentary that either aren’t at all how my reading went, or alternatively are things I simply found interesting or profound. More the former than the latter as I suspect that I am not yet capable of understanding some of the profound commentaries.

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Noach – The Curse of Ham

Many people  call the Bible, “The Good Book”, but it’s not really always good. In its volumuous pages, it describes heroes and villains, depicts triumph over adversity, and even provides a set of rules to live by. But sometimes the Bible doesn’t live up to its reputation, or at least doesn’t appear to. There are passages that extoll the subservience of women to men, insist that parents should kill their children if they do not behave, and even depicts God declaring genocide against nations that opposed Israel, including women and children. Rabbis and theologians have debated these portions and have found ways to look at many of them, sometimes to the extent of saying that a text means the opposite of what it says, like God has put a riddle in the Bible for us to solve. Despite that, the face readings of these texts have caused significant hardship and strife over hundreds of years. The “Curse of Ham” is one of these unfortunate portions.

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Noach – A Covenant for All

I may have been too hard on poor old Noah, I admit. But aside from the mythological rainbow connection, the outcome of the flood was notable because God finally chose to set down the rules.

Enter, the Noahic Covenant. In the Hebrew Bible, there are many covenants, the best-known being the covenant that God gave the children of Israel in the form of the Ten Commandments and Mosaic law. In specific, this covenant is the only one that covers all of humanity, whether Jewish or Christian, Hindu or Buddhist. These are the new rules, at least according to the early Jews, that applied to all humanity for all time:

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Noach – Noah and the Flood

Okay, enough procrastinating and creating charts! It’s time to get to Noach because the rest of the world has already moved on to the next portion, Lech-Lecha.

The Noach portion, named for Noah’s name in Hebrew, covers Genesis 6:9, the beginning of the Noah story), to 11:32 the beginning of the Abraham story. That includes three main “tales”: the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of Noah and his drunkenness, and the Tower of Babil.

For me, the story of Noah has always been one of the more difficult for me to wrap my brain around. It’s not that the story is complex – it isn’t. My problem with the story is that it feels too much like mythology, like something that would happen to Odin,  Zeus, or Heracles, rather than a story that we should take any great meaning from. It doesn’t help that God acts “out of character” and lots of innocent lives, human and animal, are lost. And, like all great mythology, it aims to explain in a supernatural way a natural phenomenon: the rainbow. This isn’t something that fits well in modern Judaism or Christianity, but still it’s an important story, certainly one of the most well known, and here it is already in week #2.

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Bible Genealogy Chart (to Genesis 12)

This is a last-minute addition to my labor of love, but since I’m behind on Noach anyway, why not be even more behind? Here is the complete chart of all of the “begats” up to Genesis 12, to be best of my ability. All named sons and daughters are present here, as well as (when I can) references to individuals that are listed as the progenitors of nations. All of the names are from the JPS translation, but most of the spelling differences should be obvious enough.

In a future revision, I may color-code whether or not the individual has anything actually said about him or her. For example, Enoch and Nimrod both have mini-stories, but some are named once only in a “begat”.

Without further ado:

(Update: Replaced version created by LovelyCharts.com, which is a fantastic builder but the export was blurry, with a version done in OmniGraffle for the Mac. This version is a bit more smooshed than I would like, but I had fun, anyway.)