Parashah Noach 2021 (Noah) Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

We read today the story of Noah.

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Noah was the only righteous man in a world of violence and God, seeing that the world needed a reboot, had Noah, his wife, sons, and daughter-in-law all survive the flood God was to send to destroy all life on earth (except the fish, of course) by building an ark and taking a representative of each of the animals. Of the clean animals, there were 7 pairs (male and female) and of the unclean only one pair.

We all know about the 40 days of rain until the earth was completely covered, the 150 days of floating around, then finally the waters begin to recede and eventually, after more than a year, Noah and his family came to ground on Mount Ararat and left the ark, setting free the animals. Noah sacrifices to God and God makes a covenant never again to destroy the earth by flood, placing a rainbow in the sky as a reminder of the covenant.

This covenant is known as the Noahide Covenant and is the first one that God made with mankind. It encompasses the restrictions of cruelty to animals, eating of blood, laws regarding torts, and sets the foundation for the succeeding covenants to come.

Remember this important fact about the covenants God made with us: they have always been complementary, not exclusionary, meaning that each succeeding covenant -the Abrahamic, the Mosaic, the Davidic, and lastly the New Covenant- all have included and built upon the previous covenants. No covenant God has made has ever overruled or removed any aspect or requirement of the previous covenant.

This parashah tells us of the sin of Ham, who saw his drunken and naked father and made fun of it, resulting in Noah cursing him and his descendants. Speaking of descendants, we are told the generations of Noah and his children, and the story of the Tower of Babel is given.

This parashah ends taking us through the generations after Noah until we come to Abram settling in the Chaldees.

As I was going through my Chumash, there was a commentary when I came to the part where Noah gets drunk and Ham sees him lying passed out on the floor, showing the family jewels to everyone. The commentary states that most children’s versions of the Bible leave this out, assuming it is too “adult” for the children to have to hear, but that it should not be excluded because of the valuable lesson it teaches.

That lesson is children must respect their parents, and that means even when their parents do something foolish or make mistakes, the children should be respectful and not make fun of them. The example in my Chumash was regarding parents who cannot speak the language as well as their children (I think it used that example because this Chumash dates from the early 20th Century when many immigrants were still coming into the country and having language issues), but in modern times we could use the example of seniors having trouble with computer skills.

The youth of today (I am talking Millennials and younger) demonstrate a sense of entitlement and are very accusatory of their elders. They blame the previous generations for all their problems and have recently even tried to not just ignore history, but do away with it by tearing down statues. This disrespect not just for history but for their parents and their grandparents, who made that history, whether for good or bad, is a sin.

God makes it clear that children must honor their parents when he spells it out in the Ten Commandments, and we see the root of the need for this right here in this parashah, which took place nearly 450 years earlier.

So where does this disrespect stem from? If you ask me, it stems from the parents, many of whom in the last 2 or 3 generations have been more concerned with being their children’s friend than being their parent. We have become a society of overly sensitive babies, crying “Ouch” at every word or intonation that is aimed at us.

I grew up with the adage, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” Today it is more like, “Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can be a felony.”

Words can hurt, no doubt about it, but the significant difference between when I grew up and today is that I was toughened up to ignore the words that are hurtful. The kids today can’t handle being told they did a bad job!

I had been a mentor for people learning how to be Docents (guides) at a popular zoo and when I told some of them that they needed to get better at answering questions, some of them actually cried! And guess who got in trouble for that? Yes, I did! For pointing out what they did wrong, in order to make them better at what they wanted to do, I was wrong. Imagine that.

And no, I didn’t yell, I didn’t say nasty things or insult them, I simply asked them why they didn’t listen to what I told them to do and that they needed to better learn the facts about the animals.

This was a number of years ago, but from what I see in the world, it hasn’t gotten any better. We are a society of wimps, and that is why America is spiraling down, no longer able to brag about our “can-do” attitude because what it is today is more of a “you have to do it for me” attitude.

And if you ask me, it all begins with a lack of respect for our parents, which was fostered by parents being afraid to punish and control their children. As a parent, your first and most important responsibility is to provide the basic needs for your children- food, water, shelter, and (of course) love. Next, you should make sure that they are self-sufficient, and this is where many parents have failed. Children can’t be alone- I see parents picking up their children from school in nice neighborhoods when they live less than a quarter of a mile away. Let the kid walk it, and if you are afraid of predators, teach the kids to walk in groups and how to avoid the predators.

The disrespect Ham showed to his father was unjustified and the cause was in Ham, but in my opinion, today the cause of this disrespect is from the way parents coddle and dote on their kids. The example a parent who dotes and coddles their child makes is one of weakness and fear of rejection. Kids pick up on this, and it will never earn the respect their children should have for them and will result in adults who will not be able to teach their kids to be strong, self-sufficient members of society.

Leadership has to be strong and constant, and if the parents aren’t able to handle stress or being treated meanly by other people, how can they teach their children to do so?

We are a society of emotionally and spiritually weak people, and unless we teach our children to respect their parents by being parents who earn that respect, we are doomed.

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That’s it for this week, so l’hitraot and Shabbat Shalom!