Tuesday, October 28, 2014

TBE Bar/Bat Mitzvah Commentary: Hannah Nekritz on Noah

Shabbat Shalom!

            My Torah portion discusses Noah and the ark. It also discusses other interesting aspects of this story. For instance, in the beginning of my portion, the Torah states that Noah was righteous as well as blameless in his time.  I thought this was really interesting as it doesn’t necessarily mean that Noah was a good man.

            This situation could have gone one of two ways. In the first scenario, Noah is a mensch who cares for others and for the earth. Or, Noah’s goodness might have been relative to other people’s behavior at that time. If they were all cruel, selfish and full of greed and Noah behaved just a little better than them, he could have been considered good in his time.

But to be any kind of good for his generation, Noah had to be able to think out of the box and take a leap of faith.  After all, it’s not easy to feed every species of animal that ever existed.  There is a midrash claiming that Noah did not sleep when he was in the ark.  Instead, he rushed around feeding every animal what it normally ate when it normally ate.  It takes a lot of creativity to keep such a schedule and to keep all the animals happy – and it takes a lot of faith to believe that eventually the rain would stop and there would be dry land.

                Over the last three years, I’ve spent a lot of time thinking out of the box just like Noah.  I’ve been part of “Odyssey of the Mind,” which is an international problem solving and creativity competition.  My Odyssey team has done really well, winning twice in the state competition. 

                Last year, we performed a skit with a great message that reminded me of this Torah portion.  Our characters were selected to save the earth by doing something never done before.  They traveled inside a super creative boy (by ice cube instead of ark) and returned his brain to its normal state, before his power threatened the future of the world.

                Noah also had to save the world from danger, but in this case it had gone much farther.  It wasn’t just one dangerous person, it was everyone. So the answer there was to build an ark, instead of an ice cube.

             If Noah had been in in Odyssey of the Mind, he might have used spontaneous problem solving to do some things a little differently on the ark. For instance, he could have built the world’s first conveyor belt to bring food all around the ark.  That way, he could get some sleep.

             Does anyone else have any ideas?

            He also could have built a play area and spent time every day playing with the animals, just like I do.

 Some of you know that I spend time at the Stamford Nature Center volunteering on the farm with the animals.  I feed them, give them hay, groom and walk them.  I like horses and goats and must admit that I even have a soft spot for seven little piglets – if I’m allowed to say that in temple!   So on the ark; I would care for all of them.

                Judaism cares a lot about animals too.  In fact, there is a whole category of Jewish law directed towards animals, called Tza’ar ba’alay chayyim.  There are lots of important laws about this.  Did you know that Jewish law states that you shouldn’t eat before you feed your pet?

                When I think about Noah, while it’s true that he wasn’t necessarily the most righteous, anyone who was so kind to animals is a good man in my eyes.  It’s no small thing to save every species you can think of.  Had Noah failed in this mission, I would be volunteering at a very empty farm.

                For my mitzvah project, I’m doing something that Noah also did.  He adopted a couple of dogs, and I am collecting toys and food and making donations to “Adopt a Dog,” an organization that takes care of dogs and cats that have been abandoned or given up. Please drop off any donations in my Dog House upstairs. I will be bringing my donations over soon and welcome anyone who would like to come with me and learn more about this organization and how well they fit in the Noah theme.

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