Parshas Noach: Righteousness in a Corrupt World

Parshas Noach tells the story of one of the best known characters from the Torah, namely Noah. The tale of the deluge, and Noah’s Ark, is oft-repeated in many circles, both Jewish and non-Jewish. The Parsha begins by telling of the corrupt state of the world Noah lived in, and how G-d instructed him to build an ark, in which he and his family would be saved from the destruction of the Earth. Noah is mocked for building this massive ark on land, and despite being given a chance to do teshuvah, none of the other people take it, and are killed in the deluge. G-d floods the earth, killing everyone on it, except fot the animals and people in Noah’s ark. He then sends forth a rainbow, to commemorate his promise to never destroy the world again. The Parsha continues with the tale of Noah’s vineyard and his sons, and the story of the Tower of Babel, an attempt to disturb natural order which is punished with the creation of nations and languages, Finally, we read about Avrom- later Avrohom- the father of the Jewish people, and his journeys towards Canaan.

Parshas Noach undeniably contains some very famous tales. These stories are ‘favourites’ in childhood, and are used as metaphors for countless situations in life. But Parshas Noach isn’t a Parsha of fairytales (G-d forbid), or interesting stories. Parshas Noach is very real and very important, for it contains the seven laws for all mankind, commonly known as the Seven Noahide Laws. These simple laws bear a striking resemblance to the Aseres HaDibros (Ten Commandments), and provide the basis for building a just, fair and G-dly world. The Noahide Laws are most commonly known as stating the following;

  1. Do not deny G-d.
  2. Do not blaspheme G-d.
  3. Do not murder.
  4. Do not engage in illicit sexual relations.
  5. Do not steal.
  6. Do not eat from a live animal.
  7. Establish courts/legal system to ensure obedience to the law.

These laws seem simple, but they all contain deeper meanings. For example, the sixth law, forbidding one from eating from a live animal, actually forbids all cruelty against animals. This law dictates that one may not, for example, slaughter an animal inhumanely, or torment an animal for no reason. The seventh Noahide law, forbidding anarchy, makes the set of laws look slightly different from the Asares HaDibros. Indeed, this is a unique commandment, and yet it is of the utmost importance. Without courts of justice, without a transparent legal system, and without trustworthy leaders, a nation cannot serve G-d. Instead, law and order should be implemented to ensure that everyone serves G-d, and that the nation does not fall into disarray.

Today, there is a sizeable and thriving Noahide movement. Some Noahides have taken upon themselves various Jewish mtizvot. They might observe the laws of Kashrus and Tznius, or refuse to go to work on Shabbos. Some wear yarmulkes, and some go to Shul. However, they are careful to seperate themselves from the Jews. They do not fully keep Shabbos- a uniquely Jewish mitzvot- and will instead light a match or turn on a light shortly before its end. Others do not incorporate Jewish elements into their lives. They see no reason to; though Jewish tradition is beautiful, they realise that they have their own place and purpose, and that they, too, are promised a share in the World to Come. All of these people, no matter their personal customs, are righteous and beloved by G-d. They prove what Noah proved in this week’s Parsha; even in an extremely corrupt world, in which the righteous are degraded and mocked, one can still ignore the words of those around them, and serve G-d with love.

 

This article also appeared here.

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