Noach 5777

November 2, 2016

Never Enough!

Many of you will be familiar with the following domestic scene: Husband goes out shopping, bearing huge shopping list from Wife. Husband goes to kosher shop, trawling round and round the aisles, furiously crossing off things from the the list. Thinking (foolishly) that this will end soon. But meanwhile Husband answers his phone on many different occasions while Wife adds more items to the list (reminds me of Yaakov Avinu crossing the River.

Yabbok countless times, at the angels’ behest). And lo and behold – despite the sheer volume of items filling his trolley the list keeps getting bigger. One step forward, two steps back. Finally, husband arrives home, after visiting several kosher shops (of course – you can’t expect to find everything in just one place, can you?). As he crosses the threshold, he greets Wife cordially, gives her the flowers he’s bought her (they weren’t even on the list – that’s just his brownie points), and proceeds to unpack the shopping. It’s all going swimmingly, until……Wife finds out Husband forgot the tin of peas. The nature of this publication and its holy readership prevents me from relating the next scene.

Do you ever get the feeling that whatever you do, it’s just  never enough?

Well here’s the strange thing: After spending what was effectively the entire lifespan of Moses building a gigantic floating zoo, you may be surprised to hear that Noach, the man who found grace in the eyes of G-d, who, with his family, were the progenitors of all future humankind, was criticised with actually being  for the flood. In this week’s Haftorah, the mabul is called “Mei Noach” – the waters of Noach – indicating Noach’s culpability for the world’s worst disaster.

Chazal tell us that this was because when the flood was due to start, Noach waited outside the Ark to see if the rain would really fall. Only when it started did he finally enter the Ark. But hang on a minute – wasn’t he the tzaddik? Why does the Torah rain on his parade? (sic)

The story is told of a town suffering from a very heavy drought. Small groups of people gathered in the shuls and batei midrash to say tehillim and beseech Hashem for mercy. Despite the best efforts of the people, not a drop of rain was forthcoming.

Once the situation had become almost intolerable, the Rabbi of the town made an announcement to all the townspeople: he ordered the entire population to gather in the town square to pray in perfect unity and harmony to the Creator. Yes, they would storm the Heavens with their united prayer!

At the appointed time, all the people came together and were ready and waiting for the Rabbi to instruct them.

When the Rabbi turned up, though, he took one look at the vast crowd and hung his head in despair. With a voice of helplessness and a sigh of desperation, he muttered “This will never work”. “Why not?” asked his gabai. “Rabbi we are all here! Just as you instructed!” The Rabbi looked up and said “I know. But not one single person brought an umbrella!”.

One may have the strength of character to spend 120 years on a mission to rescue the world. But if your faith does not surpass your efforts, you may need more than an umbrella to weather the storm.

Or an irate wife.