This is one of those Torah portions that has so much in it that it is hard to know where to start, where to go, where to end. It begins with that famous ark, goes through the genealogy of Noah all the way to Abraham, G-d makes promises, gives blessings, Noah falls off the wagon and the people are divided in language and the Tower of Babel is begun. Yikes.
We seem to be living in an era of Babel/babble. Everyone is talking, everyone’s ego is at stake, we speak to each other in 140 characters, and nobody is really listening. It is as if we are once again divided by language although now we are divided by a rigidity of ideas that is manifest in our inability to listen to or hear one another.
There are sublime moments in this portion, the first is G-Day’s promise never to disrupt the earth in the same way or to the same extent again; and the covenant is renewed with a rainbow. And G-d blesses Noah and his ancestors, as well as his sons (at least one). In this there is hope for us I think.
But even as The portion has these blessings, we come back to drunk Noah and the Tower of Babel. We are painfully reminded of our human shortcomings, we are blessed even as we fail. We have that pesky free will and with that we are imperfect. The nature of free will is that we will, from time to time, fail. And with failure comes consequences. As always, I do not believe in godly “tests” and so I think the gift of free will comes with the lesson of humility for our mortality.
In this time of great divisions, careless rigidity and thoughtless prejudices, the consequence of our “babble” is our failure to overcome our inability to listen. The consequence of our failure to communicate is where we are, in a world that has forgotten to work for love and for shalom, for peace, and knows only the individual self.
Noach teaches us that we are, or should be, each other’s keepers. Just listen. Put down your phones. Shalom.