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Parashat Noah - 5773

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the second portion in the Book of Genesis, Parashat Noah, the Noah story.

We all associate the Parasha of Noah with the flood, but the truth is that only half of the Parasha deals with the flood. The second half deals with the world that survived the flood. It is similar to the story of creation that we read about in Bereshit.

When the first humans are created they are given instructions by G-d about obeying and taking responsibility for the earth which now was under their guardianship. At the end of ten generations G-d is so disappointed with humans - and we are told that G-d is also disappointed with the animals' behavior - that the decision is made to annihilate every living thing and start over. G-d will bring a flood that will kill all humans and animals, except for Noah - who is a righteous and blameless man - his family and one pair from each living species, because they will take refuge in the ark that Noah is commanded to build.

The second half of this week's Parasha instructs the flood survivors about the kind of society they are expected to build. They are given seven laws known as the Noahide laws, including the warning against idolatry, theft and robbery, to be kind to the animals, that they must set up a judicial system, and especially the shedding of blood:

"Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, because in the image of G-d did G-d make man."

This respect and appreciation for human beings because they are created in the Image of G-d, is the cornerstone of the new society.

I can't help but think about the times we live in. It seems to me that the Arab Spring which we have seen in the last two years or so, is similar to the Flood of Noah. Each of those countries - Tunisia, Lybia, Egypt (Syria still continuing) - have experienced a terrible flood. Supposedly, this flood helped the people get rid of the bad guys, and now the survivors can begin to build a new society. The question is: Will they remember that there is the Image of G-d in each individual? Will they respect and protect the rights of every citizen? Will they allow for dissention or will they end up like the people in the story of Babel, which is the last story in ths week's Parasha, where the entire world had to conform to one ideology, one way of life. Their punishment was that G-d dispersed them to all parts of the world. Will the post Arab Spring societies treat their citizens as individuals in the Image of G-d? Will the rights of the individual be protected? Or will there be more bloodshed?

If they can remember that every human being has Tzekem El-him - the Image of G-d - and treat each person accordingly, then the survivors of these floods will have a chance.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram