Wednesday, October 17, 2007

DVAR TORAH S2: Noach ("Enkidu said to Utnapishtin there's gonna be a floody floody!")

So I was thinking about poor Noach this past week as it is his Torah portion and thinking what it was like to spend an entire solar year on a massive enclosed (and incredibly humid considering the precipitation outside) structure with two or seven of any animal (depending on which version of the story you believe) that has ever existed. Well, I had a better thought during Shabbat, but it has since left my mind. Imagine being cooped up on an ark with smelly animals for an entire year. Noah was a patient zookeeper at sea.

Many religions, cultures and mythologies have in common flood stories. If you want to see a sampling check out this article on Wikipedia. Possibly the most famous, besides the Biblical story of Noah's flood is the Mesopotamian Epic of Gilgamesh. I don't want to get too into it as you can read it on your own, but I just want to point out the major difference in which these two societies, the Hebrew and the Mesopotamian, valued most. The Epic of Gilgamesh reads like a precursor to the Odyssey, the Lord of the Rings or something in between. Gilgamesh was chosen because he was the most powerful king of his age. Power seems to be the ultimate thing, and as for his goodness? Well, one of the things he tried to do was sleep with the bride at her wedding... to another person.
Noah, however, is described as finding favor in the eyes of God due to the fact that he was righteous in his generation. He may not have been the strongest, but he was in a generation of ultimate corruption and he himself was unable to be corrupted by them (I assume, but he also got completely hammered after he got off the boat and madness ensued so I'm not so sure). The point is, I would actually compare Gilgamesh to another character mentioned in this Torah portion and developed massively in Midrash: Nimrod, founding king of Babylon. He is known as the mightiest warrior of all time and the builder of the Tower of Babel. He also constantly oppresses a little boy named Abram, but perhaps we will get to that one next week... Just note that in modern slang, nimrod means a moron so take out of that what you will...

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