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Getting on the Deck

Lev Avos Blog

Exploring Tanach while reflecting on parenthood

Getting on the Deck

Yechiel Shaffer


beatles-abbey-road_2220576bNoah lives for 350 years after the flood with little to no impact. The narratives we are told following flood seem to be very short, to the point and contained. Why does Noah, the father of post-flood humanity, become anonymous after the conclusion of the flood? Growing up an Anglo in America, Beatles music kept me connected to my British roots. In Freshman year of high school, while riding the rocky, yellow bus to school, I embraced their music and gained an appreciation that the sun is coming, strawberry fields are forever, and all you need is love. Creating an island of musical serenity in the loud noise that is High School was important and made the long bus ride to school a little less rocky.

While Noah is floating on his Ark, the silence of the world while on the deck of his boat was in profound contrast to the noise of the zoo below. And that moment when Noah steps off his Ark into a brave, new world, the silence around him must have pierced his soul. All of humanity perished in this terrible flood. Noah must have felt the devastation at that very moment; all his friends and acquaintances were now silenced for ever.

בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט

כ) ויחל נח איש האדמה ויטע כרם

20. And Noah began to be a master of the soil, and he planted a vineyard.

כא) וישת מן־היין וישכר ויתגל בתוך אהלה

21. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent.

Click on image above for bio of the Meshech Chochmah

The Meshech Chochmah (Bereishis 9:20) draws our attention to a Medrash that observes when we first meet Noah (Bereishis 6:9), he is called an "איש צדיק", a righteous man, and now, after the flood, he is referred to as an "איש האדמה", a man of the field.

The seclusion of his work on the ark, and the silence that surrounds him as he exits from the ark transforms his perception of the world. Rather then pursuing lofty saintliness, he is now one who drinks and flees to be alone in his tent. Rashi comments that specifically the Torah's use of the word 'ויחל' indicates that Noah made himself mundane and indifferent to sanctity:

רש"י בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט

כ) ויחל - עשה עצמו חולין

Noah's experiences rock him to his core and he is never quite the same man.

Much like the experience of the student in High School, parenthood has its rocky moments. The cry of your child at night can transform you and create great concern. When one boards the boat of parenthood, the challenge is to find the serene moments on the deck to look down below at the beauty of life's craziness. We must be careful to appreciate the moments of silence, not to run into our corners and hide but to understand the beauty that is family.

When Noah gives up on humanity, the Torah moves forward to find personalities who advocate for our existence. In the helpless moments of parenthood, Noah's retreat should guide us to embrace the craziness, sanctify the moments of silence and pursue our ability to appreciate the whole picture.

The Pesikta Zutrata (an early Midrashic commentary) makes a creative observation on the comment of the Torah that Noach lives for 350 years after the flood:

פסיקתא זוטרתא (לקח טוב) בראשית פרשת נח פרק ט

סימן כח כח) ויחי נח אחר המבול שלש מאות שנה וחמשים שנה. אומר אני כנגד אורך התבה ורחבה

דכתיב שלש מאות אמה אורך התבה חמשים אמה רחבה

28. And Noach, after the flood, lived for 350 year. I suggest that this is a direct reference to the size of the ark - as it is written "the ark was 300 cubits long by 50 cubits wide"

The remainder of Noah's life is limited to the walls of the ark that surround him. He never truly leaves the boat - he can never see beyond its walls. It is no coincidence that the remaining years of his life are determined by the size of the boat he chooses to never leave.

Life is inspiring, energizing and motivating. Noah, the new parent of humanity, never stops to hear the Earth's new tune; he instead looks to escape into the safe confines of his ark. Our mission as parents is to hear through the noise, sooth the stress and keep the rocky boat steady. While at times our homes may look like a zoo, when you stand on top and appreciate the view one can begin to understand that world that you are building with your family.