The Week & Parsha
Friday October 20th: Shabbat begins 5:40pm
Saturday October 21st: Shabbat ends 6:45pm
This weeks Sidrah:Noach
The world loves a hero. Every season, Hollywood has to invent new heroes and superheroes to fill the box office coffers. And it works. Why? Well, that’s for another sermon. Today, I choose to talk about Who is a Hero and, more specifically, Who is My Kind of Hero.
Superheroes are fantastic. But you’ve got to admit, they’re over the top, rather otherworldly and, realistically speaking, beyond our reach. We can fantasize about flying through the skies in our capes, climbing skyscrapers with our webs and rescuing damsels in distress, but at the end of the day, it is nothing more than wistful daydreaming. What bearing does it have on me and my life, me and my problems? The answer is, not much.
That’s why Noah always appealed to me. He comes across as a real live hero, real in the sense of being human rather than superhuman and, therefore, realistically possible to emulate.
Rashi describes Noah as a man of “small faith” who had doubts whether the flood would actually happen. In fact, according to the great commentator’s understanding, he didn’t enter the Ark until the rains actually started and the floodwaters pushed him in. That explains why many people look down on Noah, especially when they compare him to other Biblical superheroes, people of the stature of Abraham or Moses.
Personally, this is precisely what makes Noah my kind of hero. He’s real. He’s human. He has doubts, just like you and me. I know we are supposed to say, “When will my actions match those of the great patriarchs of old?” but I confess, for me that’s a tall order. Noah, on the other hand, is a regular guy. He is plagued by doubts and struggles with his faith. But at the end of the day, Noah does the job. He builds the ark, shleps in all the animals, saves civilization and goes on to rebuild a shattered world. Doubts, shmouts, he did what had to be done.
There is an old Yiddish proverb, Fun a kasha shtarbt men nit–“Nobody ever died of a question.” It’s not the end of the world if you didn’t get an answer to all your questions. We can live with unanswered questions. The main thing is not to allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our doubts. We can still do what has to be done, despite our doubts.
Of course, I’d love to be able to answer every question every single one of my congregants ever has. But the chances are that I will not be able to solve every single person’s doubts and dilemmas. And, frankly speaking, I am less concerned about their doubts than about their deeds. From a question nobody ever died. It’s how we behave that matters most.
So Noah, the reluctant hero, reminds us that you don’t have to be fearless to get involved. You don’t have to be a tzaddik to do a mitzvah. You don’t have to be holy to keep kosher, nor do you have to be a professor to come to a Torah class.
Perhaps his faith was a bit wobbly in the knees, but he got the job done. My kind of hero.
Rabbi Yossi Goldman