What Can Skeptics and Believers Learn From Noah?
Most people have heard the Torah’s story of Noah and the ark.
Whether skeptic or believer, it is interesting that many cultures have flood stories. One account is inscribed in Sumerian on clay tablets that date to the late third millennium B.C.E.
Dozens of movies portray the story of Noah’s Ark, and some explorers claim they discovered remains of the ark in present-day Turkey. There is even a 100 million dollar Christian theme park in Kentucky with a full-scale replica of the ark more than a football field in length and seven stories high.
Although Christians often focus on the fear of the flood’s devastating destruction and God’s wrath, Judaism focuses on a different lesson.
This week’s Torah portion Noah (Genesis 6:9–11:32) highlights Noah’s righteousness, the moral decline of the world that led to the flood, and one of the most essential and spiritual principles for human beings. Despite the corruption that filled the world, the merciful God gave mankind a second chance by promising “there will never again be a flood to destroy the earth" (Genesis 9:11) and establishing an “everlasting covenant between God and every living creature” (Genesis 9:16).
Since God established this covenant with Noah and his descendants, this moral code is known as the “Noahide Covenant.”
Based on a belief in God and the Torah, the universal “Seven Laws of Noah” include: 1) not to worship idolatry, 2) not to curse God, 3) not to murder, 4) not to commit adultery, 5) not to steal, 6) to establish courts of law, and, 7) to not be cruel to animals, especially the barbaric practice of eating a limb from a living animal.
Remarkably, God chose to place a “rainbow in the clouds to be a sign of the covenant” (Genesis 9:13), and a rainbow has seven colors.
The Noahide covenant is a powerful refutation to other religions that claim that their way is the “only way” to get to God. Christian missionaries go so far as to quote Jesus as saying, “no one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).
Judaism teaches that there are two ways to one God. Jews follow the Sinai Covenant with its 613 commandments (connections to God), and non-Jews must follow the 7 laws of the Noahide covenant. These paths offer every human being the means to have a personal relationship with God.
I receive many emails from non-Jews disillusioned with Christianity and interested in exploring Judaism. I encourage them to explore the Noahide covenant and recommend websites and books. One book, Kabbalah and Meditation for the Nations, masterfully explores the relationship and inspiration non-Jews can receive from the Torah and the Jewish people.
In these turbulent times, my hope is for all people to explore and follow a moral path based on our love and awe of God.
Rabbi Bentzion Kravitz © 2020 Jews for Judaism