Only the Lonely: Noach 2016

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How essential is “alone time” to your daily schedule? Do you need to go to great lengths to find moments to be by yourself? What do you do during your “alone time”? Do you take “alone time” more for your own sake, or more for the sake of getting away from other people?

Ten generations after the creation of the world, Noah and his family are the only people chosen to stand alone as God causes a flood and presses a “reset button” on the human experience:

The Pitch: “All existence on earth was blotted out – man, cattle, creeping things, and birds of the sky; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those with him in the ark.” – (Genesis 7:23)

Swing #1: “Scripture does not say ‘and Noah, a righteous and wholehearted man, was left’ but simply ‘Noah only was left.’ According to the Midrash, Noah, by doing nothing to persuade his contemporaries to mend their ways, was himself guilty of a sin. He who does not act to make others better descends to a lower level himself thereby. When Noah found that he and his family were the only survivors of the Flood, he realized that he was Noah ‘only’; he was filled with a sense of inadequacy because he had done nothing to save the others from the fate which befell them.” – Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin

Swing #2: “Nowhere did Noah show a feeling of sadness and paths that an entire generation was to be lost, and the world destroyed; that men had lost their way of life and surrendered to their own primeval drives and dark passions. At no time did a word of concern, of solicitude escape Noah’s lips. It was as though he stood apart from the rest of the world. Nowhere was there an expression of tenderness, of regret that even though these men were wicked they would be lost – they, their wives, and their children. He did not leap forward with a request to God to spare those who, perhaps with the extension of greater mercy, might have been spared. Noah was a righteous man; Noah deserves to be in the circle of the great. But there was a fatal flaw in Noah, and so he did not become the father of a new religion, a new faith, and a new community. He lacked compassion and, because he lacked compassion, he forfeited the far greater place in history that might have been accorded him.” – Morris Adler, The Voice Still Speaks

Swing #3: “The picture [of the earth in the Flood narrative] becomes progressively darker, until only one spark of light remains to illuminate the deathly gloom … This is the ark which floated on the awesome waters that had covered everything, and which guarded within its bounds the hope of life in the future.” – Cassuto Umberto, From Noah to Abraham

Late-Inning Questions: Much ink has been spilled regarding whether Noah was truly righteous or merely the best of a bad lot. Is it fair to criticize Noah given his role in preserving human life on Earth? Or should we ask more from those who are in positions to lead, whether they’ve asked for those positions or not?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Are you a Veteran or an active service member? If so, we would like to honor you at Shabbat services on Saturday, November 12th with an Aliyah, an English reading or carrying a Torah. Please contact Charles Richards at 843-452-4429, or email him at

The Big Inning at the End: Thank you to so many people in our community who have congratulated me on the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory. Obviously, they didn’t win because of me or of any of the millions of other Cub fans, but nevertheless, Wednesday night (or, rather, early Thursday morning) provided some of the best moments of my life. A special thanks goes to Cleveland Indians fans who have been so gracious. And a particular shout-out goes to our Emanu-El congregant Mike Mills, who made a friendly wager with me prior to the Series; next month, he will “pay up” by chanting a Haftarah in synagogue in Cubs gear. We’ll let you know exactly when …

Shabbat Shalom!