Hamming it Up: Noah 2020

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How easy is it for you to recall seemingly random details from your past? Do you wish it were easier? Is someone close to you better at remembering such details than you?

After the flood, we find that Noah curses one of his sons, Ham – an act that is foreshadowed by the mere mention of his offspring:

The Pitch: “The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth – Ham being the father of Canaan.” – Genesis 9:18

Swing #1: “Typical of biblical narrative, this off-hand comment is an example of a frequently used literary technique of the biblical writer — introducing information presumably irrelevant to the immediate context yet crucial to the understanding of subsequent developments. Without it, we would be as ignorant of the identity of the object of Noah’s curse as we are of its cause.” – Ilona N. Rashkow, “Daddy Dearest and the ‘Invisible Spirit of Wine’” in Genesis: A Feminist Companion to the Bible, Athalya Brenner, ed.

Swing #2: “The land and people of Egypt were named after its ancestor, the son of Ham and the grandson of Noah. As is generally known, Ham is the least illustrious of Noah’s children.” – Rabbi Francis Nataf, Redeeming Relevance in the Book of Exodus: Explorations in Text and Meaning

Swing #3: “[Canaan] is singled out for mention as he was conceived while his parents were still in the ark. He was born immediately after his parents left the ark.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: Since we now know that Ham’s descendants would become adversaries of the Israelites centuries later, was it imperative for the text to note Ham’s unfortunate fate? Is it satisfying to believe that the enemies of one age had nefarious ancestors? Or, are we more drawn to people who rise above dubious backgrounds?

On-Deck at Temple Beth Tzedek: Mazal Tov to Ryan Pearl, who will celebrate his Bar Mitzvah at TBT this Shabbat. I hope you’ll tune in Saturday morning at 9:30 a.m. to provide virtual support to him and his family. We’re proud of what he’s accomplished, especially in the midst of such a challenging time.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of rising above dubious circumstances, it’s little surprise that the World Series broadcast focuses so heavily on Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Randy Arozarena, a rookie who has carried his team seemingly out of nowhere. Arozarena defected from Cuba five years ago to help support his family; and now, he’s also supporting a team three wins away from a championship.

Shabbat Shalom!