In Fairness to Noah

You’re not that righteous, said the Rabbis.

In another generation, you’d be average –

Just look at Abraham

Father of the Jewish people,

Light unto the nations.

Now that’s a righteous man!

As always, Noah nodded, but thought

To himself, But have you ever tried

To keep a yahrzeit candle,

Faintest flicker of a single flame

Alive in the flood?

© 2020 Jewish Young Professional

from The Sunday Muse #133

49 comments

  1. This is so beautifully composed, a simple yet penetrating dialogue.
    In religious, spiritual and political history comparisons are made
    Justifiably? I don’t think Providence would dethrone or have a problem with our thoughts, but in fact enjoy the passages or doors we throw wide open for deeper spiritual understanding.
    In the political context, there is a voice booming in my country, ” Rolihlahla Nelson Mandela is and was not enough…..”
    “But have you been a candle of hope, behind bars for 27 years?” I asked.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not familiar with Jewish rituals but I have heard of Noah. I like his cheeky riposte. And I have heard of the Y candle. I read a very fine poem on it once — Mark Tulin may have written it — which I copied down because it was so well written

    Like

  3. This made me smile and think-
    The duality of the greats having been so great on the one hand yet not good enough on the other.
    The point of the Rabbis is that he might not even had to light a yahrtzeit candle, had he tried to influence the people and get them to repent. But maybe he was an introvert like me?
    Story of anyone’s life, when is good enough good enough? Is it ever?

    Liked by 2 people

    • Great point! It’s a good question re: what is good enough.

      Yes, the Rabbinic interpretation is that Noah should have done more to get the people to change their ways. I sometimes wonder if maybe Noah was just realistic. Abraham didn’t live in Sodom or Gomorrah (although Lot did) and thus, could optimistically believe there were 10 righteous people there.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Everyone’s a realist in their own version of reality, though. As Steve Jobs is quoted as saying “Those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do”. Or my other favorite, attributed to Henry Ford: “whether you think you can or you think you can’t – you’re right”.

        Sodom and Gomorrah’s evil ways were known to the public, it was basically their creed. They punished people who were kind and giving in such horrific ways, that I doubt anyone still wanted to try it (again, if I lived in era😟…) So he could believe it, but if he were a realist he’d know it wasn’t really possible.
        But that is not the only reason the Rabbis say Abraham did more than Noach – almost everyone Abraham came into contact with, ultimately became a believer. He used every tool he could think of to show people there is a G’d. It wasn’t enough for him to keep the knowledge and enlightenment to himself. He needed to share the light and bring people closer to G’d. That was the greatness.
        Basically, Avraham was Chabad😄.

        Liked by 2 people

        • Those are some great quotes re: realism. Very inspiring!

          Point taken re: Sodom and Gomorrah. (Husband, who is more of a scholar than I am, just confirmed that Sodom was renowned like the equivalent of Las Vegas in reputation, which sounds unfair to Vegas ;)) Chabad is a good description of Avraham!

          I have felt that the Rabbinic interpretation was somewhat unkind to Noach in that it doesn’t consider how hard it is to maintain a spark of goodness and be righteous when everyone else around is so terrible. But I suppose the counterpoint is that you could follow Avraham’s model and inspire others to monotheism and a path of righteousness so you wouldn’t be quite so lonely because you wouldn’t be the only righteous person around! Hard for an introvert (or a regular old non-biblical patriarch) to do though!

          Liked by 2 people

  4. I was not familiar with the yahrzeit candle, but after research I well see the poignancy of your final words. Beautifully penned, and thank you for widening my world.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you! I don’t do a lot of explanation of Jewish terminology and vocabulary in poems (I used to do this in all the poetry I wrote in college and those poems were so dreadful!), and I am so glad to to that the poem was still pretty accessible for you. Thank you for your kind words!

      Liked by 1 person

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