D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
12-Step Torah -- Parashat Noach
It’s not the experience of today that drives people mad—it’s the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.
Sometimes when we behave badly, especially when it negatively impacts other people, it’s difficult to let go of the guilt and self-loathing. It’s also difficult to move forward when we judge ourselves so harshly and do not take steps towards making amends. We can’t change the past but we can transform the present and make a positive impact on the future. As the renowned self-help guru Wayne Dyer once said: …. you can either feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.
In this week’s Torah portion Noach, having witnessed the rampant evil and corruption in the world, God regrets creating man. God then determines that except for a select few --Noah, his family and two of each animal-- the world and everything in it should be destroyed.
While the text is clear that נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו , that Noah was considered to be the most righteous of his generation (Gen. 6:9), commentators have puzzled over what exactly this means. Would Noah not have been considered righteous had he lived at a different time? In addition, can someone who was silently obedient to God despite knowing the devastation that was to come, be considered righteous?
Upon emerging from the ark and witnessing this devastation, Noah plants a vineyard וַיֵּשְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּיִן וַיִּשְׁכָּר וַיִּתְגַּל בְּתוֹךְ אָֽהֳלֹֽה, and he drank of the wine and became drunk and uncovered himself within his tent (Gen. 9:21). Did the devastation he witnessed cause Noah to experience remorse for not standing up to God when he had the chance? Did that remorse lead Noah to get drunk and escape contemplating what the future might look like in such a shattered world? Whatever the real answer, Noah is remembered not just as the most righteous of his generation, but the first person in the Torah to get drunk.
It’s not the experience of today that drives people mad—-It’s the remorse or bitterness for something which happened yesterday and the dread of what tomorrow may bring.