D'vrei Torah by Rabbi Ellie Shemtov
It isn't the load that weighs us down, it's the way we carry it
Uncertainty, insecurity, and anxiety are all part of the human experience in general, but even more so for these past eight months. We are uncertain, insecure and anxious about the economy, our jobs, our finances, and of course our physical and mental health.
These last eight months have also made it clear the two main ways people respond to uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety. In the case of the pandemic, many of us are listening to the experts while others are raging against the machine. Either way we are often left feeling stressed and powerless.
This week’s Torah portion is named Noah, after the person who the Torah describes as the most righteous man of his generation. Righteous Noah follows God’s instruction to build an ark. Deeming the earth to be חמס, lawless and corrupt, God’s plan is to bring about a flood that would destroy all life on earth. In the meantime, Noah, his family and two of every animal will be safely ensconced in the ark.
When the flood subsides, Noah comes out of the ark and offers sacrifices to God and God establishes a covenant with Noah and his sons. However, viewing the devastation wreaked by the flood, he decides to plant a vineyard rather than say, vegetables. Noah then harvests the grapes, makes wine, and becomes the first man in the Bible to get drunk.
Noah doesn’t rage against the machine but he does hide from it. Viewing the devastation brought on by the flood, he chooses alcohol as a way to cope with his feelings of uncertainty, insecurity and anxiety about the future. Perhaps Noah felt weighed down with a burden of guilt for having survived when the entire earth was destroyed. But, in choosing to hide rather than face the challenge of that devastation, Noah fails to understand that it isn’t the load that weighs us down, it’s how we carry it.