“The end of all flesh is come before Me.” That is the Divine message Noah hears when he gets his mission to build an ark and save a future for selected living creatures. Severe climate change is coming. Why? Because Earth’s population is bringing it on. Evil is not limited to burning fossil fuel. Evil is so rampant as to condemn all who roam the planet to a tragic death. So someone needs to build an ark. This week’s reading bears the name of the builder of that ark, our friend Noah. He had to go way beyond finding different energy sources. He had to prepare for a worldwide deluge that would destroy all life on Earth. Only a gigantic lifeboat would do the job. A teyva – an ark.
The lower decks of the ark will hold seven pairs of each of the “clean animals,” those suitable to offer on the altar. Also a pair of each of the unclean animals who had no such qualifications. But apparently neither the clean nor the unclean were responsible for the evil that would soon be punished in the Flood. What about the humans on the top deck? Only Noah and his family will be saved. Noah was a “righteous and perfect man in his generation.” His wife and sons and daughters-in-law learned enough of his ways to merit a place on the ark. Everyone else will be drowned.
What was this evil that brought on universal destruction? Commentators like the Kli Yokor name three areas of human misconduct: idolatry, adultery and robbery. Put them in modern terms. Idolatry takes many forms. Denying G-d and worshipping false deities, false values, or vanity itself – those negative choices characterized the generation of the Flood, and somehow didn’t get washed away. Adultery, called gilui arroyos in Hebrew (literally “exposing nakedness”) gets expanded and remodeled in every generation, from infidelity to promiscuity to perversion, and curses and destroys social structures worldwide. And when it comes to robbery, that can be a streetcorner holdup or a mockery of justice. In fact, the Kli Yokor cites examples of officials who sell favors for a minimum price, not enough to draw punishment for each case, but enough cases to build a pattern — and a fortune. We call it corruption.
Do we have enough corruption in our world now to bring on the “end of all flesh?” Maybe we need another Noah. Maybe this time an ark will not be enough to rescue human and animal life. We surely seem to have our up-to-date versions of the Kli Yokor’s three prime offenses.
Isn’t Islamist terrorism a violent distortion of their faith, and therefore an extreme form of idolatry?
Doesn’t the step-by-step destruction of the family – basic unit of every society – through official support of invalid matings, illegitimate offspring and same-sex unions qualify as adultery?
And as for robbery, the ancients were pikers. Today, between excessive taxes and gouging prices, governments and corporations compete to milk our populations dry.
No, a supersized lifeboat won’t do. Our Noah needs to build a moral and political ark, one that can navigate through the corruption and raise us above it, an ark that can rouse the people to change our direction, defeat our enemies and rescue our future.
Noah, where are you?