This week’s d’var Torah is in memory of my mother, Ethel Block, Etel bas Avraham Avigdor, whose jarhzeit is next week. She was the sister, mother and grandmother of Scouts, including five Eagle Scouts.
When people think about this week’s parsha, Noah, they usually think about water – how it rained for 40 days (there’s even a campfire song about it) and then the waters covered the Earth until an entire year passed. An essay by Rabbi Yehuda Rock helped me understand that the story of Noah and his Ark is all about the land.
Rabbi Rock explains that the story of Noah actually starts in Parsha Bereishit, when God drives Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden for having eaten from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God says to Adam, because you ate of the tree, “cursed is the ground because of you; through suffering shall you eat of it all the days of your life. Thorns and thistles shall it sprout for you, and you shall eat the herb of the field.” (Genesis 3:17) As Scouts, we know something about living close to the land. You would not want to hike through thorns and thistles, or lay out your bedroll on a patch of them – you certainly would not want to have to eat them.
Later in Bereishit, we read of the birth of Noah. His father, Lamech, calls him Noah (Noach in Hebrew, from the root word nachum meaning “consolation”), saying “This one will console us (yenachmenu) from our work and from the toil of our hands, from the ground which God has cursed.” (Genesis 5:29) Another interpretation is that Noach is derived from the root “NCh,” meaning “rest” and Rashi gives the explanation that the word yenachmenu means yanach mi-mehnu, meaning “will rest from it.”
After the floodwaters had receded and Noah was able to leave the Ark, he built an altar and made offerings to God. God made a secret promise not revealed to Noah: “I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man, since the imagery of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” That is, even though individuals may be wicked, God will not remove mankind from the Earth, but will punish individuals who do evil.
So we see that God blessed all of humanity with the Earth at least twice – once during Creation, in making the land and separating it from the waters, and again after the Flood in promising not to continue cursing the land because of mankind’s sins.
The story of Noah reminds us that all the lands we love – planet Earth, America, Israel – are gifts from God. It’s up to us to take care of the land itself and to live our lives so as to be worthy of God’s gift.
Want to start on that? Take a look at
The BSA Conservation Good Turn Award http://www.scouting.org/Home/BoyScouts/Resources/ConservationGoodTurn.aspx
The Cub Scout Conservation Award http://www.scouting.org/filestore/cubscouts/pdf/512-036_WB.pdf
The Hornaday Award http://www.scouting.org/scoutsource/Awards/HornadayAwards.aspx
Merit Badges like Soil and Water Conservation, Nature and Environmental Science
P.S. Rabbi Rock’s very interesting interpretation is in “Consolation for the Land,” Torah MiEtzion: New Readings in Tanach – Bereshit. Thanks to Danny Chazin, secretary of the National Jewish Committee on Scouting, for the Rashi interpretation of yenachmenu.