Parashat Noah

A Paradigm for Environmental Consciousness

Noah innovated a lifestyle of environmental awareness and action.

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As beneficiaries of the earth's produce and descendants of Noah, we should ensure that the world's agricultural workers are supported by both modern technologies and modern social values. Like Noah, modern farmers can promote agricultural techniques that keep the land viable for future generations.

We must not fill our breadbasket via the suffering of those less fortunate than ourselves, or at the expense of a healthy, fruitful future. The fact that we can eat meat does not necessarily mean that we must, and certainly does not mean that we must eat it every day! Exploring the fruits and vegetables of the land, like Noah, can be exciting and creative while promoting our own health. When we do eat meat, it should be from farms that share our concerns for a healthy world and that respect God's creatures, all of whom live under the sign of the rainbow.

Faith in Humanity

While Noah strove for a gentle environmental harmony, the people of the earth arrogantly saw themselves engaged in a battle with God and the forces of nature. When they saw him building the ark, the people told Noah, "If God brings the Flood up from the earth, we have iron plates with which we can cover the earth!" (Sanhedrin 108b)

In spite of such skepticism, Noah stayed the course, and even maintained faith in humanity. We see from the Torah that he did not board the ark until after the Flood had already begun, hoping that people would change their ways and thus prevent the destruction.

For Noah, the ark was an unfortunate but necessary solution to a global crisis. Even when all signs were grim, he maintained his faith, greeting every challenge with further innovation. So too must we continue to strive for a better tomorrow, educate others about environmental issues, and believe that our actions, on every level, can make a difference.

When we step outside after a rainstorm and see the rainbow in the sky, we remember God's promise to Noah, and we know that we are not alone in our efforts.

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Shimshon Stuart Siegel is studying for rabbinic ordination at the Bat Ayin Yeshiva in the Judean Hills.