Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Noach

By: Mrs. Ruthie Braffman Shulman

A few weeks ago in a Bet Hayeled classroom, a group of Amit students and I discovered that our image of Avraham Avinu is not actually the way the Torah describes our patriarch. On the board we looked at two simple stickmen. We added features to figure-one based on how we envisioned our forefather, without looking at any texts. He emerged with a siddur in his hand demonstrating piety, a finger pointing to the heavens highlighting that he was monotheism's pioneer, and a thought bubble directed towards G-d signifying his loyalty and lofty kavanah. We then looked at the Torah's text to see how the p'sukim describe Avraham. After reading Avraham's introduction, found in parshat Noach, we were surprised how little material there was about Avraham. His grand entrance into the Torah is a simple genealogical reference: "And Terah lived seventy years, and he begot Abram, Nahor, and Haran...."
We then thought that parshat Lech Lecha might offer more guidance. Surely the Torah would offer a more developed description of Avraham's personality with more details and grandeur. Perhaps Avraham's commitment to Monotheism ? Or his passionate idealism? To our surprise, Lech Lecha begins with G-d speaking to Avraham and promising him great wealth, blessing and success. The Torah's silence at this point is even more perplexing. In addition to leaving out Avraham's background or a description of his persona, the Torah does not even tell us why G-d chose him to be the patriarch of the Jewish people. Collectively, we marveled how our perception of Avraham relies so heavily on how the Midrashim fill in the Torah's void. The second stick figure remained sparsely developed.

Perhaps the reason for this perplexing omission lies in the Torah's primary role as our eternal covenant with God, our moral compass, and not a history book. If we look at this week's parsha from a different perspective we may realize that the Torah does, in fact, provide a "background" to Avraham Avinu - just not in historical details. Noach, as the prelude to Avraham, stands in stark contrast to Avraham that the Torah seems to be foiling these two figures. Based on a comparison with Noach, Avraham's personality can be fleshed out and we can understanding why G-d chose him. Noach is an excellent crises - a survivor - and his responsibility is to organizes the ark and sustain the last remnants of life, thereby ensuring the world's continuity. But Noach built the Ark after insulating himself and his family, and failing to convince any of the world's inhabitants to change their ways.

In this vein, Noach lives another 300 years after the flood, yet he plays no role in rebuilding civilization. This could have been a perfect opportunity for Noach's leadership, yet he only identified as a survivor, not a leader. Avraham, on the other hand, is a go-getter and do-er. G-d tells Avraham to go - "Lech Lecha…" ­-so he gets up and risks the journey. As the Torah's story about Avraham continues, we see Avraham's continual spiritual development and growth. However, it all began with his unique personality.

Everyone has a different role in this world, and the opportunities within those straits are endless. Noach was essential and ensured the world continues. Avraham, however, is our patriarch and role model. Like Amit's students, Avraham was a go-getter who maximized his spiritual life and was always working to develop further.