Rabbi Miriam's Blog
The Torah portion of this week is “Noah”. It begins with:”These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man; he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.” It is a prelude to the famous story of the “flood.” That opening line also sounds like an opening of a eulogy or a tribute to a righteous dead person.
It made me ask myself, how many people wonder, how many are concerned, and how many people don’t care what will be said about them after their passing from the planet earth. There is a famous saying that's attributed to king of France, Louis (1710 –1774), who was also known as “Louis the Well Beloved.” When he faced unrest in France due to the economic hardship that he had imposed on his countrymen, which eventually led to the French revolution, his response was: “Après moi le deluge.” (After me – the flood.) He could care less what people would say or think about him once he was gone. Was Noah concerned what those who were doomed by the flood would say about him as the water of the flood was rising and drowning them while they observed his ark floating safely away? I don’t think so, or it would have been mentioned in the scriptures – much like Abraham’s negotiation with G-d regarding the numbers of righteous men who were perhaps living in Sodom and Gomorrah.
On the other hand, Israel’s National Poet H.N.Bialik was concerned. In his famous poem: “After My Death”, he wrote the following (first stanza): “After my death say this when you mourn for me: He died before his time. The music of his life suddenly stopped. A pity! There was another song in him. Now it is lost
forever.” The popularity and the request for his writings no doubt made him
think that by death, he would be disappointing his readers whom he had empowered with his poems to endure while they struggled to sustain their hard lives during the rebuilding their homeland in Palestine.
I wonder how many human beings take great pains to live their lives as “Examples” to others, knowing that a day will come when they will be judged not necessarily by God, who had witnessed Noah’s righteous deeds: “for it is you that I have seen as a righteous man before Me in this generation.”, but primarily by their fellow human beings who had witnessed their deeds?
Judaism does not subscribe to the concept of heaven and hell, as some religions do. However, if it did, heaven and hell would most likely be right here on earth, not in some obscure places like deep in the boiling center of the earth or in some magical place somewhere in the heavens. Those people who will be praised, commended, and remembered as “Examples” would surely be in that Jewish Heaven on Earth. However, those individuals who were evil, immoral and inhuman would surely be in the Jewish Hell on Earth.
The essential question for me -- in the wake of the views above – Should
one care if there would still be earthlings on the planet earth to witness the
beautiful colors of the rainbow in the clouds after the flood?
Ahavat Torah of West Los Angeles
About Rabbi Miriam
Rabbi Miriam E. Hamrell MHL, M.Ed., has served as our religious and spiritual leader at Ahavat Torah Congregation and helped it grow since it was founded in 2003.