Rabbi argue and debate! Yes, we do! Historically we are known for this in taking deep theological issues and matters of deep spiritual importance and discuss them, debate them and ponder its significance as we seek to come to a consensus of that which is true, verses that which might be false or potentially misguided. The primary reason for this is not for the sake of argument, but instead for the purpose of not only coming to a clearer understanding of God's Word, but also to more readily provide an answer to all who might ask!
It is from this that we get the phrase, “three rabbis, five opinions” and from this important approach to biblical interpretation we are enabled to learn new things and to be stretched where we consider interpretations and applications which might slightly differ from that of our own. However, in our calling to known God's Word and given an answer to other, Pirke Avot (Ethics of the Father) 2:14 aptly reminds of the wisdom of our Sages in stating that,
"Rabbi El'azar did say, 'Be diligent to learn the Torah, and know what to answer a skeptic'."
This is echoed in the B'rit Chadashah to,
"Treat the Messiah as holy as Lord of your hearts; while remaining always ready to give a reasoned answer to anyone who asks you to explain the hope you have in you ..." (1 Kefa/Peter 3:15, CJB)
Of our Parashah this week, the topic of Noach and the Flood is one of those cases where the rabbis have asked many questions, including, how righteous was Noach, really? In Genesis 6:9 we are told that Noach was a man who was righteous in his generation. From this, our Sages ask, “Was he really righteous?” “Was he just tzaddik at his time, but not as an example now, “ or “Did he even fail in the pursuit of righteousness in his final days where he turned to drunkenness and compromise. In Christian tradition, this debate sadly, completely overlooked, but in Judaism it is both essential and central. Some say he was only partially good, because he only saved his own life and that of his families, but not the rest of the world. Others point to the shame at that end of his life (mentioned above) and alert, … See! He was not righteous at all - a drunkard and a man who left himself uncovered!
But, somewhere in the “middle” we find the true answer I believe, and in that we find comfort and redemption for ourselves. We as believers in Yeshua can be so quick in assaulting and judging our neighbor from a distance, but if the truth is told - Noach was only a man, and despite his weaknesses, Adonai still used him to save the world by boarding the ark with his family. We too, are mere human beings who sin and fall as well, but God has called us to the practice of Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) in Messiah’s name. It is not who we are, instead, it is He who is in us which ultimately matters and every act of righteousness we fulfill only means something in light of that which God, in Messiah has done for us! Certainly, sin is always sin and that can’t be ignored, but in the end, God’s grace is always even greater and His love covers a multitude of sin!
May we walk in grace toward one another and go and repair the world!
- Rabbi Mark Rantz
October 24, 2020 | Sixth of Cheshvan, 5781
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