Insights into Parshat Noah

Righteous in his own right or by comparison to others; the first vintner; the dove.

Rabbi Dr. Raymond Apple,

 Raymond Apple
Raymond Apple

The rabbinic scholars were ambivalent about Noah.

Was he objectively righteous, or was his goodness subjective – relative to other people, and dependent on the opinions of the bystander?

For thousands of years the debate had raged. How are we to judge Noah? Can we leave the facts to speak for themselves? Can we find and agree upon a final judgment?

Attractive though it sounds it is quite impossible. The facts never speak for themselves.

We know from studies of the sociology of knowledge that there is no human opinion or communication that is free of bias. Whatever we think or say is influenced by the values we stand by.

Communication comes from a “meaning source” and even if we pretend otherwise, we are trying to convert or persuade other people at every moment.

Noah may be the current topic, but every subject is affected by the same constraints. If for instance you look at Albert Einstein (whose name you can replace with any other you choose) you are influenced by your religious, social, scientific or political moulding.

All you can do is to make sure you have acquired a range of judgments and share them with the rest of the world.


After the Flood, Noah (the first vintner) drank wine.

He was happy and really felt fine.

But then he didn’t know how his future would go.

When you’re drunk your mind isn’t clear, and it’s any alcohol, even beer.

One son was sorry for how Noah was found; the others simply pushed him round.

Wine certainly gives your heart some joy (a shy individual’s no longer coy).

Learn the lesson from the tale – make your Kiddush without fail, but be master of what you drink:

Don’t let it bring you to the moral brink.


Noah sent out a dove from the Ark to see if the flood waters had receded.

The bird came back with olive leaves in its mouth even though there were other alternatives.

Rashi quotes the Talmudic view that the dove announced, “I could have brought back honey, but that would have needed others to help. I knew the olive came from God.”

We can all learn from the dove. To rely on others can be a risky business. You feel humiliated when you have to ask for help, and you feel affronted if the answer is “No”.

Better is a modicum from God: doves know He is reliable and doesn’t insult anyone, and humans should learn the same lesson.