jokes about Noah and his Ark. Bill Cosby has a whole routine on the subject
which, strangely enough, is uncannily faithful to our commentaries'
understanding. (Other than the one about Noah being the first stock market
manipulator in history - he floated a company while the whole world was in
Our sages saw Noah in a far more serious light. Noah was a survivor.
Noah was saved from the deluge of destruction that engulfed his world and his greatest contribution is that he set out to rebuild that world. We don't read about him sitting down and crying or wringing his hands in despair, although he probably had his moments. The critical thing the Torah records is that after emerging from his floating bunker, Noah began the task of rebuilding a shattered world from scratch. He got busy and picked up the pieces and, slowly but surely, society was regenerated.
Only 70 years ago a great flood swept over our world. The Nazi plan was for a Final Solution. Every Jew on earth was earmarked for destruction and the Nazis were already planning their Museum of the Extinct Jewish Race. Not one Jew was to survive. Therefore, even those of us born after the war are also survivors. Even a Jewish child born this morning is a survivor - because according to Hitler's plan, which tragically nearly succeeded, he or she was not meant to live.
This means that each of us, like Noah, has a moral duty to rebuild the Jewish world.
When I was young, every other man at the morning minyan bore a number on his arm. They were once concentration camp inmates. The Germans had tattooed those numbers onto their arms. Sadly, today, the ranks of those individuals have been greatly diminished. Every time one of them would roll up his shirt sleeve to put on Tefillin, the number was revealed. It seemed to me as if they thought it was nothing special. But to me they were heroes. Not only for surviving the hells of Auschwitz, Dachau or Mauthausen but for keeping their faith intact, for still coming to shul, praying to G-d, wearing His Tefillin.
Today, I am older and more sensitive to the feelings of fathers and children, of family and friends, and those men have risen in my estimation. They have become superheroes. After all they went through, to be able to live normal lives again, to marry or remarry, to bring children into this world, to carry on life, businesses, relationships, are mind boggling achievements.
Say our sages, we all have that same responsibility - because we are all survivors.
Who will bring Jewish children into the world if not you? Who will study Torah if not you? Who will keep Shabbos? Who will keep the Jewish school afloat? Who will rebuild the Jewish world if not you and I and each and every one of us?
In the smaller country communities of Europe there are still small bands of dedicated Jews, who come together in someone's home to make a minyan, or who serve as an ad hoc chevra kadisha to bury the Jewish dead according to our tradition. These are not rabbis, chazonim or cheder teachers. They are ordinary people. In the big city they would probably not be anywhere that involved but in their small town they know that if they don't do it nobody will.
We need that same conviction wherever we are.
Thank G-d for His mercies in that our world is, to a large degree, being rebuilt. Miraculously, the great centers of Jewish learning are flourishing today once more, but far too many of our brothers and sisters are still outside the circle. Every one of us needs to participate.
We are all Noahs. Let us rebuild our world.