As continue Jewish Sacred Aging’s look at Torah and how our text can give insight to our generation, we come to the coming week’s text, the story of Noah.There is so much in this text, from the ancient pre-torah Flood traditions to the story of the Rainbow and the aftermath of the Flood. But, I was struck by an interpretation based on a little book called “The Biblical Path to Psycholigical Maturity” (Vivian B. Skolnick. Kodesh Press). Dr. Skolnick looks at the very first lines of the portion. Noah is called a righteous man ( “ish tzadik”) and the the word “tamim”. The Plaut commentary translates this as “he was above reproach”. Another major translation, the “Etz Chaim”, translates the word as “blameless”. Skolnick, as do others, then link these to the concluding words of the sentence, that Noah “walked with God”. (Genesis 6:9)
She examines this from a psychological perspective in that she sees this “tamim” as having a sense of maturation, growth. Indeed, the “Etz Chim” also picks up this in a comment that Noah was the first to have to grow spiritually as his generation was corrupt. He does so, as we know, by “walking with God” and completing the task of the Ark. The idea of growth and maturation is the key here. We ae reminded throughout the portion and the tradition of the importance of the number 40. 40 days of rain. The Wilderness experience lasts 40 years. Akiba does not begin to “learn” until age 40. Pirke Avot reminds us that it is not until age 40 that we begin to acquire the understanding of life experience. In other words, our own spiritual journey is a life-long process and that, as distinct from the spiritual belief we may have had as a younger person. As we age, we desire, and need, what I call a maturing spirituality. The myths and legends of our youth, so comforting in those generations, lose some of their hold on us as we confront the realities of our own life, and aging. Again, the question of our own search for meaning emerges as each of us strive to be, in our own generation, “tzadik” (righteous) and “tamim”, growing spiritually so that we can “walk with God”.
Rabbi Ruchard F. Address, D.Min
Rabbi Richard F. Address, D.Min, is the Founder and Director of www.jewishsacredaging.com. Rabbi Address served for over three decades on staff of the Union for Reform Judaism; first as a Regional Director and then, beginning in 1997, as Founder and Director of the URJ’s Department of Jewish Family Concerns and served as a specialist and consultant for the North American Reform Movement in the areas of family related programming. Rabbi Address was ordained from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in 1972 and began his rabbinic career in Los Angeles congregations. He also served as a part time rabbi for Beth Hillel in Carmel, NJ while regional director and, after his URJ tenure, served as senior rabbi of Congregation M’kor Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ from 2011-2014.