4. Noah - TWO BIRDS

IN THIS WEEK'S portion of the Torah we are introduced to two birds. One is the orev, the raven; the other is the yonah, the dove.

It is remarkable to note that the first impression made by the raven on the inmates of Noah's ark was an exceptionally favorable one. We are told in the Talmud that when Noah selected the creatures for admission into his ark to be saved from the waters of the great Flood, teshuvah nitzachat hoshivo orey le'Noach, the raven presented a strong argument to Noah. In the presence of the other creatures, the raven made a forceful speech on behalf of the underprivileged animals and birds. He said, "Your Master hates me and you hate me. Your Master hates me, for from the clean animals and birds He permitted seven to enter, and from the unclean two" (Sanhedrin 108b).

Those who heard the stirring challenge and plea of the raven must have been deeply impressed. Here, at long last, was an eloquent and courageous champion of the outcasts and pariahs of the earth!

Why then is the raven universally held in utter contempt, Why is he, of all the birds, the symbol of heartless cunning and cruelty both in sacred and secular literature? There is, for example, the famous poem by Edgar Alien Poe entitled "The Raven," in which the phrase "quoth the raven nevermore" appears like a refrain and creates a mood of bleakness and despondency, of darkness and despair.

The answer is to be found in an incident that happened at the Flood. When the rains no longer came pouring down from the heavens and the waters began to recede from the high mountains, the raven revealed his true colors and the meanness to which he could stoop.

It happened thus. Noah wanted to know whether there was any dry land to be found anywhere so that a new life could be started by all the inmates of his ship. He had to send a bird to see whether the time had come to begin to build a new life on earth, and he selected the glib-tongued raven to perform that mission. The raven left the ark, but instead of carrying out the important task that was assigned to him, he began to cruise about and to search for flesh to satiate his avaricious appetite. When the raven detected a floating carcass in the waters below he swooped down upon it, ripped it with his talons and devoured it. While everyone in the ark was waiting with mixed feelings of anxiety and hope for his report, the raven was busy gorging himself with the flesh of the victims of the Flood. No wonder that subsequent generations identified the raven with selfishness and betrayal of trust (YalLut Noah 58).

When a sage asked a colleague a question and was not satisfied with the answer, he said ourva parach, "a raven flew" (Chulin 125b; Betza 21b). The great scholar Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik, is said to have explained the phrase as referring to the flight of the raven for the purpose of rendering a report to the inmates of the ark on the condition of the world, but the raven did not return and the report was never given.

Then Noah tried the dove. The modest bird made no speeches and no declarations in the ark. She had no grips and no complaints. She made no sweeping statements and offered no panaceas. But when Noah sent her, she did not forget those she left behind in the ark. She did not permit personal interests and desires to interfere with the performance of her mission. She tried once, and then once more. On the second flight she returned to the ark with an olive branch in her mouth. The olive branch has since become the symbol of hope, faith and peace. As you know, it is also a symbol of the State of Israel today.

How numerous are the ravens and how few the doves! One thinks of Communism and the other radical movements that came to champion the cause of the tmeyim , of the underprivileged masses of humanity. Look at what they have done! Like the raven they are thriving on the victims of the floods of hunger and hate. They are creating discord and inciting war in the hope of gorging themselves at the expense of bludgeoned and bleeding humanity.

The same holds true of the United Nations. It has given official recognition to the P.L.O. whose objective it is to destroy and devour the State of Israel. When the chief spokesman of that murderous group, Yasir Arafat, addressed the General Assembly and spoke like a raven, he was given a standing ovation by practically all the representatives of the nations of the world.

Where were the representatives of Britain, France, Japan and the others when the Arabs seemed to be victorious during the war of aggression against israel! Only when Egypt and Syria were on the brink of utter defeat, did the U.N. spread its "peaceful" wings - but only over the Arabs.
Where were the McGoverns and the Fulbrights and the so-called liberal columnists of the press who were so concerned about Vietnam and said not a word against the Soviet Union for arming the Arabs to attack Israel on the most sacred day in the Jewish calendar? Ah yes! The "noisemakers" who are vociferous in their demands for justice to criminals and depraved renegades, kept a deafening silence when the lives of Jews were at stake; and they continue their silence to this day.

You see, noise is not the same as diligent work, and frenzy is not integrity. The great engines do their work in silence. The galaxies of stars rushing through space are hardly audible. The same i true with regard to the work which is done in the world. The spiritual contribution of the dedicated and the true "doves" of humanity is achieved with little fanfare and noise.

God bless America for exerting her influence and power quietly on behalf of peace; for endeavoring to play the role of the yonah, of the harbinger of good tidings, to the worried and disheartened inmates of the ark of humanity.

In Zarathustra, Nietzsche relates that when the great man came down from the mountain after years of meditation, he beheld a gathering of people. They were listening to an individual who proclaimed himself to be a master tight-rope walker. He was telling them all about his art, how good he was at swinging through the air, and how nimble and well-balanced he was both mentally and physically. He talked and talked and talked-until someone in the crowd called out, "We heard enough about tight-rope walking. How about showing us something of it!"

Someone has remarked in a humorous vein that Jewish life in America represents organized chaos. At meetings people talk and talk and do little. He suggested that there is a need for one more organization--one that will do and combat the others that talk.

Ah yes, there is a great need of doves who will say little, but who, through their deeds of kindness, will be the harbingers of an era of blessedness and peace.

Back Page Contents Next Page