G-DCast: Noah by Matthue Roth


This week’s Parsha is Noah, which was my Bar Mitzvah Parsha. The inimitable Matthue Roth, ROI120 alum, author, musician and G-DCast Educational Director is the voice behind this week’s G-DCast. Matthue notes that Noah was “Righteous in his generation” – the only person so cited by the Torah. Some people say that the fact that everyone else on earth was a douche makes Noah’s righteousness that much more awesome because he didn’t have the support and company of other righteous individuals. Others however say that he was righteous in comparison to all the other assholes around him, meaning, not soooo so righteous. Matthue adopts the latter position because Noah didn’t plead with God to save the people (like Abraham did re. the people of Sodom and Gomorrah) nor did he expressly warn them about the impending flood.

To this he juxtaposes the story of the raven and the dove. After the flood, Noah released the raven to see if there was dry land anywhere. The raven I guess saw some trees and never came back. Noah then released the dove which came back bearing an olive branch to let everyone on the Ark know that the flood waters had receded. Thus we see the true nature of righteousness – it isn’t enough to do exactly what God commands and nothing more. In order to be truly righteous, one must also act with care, consideration and compassion towards others, even if they are total douchebags.

Thanks G-DCast. Thanks a lot. Now I have to be nice to douchebags.

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ck

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Founder of Jewlicious? Publisher? Man I hate titles. I coined the name Jewlicious and I slave over the site. I live in Jerusalem and I need to get some breakfast.
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22 Comments

  1. froylein

    10/27/2008 at 8:37 am

    The raven and the dove (as well as the inconsistent numbers of animals and days of duration of the flood) stem from different narrative sources and have been meddled together in a “zipper” structure. Anyhow, Noah + Ark still make for some of the greatest toddler toy sets out there.

  2. ck

    10/27/2008 at 9:52 am

    You know froylein, some people disagree with or have explanations for your initial point. I wouldn’t quite state all that as fact. Noah and the Ark is a little more important than fodder for toy makers I think.

  3. grandmuffti

    10/27/2008 at 10:41 am

    Does anyone have an explanation for the total and complete lack of physical evidence that God genocided the known world? Or an explanation for how that volume of life managed to get fed for 40 days straight — given that not all of the animals were omnivores. (actually, with a massive flood and no access to the ground, in a massively moist environment, how did they manage to keep enough food for the herbiverous ones without it rotting etc.?) Any explanation how a farmer and winemaker managed to come up with the engineering skill to build a 450 foot boat, the ability to tame enough animals to bring them on board, the raw material to build such a boat with primitive tools and little help?

    Oh yeah, Muffti forgot the vacuous labels ‘God did it’/’It’s a metaphor’ when ever practical impossibilities arise.

  4. froylein

    10/27/2008 at 11:14 am

    ck, critical bible studies consider such explanations – and discard them with all due respect. The pericope of the flood is considered the most outstanding example of “zipper” tradition, in whch the final editor respected both sources so much that he tried to merge them into one, taking obvious contraditictions into account.

    If this means any solace to Muffti, Kings David and Solomon (among many others) only knew those stories as narratives as they were edited and codified way later.

    jewishencyclop...

  5. ck

    10/27/2008 at 12:04 pm

    Oh Muffti. All you need to do is read Rashi. So here we go:
    The 450 foot boat could not possibly have housed all the animals. Rashi explained that the fact that it did was a miracle. But then why put Noah through all that trouble? Rashi says that this teaches us not to rely too much on miracles. However, this also allowed for the provision of sufficient food for all aboard. As for the animals, Noah didn’t gather them – they came to him.

    Miracles go a long way towards explaining pretty much everything you brought up. I mean your questions are valid and all but you know the answers to them before you ask them. More instructive in the faith vs. reason thing is the question of being nice, even to douchebags.

    Reason dictates that someone who is considered a douchebag does not merit any kind of consideration. The story of Noah, in part, teaches us that the opposite is the ideal. Why? As a member of an evil society, Noah must surely have been repeatedly victimized by it. So why is Matthue criticizing Noah for not going out of his way to try to save the lives of these awful people?

    That’s the more relevant question I think. My dear, dear atheist friend.

    See? I was nice!

    And froylein? Critical Bible Studies do not take Faith into account. As such, while it’s an interesting subject, it’s of limited utility to those who posit more importance in faith than in some guy’s analysis. So yeah. Final editor? All that stuff is meaningless to me. It does not change my belief in Torah M’Sinai. So your observations are nice and all but really meaningless to me. For whatever that’s worth.

  6. grandmuffti

    10/27/2008 at 12:46 pm

    Why does reason dictate that someone who is considered a douchebag does not merit any kind of consideration? Reason does say anything like that. Why would it?

    As for miracles, isn’t it a little mysterious that when God does a big miracle normally, it’s advertise all over – he makes the sun stop, rocks flow water, red seas splits…but he makes an arc and suistains life for days on end and doesn’t even bother mentioning it? Really?

    How do intelligent adults actually believe this sort of shit?

  7. ck

    10/27/2008 at 1:32 pm

    Doesn’t mention it? It’s right there. It’s a 300 cubit boat. It had to have been a miracle that all the animals just showed up, fit inside and survived for 40 days. Oddly enough, loads and loads of intelligent adults seem to believe this kind of “shit.” From the perspective of this intelligent adult, I have to wonder, how can one not believe it. And my opinion is just as valid as yours.

    As for “reason” I’m not using it in some academic context. Anecdotal evidence and experience shows that for most people, when you hit them, they’ll want to hit you back. When you rob them, they won’t be too predisposed to treat you with kindness. That’s the sort of non-ivory tower “reason” I’m talking about.

  8. Marcus

    10/27/2008 at 2:04 pm

    “How do intelligent adults actually believe this sort of shit?”

    How do spiritual people find the patience to discuss theological issues with pompous ass skeptics? Closer to the point, why would they even try?

  9. ck

    10/27/2008 at 2:27 pm

    Hey. Muffti’s not pompous. He’s my buddy. he keeps trying to save me from a life of out dated mumbo jumbo and I keep trying to save him from a life bereft of meaning, where he will likely end up cold and alone on the street, in a puddle of his own urine, hopped up on some third rate heroin, his orifices ravaged by some horrible sexually transmitted disease – the shame of his bastard children.

    What can I say? I love the guy!

  10. ck

    10/27/2008 at 2:29 pm

    Oh my God. I don’t actually hope that that would ever happen to Muffti. I mean… it would be kinda funny if it did. But no, no momentary chuckle would ever be worth it. Stay off the junk muffster, stay off the junk!

    And that’s it. No more hanging out with Kelsey for you mister.

  11. Ephraim

    10/27/2008 at 2:47 pm

    I’m not a scientist, but I heard from someone that dogs, as a species, share almost identical DNA, regardless of the breed, and that the various breeds of dogs that now exist are the results of some genes being expressed or not expressed.

    Does anyone know if this is true?

    If so, then it could be that Noach just had one pair of dogs on the ark, as opposed to everything from Chihuahuas to Great Danes (if one wants to accept, just for the sake of argument, that the story actually happened). So maybe the ark wasn’t as crowded as we think it was.

    Reminds me of an old Far Side: we are looking at the ark, from outside the rail. We see four legs, clealry from a horse-like animal, sticking up in the air. All of the other animals are standing around staring at the body on the deck in stunned silence, the herbivores eying the lions and tigers warily, and the lions and tigers looking uncomfortable. Noah is standing there with his hands on his hips and an angy expression on his face, saying “Well, so much for the unicorns! From now on, all carnivores are confined to Deck B!”

  12. froylein

    10/27/2008 at 3:27 pm

    ck, it does take faith into account, believe me, but it also tries to understand the perceptive history, which clearly shows that early (settled) Judaism and Judaism of the Antiquity for that matter had a more intention-based reading and did not take the texts literally.

    BTW, Muffti and I have got a mutual agreement to share our lotto jackpot millions and that I’ll cook for Muffti if all else fails.

  13. Jack

    10/27/2008 at 3:36 pm

    It’s a 300 cubit boat. It had to have been a miracle that all the animals just showed up, fit inside and survived for 40 days.

    It is the same concept as that bag that Hermione brought to help out Harry in the Deathly Hallows book. Nice to be a geek. ;)

  14. Tom Morrissey

    10/27/2008 at 6:09 pm

    This has to be one of the most problematic biblical narratives for those who insist on a literal reading, because the protagonist is a human being and not God. I suppose if this one can be explained away, such things as the parting of the Red Sea are child’s play.

    Having read the above comments,– which is it, guys (and girls)? A matter of faith, in which case we don’t have to sweat the details? Or a story that can and must be empirically explained?

  15. ck

    10/27/2008 at 6:28 pm

    Oh Tom, does it really matter? People are going to believe what they want to believe. What’s far more relevant are the universal moral themes that can be discerned from this passage. Some will have you believe that being nice to uh… members of the doucheoisie, is a value that can be arrived at absent any sort of divinely revealed moral imperative.

    So is it? That’s a more interesting question I think.

  16. Tom Morrissey

    10/27/2008 at 6:37 pm

    I agree, but my sense is that a lot of people torment themselves and needlessly put their own faith at risk with sweating the details. I mean, can anyone really justify every biblical report, act, event, etc. as being literally true? (It’s tougher for Christians, because the NT has sometimes conflicting accounts.) Plenty of people try, alas.

  17. TM

    10/28/2008 at 2:58 am

    Ooooh, good video. Provocative.

  18. Pingback: Mixed Multitudes - My Jewish Learning: Exploring Judaism & Jewish Life » Blog Archive » Noah, Meet Youtube.

  19. grandmuffti

    10/28/2008 at 10:06 am


    How do spiritual people find the patience to discuss theological issues with pompous ass skeptics? Closer to the point, why would they even try?

    Coz you just can’t help yerselves mostly…as for CK, Muffti would rather end up in the scenario he describes than believe outdated mumbo jumbo. In any case, living in california, he probably won’t end up cold.

    Tom, i’ts a good question why people put themselves through that sort of torment. But isn’t it something like this – part of the goodies you get with religion is a text that represents absolute truth as it comes stamped and approved by God himself. if that book turns out to be as fraught with multiple interpretive possibilities, complex and multiply decipherable metaphors and parables that are designed to show moral lessons rather than represent true history, doesn’t it just fade into another book comparable to Aesop’s fables, full of nice stories but a record of no real history? And once you think it’s not designed to be an accurate objective report of anything, why think that the bits about God and his character are accurate objective reports of God and not just more fable and moral lesson-giving bits and pieces designed to coddle and teach you rather than inform you ontologically about your maker?

    That’s just a guess though. Muffti is sure there is some miracle by which it can all work out.

  20. ck

    10/28/2008 at 10:40 am

    It does get cold at night in California Muffti. And how do you explain something ontologically that doesn’t lend itself to such things? We have no way to understand omniscience because we have never experienced it. It’s like when Eric Cartman tried to explain “appetizers” to Starvin’ Marvin. Coming from famine ravaged Ethernopia, Starvin’ Marvin had no concept of “appetizers.” When Eric Cartman said “You see Starvin’ Marvin; this is what we call an appetizer. This is what you eat before you eat, so that you’ll be more hungry,” Starvin’ Marvin couldn’t understand what the fuck he was talking about. Appetizers? That’s craaazy!

    No wonder you’re skeptical Muffti.

  21. Grand Muffti

    10/28/2008 at 10:59 am

    Muffti thinks you are talking out your ass but he loves the analogy!

  22. TM

    10/28/2008 at 1:22 pm

    It just occured to me that we may be living on the equivalent of an atom inside God.

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