Sunday, October 22, 2017

Parashat No-ah

October 21, 2017

This week we read the story of the flood and how Noah and his family were selected the save the world. The week's parasha is a sharp contrast to last week. Last week we read about the creation of the world; this week is about the destruction of the world. The parasha is a testament to the nature of free choice. When God created the world put people in charge, and gave mankind the ability of free choice, some messed up. God selected Noah and his family to save before he destroyed the earth. The generation of Noah didn’t practice the laws of justice such as don’t steal that are required for a society to prosper. When people work together all have the potential to prosper. When they waste time arguing, fighting, and not respecting each other’s space, no one wins.

One thought is that Noah must have been an extraordinary person who despite the idolatry, corruption, and moral depravity, Noah remained a righteous individual. A second thought is that he was only relatively righteous and choose to avoid everyone on their corruption.

This debate as to whether Noah was absolutely righteous or relatively righteous is old. But there is no debate as to his leadership skills. He was not a teacher or leader for anyone but his family. There is no Torah text saying anything about leading or guiding people to a more righteous life. As far as we know, Noah retreated to his own world. Building the ark may have required project management skills, but business and project management expertise are not what we remember him for. Noah was not one of our “founding fathers.” His ability to teach his own children was limited. Noah was someone who gave up on the world. Abraham and his descendants never gave up on the world and thus were the first Jews.

The management lesson is that justice and respect are a requirement for prosperity. Retreating to your own place may save you, but it will not save the organization.

Note: Rosh Hodesh Heshvan is the anniversary of my bar mitzvah. It does not always coincide with Parashat Noah. This year, 2017, it does.  The above thoughts are a combination of my remarks from 2016 and 2017.

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