Zohar, Midrash Hane’elam, Parshat Noah
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זהר מדרש הנעלם פרשת נח מאמר נח לא בקש רחמים על העולם
מה השיב הקב"ה לנח, כשיצא מן התיבה, וראה כל העולם חר, והתחיל לבכות עליו, ואמר, רבש"ע, נקראת רחום, היה לך לרחם על בריותיך השיבו הקב"ה, רעיא שטיא, כען אמרת דא, ולא בזמנא דאמרית לך בלישנא רכיכא, דכתיב עשה לך תבת גופר כו'... כי אותך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדור הזה, כולי האי אתעכבית עמך, ואמרית לך, בדיל דתבעי רחמין על עלמא. ומכדין דשמעת דתשתיזיב את בתיבותא, לא עאל בלבך בישותא דעלמא, ועבדת תיבותא ואשתזבתא. וכען דאתאביד עלמא, פתחית פומך למללא קדמי.
How did God answer Noah when he came out of the ark he saw the whole world destroyed. He began to cry for the world and said, “Master of the world, You are called Compassionate! You should have shown compassion for Your creatures!” The Holy One answered him, “Foolish shepherd! Now you say this, but not when I spoke to you tenderly, saying ‘Make yourself an ark of gopher wood…’ (Gen. 6:14).” Because I saw that you were righteous before me, I lingered with you and spoke to you at length so that you would ask for mercy for the world! But as soon as you heard that you would be safe in the ark, the evil of the world did not touch your heart. You built the ark and saved yourself. Now that the world has been destroyed you utter questions and pleas?” This text was compiled by Rabbis J. Rolando Matalon, Marcelo Bronstein and Felicia Sol of Congregation B’nai Jeshurun in New York, NY, for Rabbi Matalon’s teaching on the American Jewish World Service Rabbinical Student Delegation. Their work was based on and inspired by The Dignity of Difference by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
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Suggested Discussion Questions:

1. Why did Noah not ask God to save everyone? Why did this make God so upset?

2. As people who live "safe in the ark", are there times that we do not work on behalf of others the way we should? When does it become too late to change?

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Time Period: Medieval (Geonim through the 16th Century)