Noah: The Flood and the Failure of Man According to the Midrash Rabbah

Noah: The Flood and the Failure of Man According to the Midrash Rabbah
Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat
Devora Publishing/Urim Publications / 462 pages

The story of Noah is certainly one of the most distinct and compelling stories in all of Genesis, and perhaps in the entire Torah. There are many reasons why I say this. For example, Noah wasn’t Jewish, we’re not completely sure how righteous he was, he is criticized for his inactivity before the flood, and his poor choice of activities after the flood. He is seen as both selfish and selfless. He maintained the requirement of chastity while on the Ark, yet he was suspected of impure intentions with a bird. And the list goes on.

Noah: The Flood and the Failure of Man According to the Midrash Rabba, is a valuable work which opens the all-too-often closed book of Midrash to one and all. This is not a parsha book. It is a word-for-word translation of the entire Midrash Rabba on parshat Noah. The book is arranged and ordered just as the original Midrash Rabba is which makes finding a corresponding Midrash from the original simple to do. One will find answers to the issues I raised above, and much more, in the works of Midrash.

Every Midrash is first presented in vowelized Hebrew followed by an English translation that is reminiscent of the Soncino translation style. Every Midrash then includes a commentary that helps explain and put the Midrash into context. At the end of every chapter there is an “Additional Commentary” section which includes short divrei Torah summarizing the primary themes in the chapter. Although these divrei Torah are slightly sermonic in nature, as is characteristic of a senior congregational rabbi as the author is, they make for a great resource of divrei Torah at the Shabbat table when parshat Noach comes around.

I certainly appreciate having an English translation of the Midrash at my fingertips, and I think everyone with an advanced interest in the story of Noah will, as well.

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