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    Folding a wing & flying – No’ach

    dove birdThe cast of characters in this week’s portion is both human and animal.

    The Midrash looks at both categories and suggests elaborate data about each. One of its favourite subjects is the dove which No’ach sent out of the Ark. The Torah says, “The dove found no rest for the sole of its foot” (Gen. 8:9).

    A Midrash in the Jerusalem Talmud asks, “Why are the people of Israel likened to the dove?”

    This is how it answers: “As all other birds fly around, they get weary and need to rest on top of a tree or a rock, but the dove simply folds one of its wings and flies with the other”.

    The lesson seems to be that Israel can never be still.

    Is this what the rabbis mean when they say that there is no rest for the righteous, either in this world or the next?

    One explanation of the Midrash about the dove is that Israel – the people and the State – can never afford to relax its guard but must be constantly alert and look after itself.

    In a wider ethical sense it says that there is never a moment in world history when the forces of mischief die down, when the flood waters abate, when mankind is safe. Social and ethical problems never vanish from the stage of history.

    The Jewish people as the source and agent of moral regeneration cannot relax. The struggle for peace, truth and justice must be fought at every hour of every day, whatever the enemy’s guise of the moment. After every deluge comes chaos and the need to rebuild and rehabilitate.

    Israel’s values, visions and ethical energies will never be able to retreat into “rest for the sole of its foot”.

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