The Jewish Chronicle - - Judaism - RABBI NATAN LEVY


“From each bird ac­cord­ing to its kind, and from each an­i­mal ac­cord­ing to its kind, and from each ground-creeper ac­cord­ing to its kind — two of each will come to you to stay alive” Gen­e­sis 6:20

THE snail-darter fish is smaller than a pa­per­clip, yet Ten­nessee tax­pay­ers spent £60 mil­lion to save it from ex­tinc­tion. Nor­way in­vested £25 mil­lion to carve a seed vault into frozen rock near the North Pole to store bil­lions of seeds. Why do we care so much about pre­serv­ing life in all its vari­ants? We learned our les­son from Noah. The Tal­mud (San­hedrin 108b) tells of his son, Shem, re­call­ing life in the Ark: “My fa­ther didn’t know what to feed the chameleon. Cut­ting up a pome­gran­ate one day, a worm dropped out and the chameleon ate it. From then on he would mash up wormy bran for that lizard.”

The Flood is the story of life slip­ping through the clos­ing door of ex­tinc­tion, only to emerge on the other side by the slimmest of mar­gins. Where it not for Noah’s old hands stir­ring that bran in some dark cor­ner, no chameleons!

Our lives are frag­ile and we ex­ist by the mer­est shred of di­vine grace. “Rewind the tape of evo­lu­tion, play it again and the chances of hu­man life emerg­ing are highly im­prob­a­ble,” writes the bi­ol­o­gist Stephen Jay Gould.

We Jews un­der­stand that life con­stantly pushes up against the pos­si­bil­i­ties of an­ni­hi­la­tion. From Moses wrapped in a bul­rush ark on the Nile, to Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai es­cap­ing from the Ro­man siege of Jerusalem in a cof­fin, to the fam­i­lies who sur­vived the Holo­caust hid­den away in clos­ets, we have al­ways sailed away from ex­tinc­tion in the flim­si­est of ves­sels.

On this blue ark, hurtling through space, each of us must be­come a mod­ern-day Noah. We stiff-necked folk, un­bowed to the rip­tide of our ex­tinc­tion, are best en­dowed to stand against the global ex­tinc­tion of God’s crea­tures. For we still re­mem­ber how to save the tini­est chameleon with our own hands.

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