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Dvar Torah - Noach

"Noah was a conspiracy theorist. Then it started to rain." -- internet meme This sentence was written in the context of opposition to COVID vaccines. It is a clear example of how we build elaborate fantasies to explain behaviour that isn't really rational. While encouraging others to not take advantage of life-saving medication on offer, someone responded to claims that they are a conspiracy theorist. The argument is something like this: Noach was perceived as a conspiracy theorist, but in reality, he was merely countercultural. And in the end, it turned out that he was right. So you see, if you're counter-cultural, if you reject vaccination and other life saving medical treatments, maybe you're right as well. As far as it goes, the argument is correct. Noach was treated as crazy for believing that the world was about to flood in punishment for mankind's iniquities. No one believed him when he warned them. Even when it started to rain they told him he was silly to worry. In the end, of course, he was right and they were not. The Torah gives us Noach's narrative but the response from his generation is not even explicitly mentioned, merely hinted at in the text. That's how wrong they were. Their reaction to the coming disaster was not even recorded. Of course, this analysis misses the point. Noach was right not because he was countercultural. He was right about what behaviour was morally correct, and he was right about what was coming. He would not have been less right if the people around him had believed his warnings. Noach was not right because most people didn't believe him. He was right because he was able to correctly assess the situation around him, and that assessment began with a correct moral intuition and with concern for others. We live in an age of disinformation where self-centeredness often masquerades as knowledge of the truth. It is satisfying to believe that you alone have the truth, that you alone have the answers. Of course, this is often incorrect. Sometimes the majority is wrong and you should be counter-cultural. Sometimes the majority gets it exactly right. Most of the time, we're somewhere in the middle, but rejecting a consensus position merely because it is a consensus position is clearly incorrect. The true legacy of Noach lies in beginning consideration of every issue with the moral dimension first, and then afterwards carefully questioning our understanding of reality with a genuine desire to come to the truth. This is far harder than simply rejecting the "trendy position", but it is also the wiser course and, in the long run, more rewarding. However, it starts with something easy. If you are not yet vaccinated, but you can be (you don't have a valid medical reason that a doctor has signed off on), get the vaccine. Do it for yourself, to protect yourself from a deadly disease, and do it for those around you who need you to be protected so that they don't get infected.

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