Susan Barth
Susan Barth
Advocate for Marriage Education in Israel

Lessons from Noah and Milton’s Secret

This week’s Torah portion of  Noah with its focus on entering and exiting the Ark provides us with incredible parallel perspectives into our own lives at this juncture of time.

In the portion, we have Noah being appointed by Hashem to build an ark as the surviving “home” against the ravages caused by the destruction of the world via the flood. Needless to say, this is a daunting task of enormous proportions and Noah and his wife and family carry out the herculean task of managing the veritable zoo of animals in a superb fashion until the “dove” gives the all clear sign that it is safe to depart the ark.

Noah’s Tragic Choice

Unfortunately, after Noah’s tireless devotion in the ark, his departure from the Ark is not a pretty picture. Noah became a farmer and the first thing that he planted is a vineyard. According to Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon z”l[i] in one of his captivating classes this week on the Torah portion of Noah, Noah should have on hindsight planted something else like kumquats, and instead he made wine and became intoxicated. Rabbi Gordon further elaborates on the tragedy which unfolded from the selection of the profane over the sacred – in this case, the wine, symbolizing both, is the subject and the commission of indecent and immoral behavior resulted with enormous negative ramifications.

Other Behavioral Choices -Milton’s Secret

By coincidence (hashgacha pratis,) another drama was unveiled this week in the form of a movie entitled Milton’s Secret.

According to the director Barnet Bain, the movie is based on the teachings of Eckhart Tolle (The Power of Now) and is a powerful metaphor for today’s unprecedented times.

The story according to the promotional website is about a twelve-year-old Milton Adams who feels his world is in crisis. With his parents stressing about their careers and finances, and the neighborhood bully tormenting him, he is constantly anxious. But when Milton’s Grandpa comes to visit, he witnesses in him an entirely new way to live and learns a secret that will change his life forever.

The movie is available now for free screening on the website link https://www.miltonssecret.com/movie/ and I highly recommend watching it until the end where the viewer is rewarded with an inspiring lesson from Eckhart Tolle.

Noah and Milton’s Secret – What do they have in common

One of the most compelling messages which both the Torah portion of Noah and Milton’s Secret have in common is a focus on family and what the consequences of abuse signify. In the case of Noah, the commentators reveal the castration of Noah instigated by Noah’s son Ham who wanted to prevent Noah from having a fourth child (as mentioned in the Torah class of Rabbi Godon z”l). As a result the fourth son of Ham Canaan was cursed and according to the commentator Rashi, the seeds of Ham were exiled by the King of Assyria in a cruel fashion.

In the case of Milton’s Secret, the film likewise reveals the trauma which comes as a result of bullying and the ramifications it can have on the entire family dynamics. I do not want to spoil the plot so suffice it to say the family is forced to confront itself with all its blemishes.

Another Drama this Week

Another drama unfolded this week regarding the extension of the Green Pass which has parallels to the story of the Ark. For many of us, the Covid has resulted in staying for extended periods in our Arks – aka homes and only venturing out as necessities require.

And we have witnessed the mental and emotional ramifications which have ensued from the extended residency in our “ark.”

Unmasking the Mask – are we Ready?

It must be said that the emergence from the “ark” is tempered still by the requirements for full compliance with the Ministry of Health’s Covid regulations, especially the wearing of masks in the indoors.

I have found a certain irony in the symbolism of the mask over the mouth. It seems as if Hashem has continued to emphasize that there is a need for mankind to cover our mouths for prolonged periods and thereby we are limited in what communication we can have with others. Therefore, in a way, the additional covering means that we have to spend potentially more time in contemplation and selection of the communication that we have with others as opposed to the free exchange once the masks are removed.

 

Positive Communication is the Key

One thread that has appeared through the Noah story and Milton’s Secret and the current masking is the attention that we need to place on our interaction with others and especially within the family context.

In his powerful book Words That Hurt, Words that Heal, the author Rabbi Joseph Telushkin[ii] writes “in probably no other area of life do so many of us regularly violate the Golden Rule, as in speaking negative truths.” He also discusses the consequence of anger and the attitude that “winning is the only thing.” He elaborates by writing:

“But when it comes to conflicts between people, no advice could be more harmful. People who believe that winning an argument, particularly a personal one, is “the only thing” are likely to introduce unfair points into disputes, and to end relationships.

The time to avoid making ugly comments is BEFORE they leave your mouth. Once they do, the other party might forgive, it is unlikely that he or she will forget.”

The 4 Danger Signs and ePREP

In the I-PREP and ePREP courses which our non profit Together in Happiness offer to couples, especially ones who are just starting their families as couples – we introduce the 4 danger signs which are lethal to a relationship. They include:

  • Escalation
  • Invalidation
  • Negative Interpretation
  • Withdrawal

These danger signs are among the topics which will be elaborated at length in our upcoming promotion of the online ePREP course. The course is being offered for FREE for a limited time only to engaged and newlywed couples up to two years. The project is in memory of the Surfside victims.

The details are available on the link:

https://yes.shemesh.co.il/newlywedscourse/

Leaving the Ark

It appears that we are inching forward to the potential conquering and releasing of the requirements necessitated by Covid. Let us take the lessons of Noah and Milton’s Secret and think about what actions we can take daily to demonstrate that we are ready to leave our arks and be the most loving families and neighbors and let the ripple effects of our words result in words of kindness and gratitude and concern for one another and demonstrate to Hashem that the masks can come off with a society ready for redemption.

I am Ready for that day to come now. Shabbat shalom

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[i] Rabbi Yehoshua Gordon z”l prior to his death gave daily lessons on the Torah portion which are available on Chabad.org and are inspiring and provide commentary on the commentator Rashi. The lessons may be accessed using this link https://www.chabad.org/multimedia/rabbigordon_cdo/aid/935151/jewish/Parshah-With-Rabbi-Gordon.htm
[ii] Words That Hurt, Words that Heal, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin (Harper Collins ebooks, p174)

About the Author
Susan Barth is founder and director of Israeli non profit Together in Happiness/B'Yachad B'Osher, promoting stronger, healthier marriages impacting Israeli society. A Project Management Professional (PMP) and businesswoman from the US, Susan sponsored and chaired the First International Conference on Marriage Education in Israel (attended by over 360 professionals) in Jerusalem in memory of her parents and launched I-PREP, an innovative marriage education curriculum. On November 8, 2017, Together in Happiness co-hosted with MK Yehudah Glick a historic Knesset seminar promoting government support for pre-marriage education
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