Big BelieverSeptember 30, 2013 - 5:00 am
“And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.”—Genesis 7:7
The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.
We are all familiar with the story of Noah and his ark. However, when we study the nuances and details in the Bible, new layers of meaning and understanding are opened up for us.
For example, we read from this account, “And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood.” The Sages notice that the Bible stresses that Noah and his family entered the ark only because the world started to flood. They perceive a slight criticism here. Noah should have gone into the ark because God told him to, but the Sages label Noah a “small believer” because he only took refuge in the ark once he saw proof that the flood was really going to happen. In contrast, the Sages consider Abraham a “big believer.”
What does it mean to be a “big believer”?
The Talmud, Judaism’s oral tradition, relates the following story that profoundly demonstrates what it means to be a big believer in God.
During the first century, Jerusalem was in the process of falling to Rome. Wanting to make peace, Rabbi Yochanan ben Zakkai called out to General Vespasian, “Oh Emperor, have mercy!” The General replied, “The Emperor is in Rome!” The rabbi replied, “You must be the Emperor because God is letting you capture the Holy City and the rabbis learn from the verses of the Bible that this could only be accomplished by someone who is a king. So don’t argue with me — you are Emperor and King!”
At that moment, a messenger arrived huffing and puffing with a letter from Rome. It said: “The Emperor is dead and the Senate has appointed you to be his successor!”
Now, that is being a “big believer.” Rabbi Yochanan believed so deeply in the words of the Bible that he was virtually willing to bet his life on them! A big believer doesn’t need to see proof that what God says is true. He need only look into his Bible to know what is true and then he will base his life around those words as though they were solid matter deterring him from one course of action or leading him in another direction.
Often times we are confronted with decisions that call our belief into question. It could be anything from how we respond to tragedies to how we vote in elections. Do we believe the words of God to be true? Are we willing to bet our life on them?
Be a big believer in God and He will show you just how big and magnificent He truly is!