The Story of Noah: A Tale of Two Skeptics

This week’s Torah reading begins with the story of Noah and the flood, and ends with a sort of footnote introducing Abraham. We are told here that Terah had three sons—Abraham, Nahor, and Haran—and that Haran “died in the lifetime of his father in the land of his birth, in Ur of the Chaldeans,” while Terah and the rest of the family left Ur for the land of Canaan. Shlomo Riskin notes a commonality between Noah and Haran as they are portrayed by the medieval commentator Rashi, who draws on midrashic literature to fill in the blanks of their stories:

The Bible states that Noah, along with his sons, his wife, and the sons’ wives, went into the ark “because of the waters of the flood” (Genesis 7:7). From this verse, Rashi concludes that “Noah had little faith; he believed and he didn’t believe that the flood would arrive” . . . until the water literally pushed him in. . . .

When it comes to Haran, Rashi explains the seemingly irrelevant detail about his death by citing a midrash in which the king of Ur threatens to throw Abraham into a furnace if he does not recant his repudiation of the local pagan gods. While Abraham prefers to die rather than blaspheme, his brother Haran opts to wait and see. Abraham miraculously emerges from the flames unharmed, so Haran immediately proclaims that he, too, is a monotheist—at which point he is thrown into the furnace and consumed. Thus, Riskin notes, a striking contrast can be found between the two doubters, Noah and Haran:

Noah was a man of little faith, and yet not only does he survive the flood, he becomes one of the central figures of human history. He is even termed “righteous” by the Bible.
In contrast, Haran . . . hovers on the edge of obscurity, and is even punished with death for his lack of faith. Why is Haran’s skepticism considered so much worse than Noah’s? . . .

Noah, despite his doubts, nevertheless builds the ark, pounding away, [the midrash tells us], for 120 years, even suffering abuse from a world ridiculing his eccentric persistence. Noah may not have entered the ark until the rains began—but he did not wait for the flood before obeying the divine command to build an ark!

Noah may think like a skeptic, but he acts like a believer. Haran, on the other hand, dies because he waits for someone else to test the fires. In refusing to act for God during Abraham’s trial, he acted against God. In effect, his indecision is very much a decision.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Abraham, Hebrew Bible, Midrash, Noah, Rashi

 

Why Is Iran Acquiring Property in Venezuela?

In June Tehran and Caracas concluded a major twenty-year cooperation treaty. One of its many provisions—kept secret until recently—was the transfer of 4,000 square miles of Venezuelan land to Iranian control. Although the territory is ostensibly for agricultural use, Lawrence Franklin suspects the Islamic Republic might have other plans:

Hizballah already runs paramilitary training centers in restricted sections of Venezuela’s Margarita Island, a tourist area northeast of the country’s mainland. The terrorist group has considerable support from some of Venezuela’s prominent Lebanese clans such as the Nasr al-Din family, who reportedly facilitated Iran’s penetration of Margarita Island. . . . The Maduro regime has apparently been so welcoming to Iranian intelligence agents that some of Hizballah’s long-established Latin American network at the tri-border nexus of Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay has been overtaken by Hizballah activities on Venezuela’s Margarita Island.

Iran’s alliance with Venezuela most importantly provides Tehran with opportunities to target U.S. interests in Latin America and potentially the southern United States. Iran, along with the Chinese Communist Party, is in the process of strengthening Venezuela’s military against the U.S., for instance by deliveries of military drones, which are also considered a threat by Colombia.

While air and seaborne arms deliveries are high-profile evidence of Iran’s ties with Venezuela, Tehran’s cooperation with Venezuelan intelligence agencies, although less visible, is also intense. The Islamic Republic’s support for Hizballah terrorist operations is pervasive throughout Latin America. Hizballah recruits from Venezuela’s ten-million-strong Lebanese diaspora. Iran and Hizballah cooperate in training of intelligence agents and in developing sources who reside in Venezuela and Colombia, as well as in the tri-border region of Brazil, Paraguay, and Argentina.

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Read more at Gatestone

More about: Iran, Latin America, Venezuela