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Noah: A Good Jewish Boy’s Cinematic Drash

Hollywood finally releases a distinctly Jewish Bible epic.

by
Susan L.M. Goldberg

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March 31, 2014 - 1:00 pm
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AronofskyNoah

Darren Aronofsky’s take on the classic tale of Noah is the Jewish guy’s Bible movie. The narrative, which does remain true to the textual account of Genesis, is crafted in the style akin to a scholarly drash. In another lifetime you might imagine this story to have been generated by a minyan of Talmud scholars poring over the story in their classes. Perhaps that is why the Christian audience has reacted so poorly to the film; it is not, in the words of Walter Hudson, told “from a Christian theological standpoint.” The audience is treated to a wrestling, not recounting, of the text for two very good reasons: A four-chapter story would make for a very short film and Aronofsky, for however religious he may or may not be at the moment, is most definitely 100% a Jew.

Aronofsky’s Noah remains, first and foremost, a story of redemption as it was interpreted thousands of years ago when paired with Haftarah portions in Isaiah (42-43 and 54-55) for the weekly Torah reading. Like the patriarch Jacob, Noah wrestles with God: the battle is a question of original sin and free will. Redemption, Aronofsky illustrates, is a choice entered into by covenant with God. It is not simply a no-strings-attached gift granted to perfectly bad people by a perfectly good looking guy who tests well with focus groups.

Contrary to most Bible epics, a faceless, voiceless God communicates His redemptive plan to Noah through the Biblically prophetic device of a metaphoric dream. “You must trust that He speaks to you in a way you understand,” Noah’s grandfather Methuselah advises. Reminiscent of the Tanakh prophecy “your old men will see visions, your young men will dream dreams,” Aronofsky engages Noah with his aged, wise grandfather, who advises him of Enoch’s prophecy that God would, one day, annihilate the world by fire.

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This is an interesting article actually. A bit far fetched I think (given that most other reviewers seem to see some of the things you point out as environmentalist or misanthropic) but interesting.

On the other hand you have a comic book or 'they wear funny hats' level of understanding of Christianity. If you don't understand something about other people's tradition - and clearly you don't since your vision of a Christian is clearly based on a very specific image within your own mind and having nothing do do with reality except certain 1980's televangelists - you might want to be a little more humble when dissing it or when going on and on about how everyone is too stupid to get the genius of your background.

If someone wrote a column going on and on about how the Jews just don't get stuff because Rabbis wear black hats and don't eat bacon, I'm guessing most informed people would think something like: "wow, that person really does not understand anything about Jews and his dismissal of them comes from ignorance and prejudice." Guess what, you're that guy.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
try again Susan, this movie has nothing to do with Midrash or anything Jewish. In fact it is very anti--torah and anti-Midrash in its portrayal.
don't try to justify this farce
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Yeah. Whole bunches of people just aren't as enlightened and full of righteous awesomeness as certain other people. Get my meaning?

Oh yeah, and it's sad. :-(
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (83)
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Thanks for this explanation.
Much of the movie was for me, odd and unusual, probably because of its very Jewish content. It is never silly or hypocritical, or even fakely solemn, like so many of the biblical movies. It has dignity, of the sort exemplified by Mel Gibson's 'Passion."
One thing puzzles me, tho: what is the meaning of the snake skin that Noah wraps around his arm, in the last scene??
27 weeks ago
27 weeks ago Link To Comment
Hello Susan Goldberg,

God put a 'burden on my heart' (Protestant-phrase - I'm an Irish Catholic - but most folks in the USA understand - Protestant-talk) >to comment on your Articles. It seems, a number of angry Christians are barking at you, because they're being served a dish of Kosher grub, instead of bloody red-meat.

Susan Goldberg states at the beginning of the article: 'Noah is the Jewish guy's Bible movie.' Her review of Noah should be understood as such.

Too often, Christians fail to remember that: Christianity is about Jesus Christ and NOT a book. Christians are NOT = people of a book. The sacred scriptures help Christians understand Jesus Christ. Arguments about the scriptures are meaningless, if the most important Commandment is forgotten during the argument. Here it is:

'Love God above all things, and love your neighbor as yourself.'

It's such an important Commandment that God placed it on the human-heart (the conscience). This summary of all the Commandments should NOT be forgotten, also. =

"You shall Love your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind."

All the Commandments come from God. >Good works in obedience to all the Commandments are the fruits of the love of God. It's like a good grape-vine produces good grapes. (Bad fruit = bad works or NO works = means someone is being nourished by beelzebub and NOT God's grapevine.)

A note: God makes a large number of Commandments, Not just ten. God doesn't make ~recommendations for good behavior. Also, at the end of time God will look for actual ~good works, and NOT just a lot of big talking.

It's always good to talk to Susan Goldberg. Maybe, she takes the arrows like an old time Catholic Saint. Maybe, the big-thinkers at PJmedia ask Susan Goldberg to entertain all of us 'religious fanatics,' while the big secular thinkers are producing their big-thoughts, on PJmedia.

Anyhoo! It's ~always good to read Susan Goldberg Articles.

29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Jew don't bring me flowers, anymore...
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Noah was an interesting movie and is worth watching. It was terrible at some moments (anything with the Rocks) but very good in others and all I can say is I don't regret the time or money to see in the theatre (though it might be a while before I'm willing to watch it again). I caught some of the references mentioned in this article immediately (quick note the use of Cain instead of Tubal Cain needs to be corrected) as well as others that weren't mentioned such as the transformation of what must have been the Nephilim into The Watchers. However, the most interesting aspect of the movie to me wasn't mentioned in this article, that was the portrayal of two different types of evil: typical evil based on greed (Tubal Cain) and the evil that comes from being blinded by ones ideals (Noah).
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Dramatic invention is not the same as scriptural exegesis. It’s astounding you are unable to distinguish between the two.

Let me give it a try.

Noah was not a Jew (Hebrew). And he definitely wasn't kosher. That's just made up.

There are only two perfect individuals in the whole of Hebrew scripture. They are Noah and Job. Both non-Jews. (Joseph was never explicitly called righteous.) No Jew ever merited that description. So, in your newly found tradition of Aronofsky wisdom, let's call the only righteous men of the entire Hebrew scripture Palestinians.

So, Noah the Palestinian was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. He walked with God. You can also tell Noah is a non-Jew because he did not argue with God; he did not doubt God; he obeyed God (scripturally, that is.)

He certainly did not have a California style personality crisis in obeying God because he was a righteous Palestinian chosen God to save all of humanity.

Can you see where I'm going with MY madrash?

It would have been a much better movie, don't you think?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The article was interesting and thought-provoking. The anti-Christian snark was an unnecessary distraction.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
I am sorry, my fellow Readers, but I find this column intelligently provoking.
And G*d knows how much we need to think, and how much we need to learn to be able to understand every position.
The nihilists and the subversives, allied with the islamic supremacists, have nearly conquered the West...I think we should look into ourselves and, each one in his own Way, ask "what's wrong with me ? how did I allow Freedom to be at risk ?"

So, a good provocation is good, especially when spiced up with A LOT of quotations that need to be understood.

29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
The book "Noah in Ancient Greek Art" and the DVD "The Serpent's Side of Eden" both demonstrate that a person from the line of Cain did get on board the ark as Ham's wife. Her name: Naamah (Genesis 4:22). She inspired the rebellion against Noah and his God-fearing offspring after the Flood, led by her grandson, Nimrod/Herakles. Those ancient goddesses - Ishtar, Inanna, Isis, Maat, Astarte, Athena, etc. are all deifications of her. "The Parthenon Code: Mankind's History in Marble" is also a good reference. Greek temple art boasts of the triumph of the way of Cain after the Flood. It's not "myth," but rather the history of the human race from the standpoint of the way of Cain.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment

Jews were monotheistic only after captivity in Babylon, where pagan beliefs were assimilated. You can read about this in any Bible, Torah, ; Asherah, El, Ba'al, Astarte, etc...were gods Jews worshiped...until captivity in Babylon. It was there that Jewish people were exposed to Zoroastrianism and its Monotheistic theology took hold and became central to Judaic beliefs. Many other writings than Old testament and Torah, and ancient texts trace belief systems from their origins. When Cyrus the great liberated Jews from Babylon, they took monotheism along with them.
Noah is a movie based on stories Jews borrowed and wove into their own stories, just as hundreds of religions before and since have done. In Two thousand years Judaism and Christianity will be very different than today, just as today they are very different than One thousand years ago. Religions evolve and write their own stories and origins. Usually the religion that borrows from another then try to eradicate the original and rewrite history.
In two thousand years there will be another majority religion, borrowing stories from Judaism, Christianity, maybe Buddhism and Islam...who knows. This scenario has repeated itself dozens of times in humanity's history, and will continue to repeat until Humanity is no more.
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
Susan, I'd like to believe that you meant no insult by lecturing to Christians that they do not understand things like nuanced ethical and spiritual dilemmas presented through metaphor.

And, so on.

But you are giving offense, hopefully through sheer ignorance, of things ranging from the profound to the very mundane, including religious scholarship, traditions and even faith, the relative intellectual capacities of ethnicities other than your own, and even the history of Hollywood Biblical Epic filmmaking.

I think you should apologize. Do editors read things before they publish them anymore?
29 weeks ago
29 weeks ago Link To Comment
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