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Noach

"Only Noah was left and those with him in the ark" Genesis 7:23

    When the Torah records the survivors of the flood, it does not merely mention Noah and his fellow passengers, it adds the word ach, which is usually translated as "only Noah and those in the ark were saved".

    If the correct translation of ach is "only", the word is unnecessary because the Torah has already told us that all life on the earth was destroyed. The rabbis picked up on this point and suggested that the extra word hints at an event which took place on board the ark. Noah survived the flood, but he very nearly died during the ark's voyage. One day Noah was late feeding the lion, the beast became annoyed and bit him. Noah escaped with his life, but only just and that is the meaning of ach.

    Rabbi Yitzchak Hutner (1906-1980) suggested this was strange behaviour on the part of the lion. Noah had saved him from certain death from drowning and for no better reason than Noah was a little late with lunch, the lion bit his saviour.

    Rabbi Hutner explained that the lion on the ark was no ordinary lion, it was the last lion. When we see the last of its kind, we have to treat it with special reverence.

    When I was a small boy in shul in the 1980s, every old man and woman had been through the War, either in the Armed Forces, on the Home Front, or had endured the Holocaust. I hope we treated them all with respect and deference, but there were many such people. Now they are becoming fewer and fewer. This generation has the privilege of living with and looking after the last lions. It is our responsibility to show them the honour and care they deserve.

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