There was a young student in Chelm attending a university. He arrived at the end of the semester and explained to his parents he was learning zoology. They were intrigued and asked for an example. He picked up a frog and instructed it to jump. The frog jumped and jumped again. The student then tied the legs together and the frog refused to jump. The student explained, “We learned when you tie a frog’s legs together, it cannot hear.”
Stories from Chelm are always humorous but have a deeper message. The Torah tells us: eleh toldot noach-=noah. These are the generations of Noah-Noah (himself). Noah is being praised before his children are named. We can learn the model of family from this simple verse. It was Noah who set the standards for his family. It was not that Noah was asking for praise, but rather it was Noah who wished to develop his own moral character so that his children could not only hear his words but see his actions.
We live in a culture where listening is difficult. During a recent children’s service I asked the students what they heard during 5 seconds of silent prayer. Multiple hands raised, and they all said the same thing. “We heard each other.” When we bless a bar or bat mitzvah we recite the “Mishebierach” prayer. We do not pray for them to have good words, but rather we ask for God to allow the to do maasim tovim, good deeds. Deeds are what people see and deeds are what people follow. There is a reason why Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel told us we must “pray with our feet.” The Torah teaches, Noah walked with God. So as we leave the ark after the storm this Shabbat, let us join Noah on that walk, so our young can follow.