Poetry by Tracy Marks

Shem's Wife Speaks
copyright 2000 by Tracy Marks
(creative writing assignment for Finding
Your Jewish Voice, Hebrew College course)

Tell two versions of Noah and the flood, one to Noah's credit
and the other to his discredit. Don't re-read the Biblical account,
rely on your memory of the event. 

Relive the flood in your own fashion, retelling it at any
point in the narrative (before the flood, during, or after). One version
will keep Noah a hero, the other will turn him into an anti-hero. One
version will explore and emphasize the positive in Noah's involvement
(actions and thoughts), and the other version will discover the negative.
Give yourselves TEN MINUTES for each version, plus or minus a minute.

Shem's Wife Ruth Speaks
Part One
copyright 2000 by Tracy Marks

Shem's Wife Ruth speaks:

Moishe, my grandson, was crying. Shem had forbidden him to venture near the river after dark, but Samuel's boys defied their parents and taunted him for returning home at sunset. "Why should I obey," he asked me, "when there is no real danger? The others think me a fool...."

"Your great grandfather Noah suffered greater ridicule than you, " I told him. "When he was building the arc, people gathered around each day to jeer him.  'Crazy man,'   they said,  'claiming to obey the voice of a God - you only imagine a disaster that will never happen. You neglect your fields, the fruits rot in your orchard, while you build this monstrosity. What kind of man of are you to listen to this voice we cannot hear, and to fear drowning in the water? You fool, you coward!'"

Moishe stopped his whimpering and looked up at me, "You mean the others made fun of Noah, for obeying, for doing what he was told?"

"Noah obeyed not only his father, but God as well," I told him, "And even your father and your uncles Ham and Japheth weren't sure of him at first, and were ridiculed by their friends. But Noah had courage and faith." I continued. "His heart hurt when others turned away or taunted him, but inside himself he held to what was right. He built the arc, and saved us all."

I heard breathing behind me, and turned to see my beloved husband Shem, listening.  "Moishe," he said, "there is more than one way to be a man."

Shem's Wife Ruth Speaks
Part Two
copyright 2000 by Tracy Marks

Shem reprimanded me for questioning Noah. But how can I live with myself and remain silent? Yes, I believe in God and trust that Noah hears him and that a great flood will destroy the evil ones around us. But to leave behind my mother Sophie and father Elishah, my sister, and my brother who only now grows hair on his chin - how can I turn away from those I love, those who clamor to join us, knowing I have not attempted to save them?

Mother is a virtuous woman; she opens her heart to all in need, and with my father worships God. What is her crime? Reuben and Rebekkah are children, guilty at times of shirking their chores - Rebekka makes dolls of reeds when she should bring water from the river. But she is no more evil than I.

Noah, how can you shut your heart to all but us few, and refuse to make room on an arc large enough to house dozens more? Is a spider, an aardvark, a hyena more worthy of life than my righteous and loving mother?

Yes, Noah, I dare to question you, you the respected patriarch who have authority over Shem and myself. I dare to question and rage against you because YOU dare not question God, because you close your mind and heart to all but a chosen few. I question your righteousness, your passive obedience, your love, your humanity, your choices.  And I question myself.

Must I obey Noah and turn away from those I love except for Shem? Dare I hide my family in the arc and bear the wrath of Noah and Shem when all is discovered? Or should I leave my husband's side and remain with my parents, attempting to save us all from this oncoming deluge, or choosing to drown together? I do now know; I do not know. Already, I drown, in my own flood of agonizing and unanswerable questions.

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