By Laura Seymour
This is the week we read the story of Noah, which happens to be one of the favorite stories in children’s books on biblical tales.
There is so much that fascinates young children — mainly the animals and the jobs involved with caring for them. Thankfully, children don’t read what happened after the flood with Noah and his sons, but a lot of adults have also missed that part as well. If you are in that “boat,” try reading Genesis 9:18-28.
There are many lessons to be learned from the story and many questions, but the most-often asked is about “Mrs. Noah.” Who was she and what role did she play? In the Midrash on Noah (Beresheet Rabba 23:3) we learn, “Naamah was Noah’s wife, and why was she called Naamah? Because her deeds were neimim (pleasing).”
Where do we go from this? Go directly to a wonderful children’s book titled “A Prayer for the Earth — The Story of Naamah, Noah’s Wife” by Sandy Eisenberg Sasso. The story tells that God asked Naamah to save each plant on earth in order to begin the process of regrowth when they waters have gone down.
The story takes off with Naamah collecting all the seeds from all the plants — those for eating and those for beauty. She then sets them, each in their own pot, in a spot on the ark. The story continues with Naamah caring for all the plants and then, upon leaving the ark, she begins to plant in all directions.
God sees all that Naamah has done and says, “Because of your great love for the earth, I will make you guardian of all living plants, and I will call you Emzerah, Mother of Seed.”
What do we take from this wonderful midrash?
First, we share the story to remind all that it wasn’t just about Noah — his wife had a very important job and, whether she is listed in the Torah with a name, she is given two names in midrash.
Second, and very important for us today, is the message that just as God made Naamah/Emzerah the guardian of all living plants, we are all guardians of our earth. With that comes great responsibility — think about how you and your family can be guardians of the earth.
Laura Seymour is director of Jewish life and learning and director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.