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This Is Boring!

Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32 )

by Rabbi Stephen Baars

Newly Revised

When did "boring" become cruel and unusual punishment?

On any given Sunday, at least one of my children will proclaim his despair of life with the ubiquitous: "I'm bored." I promptly give him the address of the United Nations and tell him to make a formal complaint to the Security Council.

He never does. I mean what's the point? China will veto it anyway (China vetoes anything that would make the world better).

Truth be told, I get bored too. In fact, and I hate to tell you this, everyone gets bored. Even more shocking, no one lives a life of thrills and excitement where boredom isn't a challenge. Do you think people who are living on the edge of their seats would watch the soaps or care what Tom Cruise is doing? This so-called entertainment only happens among very bored people.

Only in Hollywood do action men look like they live a life of constant excitement. But nobody really lives that kind of life. Or, to be more accurate, even the people who jump out of planes or hunt dangerous animals for a living get bored with it. This is one the of most interesting aspects of being human.

"Man is exceedingly gifted at taking any aspect of life and turning it into a habit." (Rav Noah Weinberg)

It is equally evident that there are no aspects of meaninglessness to which human beings won't apply great thought.

Marriage, children, friends and family are engaged with numbing routine. Yet we read books, discuss ad-infinitum, think and rethink our work, our exercise, our diet, our clothes and even our dishes.

Do you think these two phenomena are related?

In other words, to the degree we obsess with making the meaningless meaningful, we in turn, make the meaningful meaningless.

Take a look in the magazine rack at your local supermarket. It's filled with super-glossy periodicals on everything from golf to weight loss, from cooking to cars. But parenting, marriage, prayer and introspection aren't there. For fun, ask the store manager if they have "Enlightenment Weekly" or are they all sold out? No, you won't see Brad Pitt on the cover of that one.

Coincidence? Not likely. Don't take me wrong here, there is nothing wrong with a game of golf. But there is little right with it either.

* * *


Noah's Ark was gigantic - about the size of a football field. The great flood was coming and God told Noah to build it to save himself and the future.

The project took Noah 120 years of hard work. People came from far and wide to ask Noah what it all meant. Noah told them of the coming destruction. Nobody listened and many in fact ridiculed him. Noah was subject to tremendous alienation and social pressure. The Midrash says that people even wanted to kill him for building the Ark.

However, when the waters finally came, a curious thing happened, Noah hesitated to enter the Ark. He wasn't ready to be saved through the very means he'd labored so hard to build. It was not until the waters came in great torrents that Noah finally entered the Ark. (Rashi - Genesis 7:7)

What happened?

Anything, and more importantly, everything, when done repeatedly, can become boring.

The more familiar, the less thought. At one time, driving was exciting. At one time eating was fun. There is an endless supply of examples. Look at your own life and see how many things you do that at one time you thought were thrilling. It means that the things you think would be thrilling are just as boring if done repeatedly.

"In of itself, nothing is meaningful except change, and changes are only meaningful when things stay the same."

There are two types of changes, the ones that happen on the outside. Those occur when we move, do something different, drive a new car, etc. Those kind of changes don't make any difference:

"The more things change the more they stay the same." (Alphonse Karr)

Listen carefully to what Mr. Karr is telling us: The more things stay the same, the more they change.

When we don't distract ourselves, then we think about what is really important. Anything meaningful needs repeating, and in the repetition, it will become more meaningful. The less we change on the outside the better we become on the inside.

Unless of course, we don't want to.

There is a simple word for when we don't want to deal with a life filled with meaningful acts: boredom.

You can be bored teaching the illiterate, feeding the poor, learning about life, even saving the world. That is, if you let it become a habit.

Habit is not limited to saving the world. Marriage can never be boring if you face the inner challenges you would rather avoid. Anything and everything can be a habit, with disastrous effects.

"Men cling to opinions to which they are accustomed from their youth. This prevents them from finding the truth, for they adhere to the opinions of habit." (Rambam, Moreh Nevuchim 1:31)

* * *


Question 1: Make a list of the five most meaningful things you do in your life.

Question 2: How many of them give you a thrill?

Question 3: Go back in your mind to when your were more excited about doing any of the five and try to recreate that experience and feeling.

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