In synagogue this Shabbat we will read the Torah portion called “Noah”. I have a granddaughter called Samuela or Sam for short. She claims to know all about Noah; in fact she says that she knows the “true story” about Noah and how and who helped him build his Ark. I’ll pass her story on to you, and then you can decide for yourselves:
Hi. My name is Samuela. People call me Sam. I’m just an ordinary eleven year old girl, and I live in Paris, France. Here is my picture:
My grandfather, Zayde, lives in Nahariya, Israel. He is always telling me stories and incredible tales. Sometimes I do not know whether they are true or made up. Here is one that I told him. You will have to decide if it is real or not:
I want to tell you about the most extraordinary person, well not exactly a person. I don’t know how to say it, but without a doubt the most significant someone in my life. See for yourself; here it goes:
Last summer my Mom and Dad and I vacationed in a country called Israel. For those of you who may not know, Israel is a small country and is located across the great sea that grownups call the Mediterranean. We stayed with my grandfather. He lives in a city near the sea called Nahariya which is way up North near the border with Israel’s neighbor, the country called Lebanon.
Early one morning, when most everyone was sleeping I gathered up my pet kitten, Ulysses who is a girl kitten despite her mannish name and we went down to the beach and sat near the water. I was determined to build a sand castle. I wanted to build a gigantic sand castle, but was having a difficult time of it. For one thing, the walls of the castle would not stay up; they kept on falling down. Then there was this second problem: large waves would come in and knock my castle down and sweep it away. Don’t get me wrong; I’m a determined little girl, not one to give up easily, but it was getting to be frustrating. Still, I kept on trying.
Because I was focused and intent on succeeding, I did not look up when I heard a pleasant voice saying: “Excuse me, little girl, do you need help?”
“Can’t you see I’m busy; I don’t need any help. Thank you.”
The voice, whoever it belonged to, ignored my somewhat rude remark and went on:
“Take a handful of very wet sand; flatten it out into a pancake and start stacking the pancakes. You might also consider backing up a little bit, away from the waves”.
Without looking up I quietly muttered: “What makes you so smart, mister?”
The voice said: “Because I am at home in the oceans and I know the beaches”.
“You have to be kidding, mister whoever you are”.
At that moment I glanced down at Ulysses who had started to make a fearful blood curdling sound that I had never heard before. Her fur stood straight up; her cute little ears lay flat back on her head, her eyes bulged as she trembled and hissed and hissed.
“What’s the matter Ulysses, are you alright”?
Then I looked up and saw what she saw: the largest fish in the world, even larger than a whale. “Oh my gosh, what are you? Who are you?” By now I was the one trembling.
“Hi, my name is Dunkle. Actually my full name is Dunkleosteum terrelli, but everyone calls me Dunkle. Aren’t I handsome? Don’t you just love my smile? What’s your name, little girl?”
Although I thought that it, whatever it was, was trying to be friendly, I did not know what to say. Dunkle was not my idea of handsome, and although Dunkle did indeed smile, his teeth were huge and a quite unnerving. But my parents want me to be polite, so I nodded my head and in a low voice said, “My name is Samuela.”
Dunkle, that what it called itself, looked down at Ulysses, who by this time probably felt that she was going to be this monster’s breakfast snack, and he uttered a few cat-like soothing sounds. And goodness gracious, Ulysses settled down and just purred.
Then Dunkle turned to me and continued: “As you can tell Samuela, I am a fish. But not just an ordinary fish. I am special. Probably you are too. It is not just that I am 370 million years old that makes me special. And it is not that I am as big as a school bus that makes me special or that I have a terrific appetite (check out my teeth). I am special because although I am a fish, I can talk and walk, almost as good as you can. I can also read, but I have some trouble holding a book.”
On one hand, still wanting to be polite, but on the other hand not wanting to be this beast’s mealtime treat, a firm, but cautious reply was in order,” I have never heard of a fish that can live out of water. I have a pet goldfish; he needs to be in his fish bowl all of the time, and he only swims, does not walk or read and I never heard him speak.”
“And speaking of speaking, what did you just say to little Ulysses over there? I’ve never seen her look so happy.”
“Ulysses, I like that name; reminds me of a sailor I used to know. You want to know what I said… just said a few words in cat-speak to put her at ease.
Flabbergasted, Samuela exclaimed: “You can talk to cats; why that’s incredible.”
“I’m good with languages. A wise old king by the name of Sol taught me a little.”
“As to being able to walk and talk, I think about that a lot” sighed Dunkle. “How can a fish, even a special fish, live out of water, let alone walk and talk? To be honest, I don’t know, but let me tell you how it all happened:”
“First of all I do not have many friends; that could happen if you are as large as a school bus, have big teeth and are hungry all the time. And most of my relatives passed away millions of years ago. Why I have survived is a mystery, except I believe that every being has a purpose, and that is why I am still around. I think I am still here because I am able to help out. It all started about four thousand years ago”.
“Four thousand years? Come on Mr. Dunkle, you must be joking”.
“Oh it’s true indeed, little girl”, said Dunkle. “And please, no Mister, just call me Dunkle”.
“OK Mr. D----, I mean Dunkle, but please don’t call me ‘little girl, answered Samuela. “And please tell me how it happened”.
“Well it happened like this: One day, four thousand years ago I was swimming not so far from where we are today. The water here is lovely and filled with yummy tasting fish. Always thinking about food, sorry. Anyways, there was this old boat builder, who wanted to build a very large boat. I did not know it at the time, but his name was Noah. That is when I found that I could talk; it was a miracle.”
Noah looked very puzzled. I asked him what he thought he was he doing. He answered: “The Lord, God told me to build a big boat. My sons will help me, but this is a big job. I have to figure out a way to transport wood from the forest down here to my boat yard.”
I told him: “Mr. Noah, sir, I don’t know how I know, but I know about God. I am one of God’s creations. I can help. The forest is near the sea. Get your boys to chop down the trees and load them on to my back. Then I’ll swim them down to your boat yard. If God gives you a job to do, he will give you the tools to get the job done. I guess I am one of those tools. Maybe that is why I am here today and maybe that is why I can talk.”
“Noah just looked at me and said: “I guess so.”
“Samuela, I’ll tell you it was hard work and it took a long time. That was one big boat, the biggest boat I had ever seen. I carried the trees mostly during the day. At night Noah asked me to watch the boat yard. It seems that then the world was filled with a lot of naughty people who liked to take stuff that did not belong to them. It was an easy job. When I saw someone who did not belong in the boat yard I just swam up to the shore, smiled, opened my mouth and showed my teeth. That is all it took; they got scared and ran away. At this time I also found that I could come ashore out of the water and breathe just like you. It was another miracle…WOW!”
“When the boat was finished, I got ready to leave and say goodbye to Noah and the boys. I did not know what Noah was going to do with his boat. I figured that it was a cruise ship for people who wanted to take a luxurious vacation. Well, was I was mistaken. I went up to Noah, and there he was again, hands on hips looking very puzzled.”
“‘What’s the matter Chief’, I said.” ‘You look troubled’”.
“Oh Dunkle, The Lord told me to round up all the animals, and get them on the boat.”
“God told me that it is going to rain and rain and rain. There is going to be a humongous flood and I have to save the animals.”
“So what’s the problem? The boys can round them all up.”
“Oh I know that, but how will I get them onto the boat? Dunkle, I don’t want to hurt your feeling, but these animals are animals and they are wild. Do you think for one moment they are going to listen to me or my kids? I’m going to need help.”
“No problem Chief. They may not listen to you, but as sure as The Lord made green apples and green seaweed they will listen to me.”
“And that is exactly what happened. Noah’s boys rounded up the animals. I just smiled, opened my mouth, showed my teeth and pointed to the boat. Then two by two, as nice as can be, they marched onto the boat. That is, except for the monkeys, who would not stop monkeying around. Well, that’s monkeys for you.”
Samuela agreed. She knew about monkeys, liked them a lot, and once in awhile acted like a monkey. She asked Dunkle what happened next.
Dunkle replied, “Noah, his wife, the boys and their wives thanked me. I waved good-bye, happy to have helped, to have a purpose and proud to be part of a plan. When the rain came, it really came down hard. For 40 days and 40 nights did it rain, a real deluge, but not a problem for a guy like me.”
“That’s quite a story Dunkle. Thank you for telling it to me. And thank you for helping me build a sand castle.”
“Well I do have to go now. It’s getting late and I think I better leave before people come out to swim. I do not want to make anyone nervous.”
“Will I see you again?”
“If you come back out here early tomorrow morning, I’ll be around. And if you want, I’ll tell you some more stories”.
“Dunkle, that would be super... catch you tomorrow. Oh that doesn’t exactly sound right, but you know what I mean; don’t you?”
“Sure do, sweet pea…catch you tomorrow.”
And with that, Dunkle swam off and quickly disappeared from view.
I did go down to the beach early the very next morning. And Dunkle, true to his word, did swim by. I saw him a lot during my vacation. He told me about his many adventures. He taught how important it is to help others out and to lend someone a hand. I learned from him that you did not have to be as large as a school bus to make a difference in the world. He said when he first saw me trying to make a huge sand castle that he decided I was more than just a stubborn little girl. Dunkle called it having a sense of purpose and resolve, and not giving up easily. I liked what Dunkle said; it made me feel proud. I may not see Dunkle again, but I will never forget him.