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Noah's Spark -- An Interview With Jon Voight

by Ms. Daphne Small

  

Library » Torah » Torah's Divine Origins | Subscribe | What is RSS?


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ASKMOSES: Your mini-series, “Noah,” takes us back to a time 4,000 years ago. Tell us about your journey.

VOIGHT: I had a conversation with Wil Smith while we were filming “Enemy of the State.” He said, “Stories in the Bible, a lot of ‘em can’t be true. Take Noah and the Ark. I mean, of course, that couldn’t be true.” Wil’s a very funny, witty guy, of course, and I think what he was saying was that it sounded too fantastical to be true. And to some degree, I have to say that I agreed with him.

ASKMOSES: What changed your mind?

VOIGHT: As an actor, I’m a great advocator of research. So when I was approached for the role, I sought out information from archaeologists, anthropologists and other scientific sources; people who are often wary of religious philosophies. Quite remarkably, they all seemed to verify a flood taking place around that time period. This helped in my confidence in portraying the character of Noah.

ASKMOSES: Did you consult the Torah?

VOIGHT: Most definitely. In fact, one of the remarkable aspects of Judaism, and I’m not Jewish, is the scholarship passed down from generation to generation. They immerse themselves in this rich, wonderful text, of which the story of Noah is a part. Great minds like Maimonides, the Maharal, the wonderful Chassidic masters and great contemporary minds like the Rebbe. The story of Noah has been examined and contemplated for thousands of years. As a result, we’ve come up with some wonderful insights from the original Hebrew words that give us a depth to the story. I felt I was standing on good legs when I did the piece.

ASKMOSES: How do you see the story of Noah?

VOIGHT: Noah was a man who had a belief in G-d prior to his conversations with G-d, but everyone else around him was devoid of that belief. They thought he was mad. Noah felt G-d must be very unhappy at the state of His creation. As the only person to have this sensibility, Noah was left in despair. Then one day G-d came and spoke to him, confirming his beliefs. So, in a most remarkable way, he found out that G-d existed.

ASKMOSES: Having portrayed the character, what lessons do you think Noah learned?

VOIGHT: Noah learned that G-d was his friend, and that G-d would help him. G-d came to Noah and saved his family, but determined that His creation was so disappointing to Him, so deficient and bent on evil, that He had to destroy it. So, even with G-d on his side, Noah endured great hardships. Facing deep sadness over the tremendous loss of life, Noah was despondent and felt he carried the responsibility of future generations of man to come. Then G-d came to him during this time of despair, and a covenant was made: the rainbow. So Noah learned there’s responsibility, there’s hope and there’s always G-d. We don’t ever have to feel that we’re away from G-d, that we’re unattended. We can return to our purpose and follow through on the seven very important laws of Noah, outlining the prohibitions of idolatry, blasphemy, homicide, illicit sexual relations, theft, eating the limb of a living creature and failing to establish courts of justice.

ASKMOSES: How do you think Noah felt going on the Ark with his family, knowing that he was leaving an entire world behind?

VOIGHT: It took a hundred and twenty years to build the Ark, because G-d didn’t want to bring the flood. He wanted people to change. I think of G-d as the deepest, truest, most loyal friend of all humankind. In terms of having to learn those lessons, most people learn best from mistakes. Unfortunately, we have to face ourselves and feel terrible remorse before we change.

ASKMOSES: How does this apply to your own self?

VOIGHT: I don’t believe there’s a ceiling to growth and learning. People say to me now, “Gee, Jon. You seem to be at peace.” I’m saying, “Well, yes, I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned from some very big mistakes and I’m growing a bit more happy about life.” I can say, “L’Chaim” and appreciate that life has been a tremendous adventure for me.

ASKMOSES: At a recent farbrengen, you—

VOIGHT: I what?

ASKMOSES: That’s what we’re asking you!

VOIGHT: I borrowed somebody’s hat! (Laughing) I was at the University of Texas making a film called “Varsity Blues.” While I was there, I was looking for this book on the dietary laws because I remembered reading it and then losing track of it after I lent it to somebody. I thought it was a wonderful book because it was so full of interesting philosophy. So I said, “Is there a Chabad here, because I think maybe they can help me.”
The hotel that I was staying in got the Chabad rabbi on the phone. “Rabbi, Jon Voight.” So the rabbi says, “Come down, we’re having a farbrengen!”
There was a group of people, some young, some older. Infants with their mothers. We sat around in this little place and we ate and we talked. The rabbi shared stories of the Ba’al Shem Tov that are so full of information, so rich with humor. But they’re powerful tales, very resonant and meaningful.

ASKMOSES: They say that a Chassidic story is when the heart fools the mind.

VOIGHT: (Laughing) That’s great! Everything I just said is perhaps claimed in those simple words.

ASKMOSES: What do you think the story of Noah can teach us today?

VOIGHT: That’s an interesting question. The purpose of the story of Noah’s Ark is to get the word out that G-d lives, that He’s attending to us, that He’s given us His instructions to follow. (Smiling) We gotta stop being deaf, dumb and polite and start listening to our better self.

ASKMOSES: Any final words for our readers?

VOIGHT: I think to be appreciative of everything we all have. I want to recommend that we say a little word of gratitude for being here in this adventure of life, grateful for all the gifts we’ve been given. And that we dedicate ourselves to helping other people enjoy the benefit of these very blessings.

I sought out information from archaeologists, anthropologists and other scientific sources; people who are often wary of religious philosophies. Quite remarkably, they all seemed to verify a flood taking place around that time period


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COMMENTS

wrong archeology

Posted by: Danni, Nykøbing, Denmark on May 07, 2006

There is abselutely no evidence at all for a global flood. There are evidences for a great local flood that took place 8000 years ago, but this was no global one. Its funny how Jewish Kiruv books always tend to quote ancient archeologists and historians when they write books. Is it maybe because they want to hide, what they found out today?

There are 3 greater archeologists who still believe in the stories of bible litterally. And all of these are christians.

Hmmm...who's right...? The three who believed in christianity since their birth and teach about "proofs of Christianity" or all the others who have no other belief (though some of them were born christians)?

According to geology there was abselutely no global flood. According to archeology and biology there are no proofs at all.

Editor's Comment

Who's speaking of a global flood? The flood only had to wipe out all inhabited areas of the time.

Response to the Editor

Posted by: Anonymous on Nov 20, 2006

In response to the Editor's comment that the flood only had to wipe out the inhabited areas of the time:

19. And the waters became exceedingly powerful upon the earth, and *all* the lofty mountains that *were under the heavens* were *covered up*.

20. *Fifteen cubits above did the waters prevail, and the mountains were covered up.*

ALL mountains were covered, every single one, as the Torah clearly states. The Editor seems to disagree with most orthodox rabbis, including ones that I have spoken to on this site, who all believe that the water did indeed cover the entire earth. It's either that or we'll just have to go with science and believe that such an event never happened.

Editor's Comment

Indeed, this is an ancient debate between medieval biblical commentaries. See Rashi and Ramban.

Global Flood

Posted by: John P. Harrigan, Kansas City, MO on Dec 13, 2006

Indeed there is controversy, but the controversy is not over who has evidence or whose is right or wrong. Rather, it is a controversy over the interpretation of the same evidence. For example, take the fossil record and "geologic column". Evolutionism argues that the fossils were formed over millions of years through slow sedimentation. Creationism argues that the same fossils were formed in one year through rapid sedimentation.

Thus, to say there is no evidence for a global flood is nonsense. The global fossilization of soft bodied animals (e.g. jellyfish, worms, etc) testifies to a rapid burial, and liquifaction is a far superior explanatory mechanism for the uniform global stratification that we see (for an explanation of what liquifaction is and its implications in a global flood, see Walt Brown's book "In the Beginning"). The whole earth is evidence for a global flood; it just depends on the weltanschauung through which you view it.


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History » Early Years

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Maimonides
Moses son of Maimon, born in Spain in 1135, died in Egypt in 1204. Noted philosopher and authority on Jewish law. Also was an accomplished physician and was the personal doctor for members of the Egyptian royalty. Interred in Tiberius, Israel.
Chabad
Chabad, an acronym for Wisdom, Knowledge, and Understanding, is the name of a Chassidic Group founded in the 1770s. Two of the most fundamental teachings of Chabad are the intellectual pursuit of understanding the divine and the willingness to help every Jew who has a spiritual or material need.
Chassidic
(Pl.: Chassidim; Adj.: Chassidic) A follower of the teachings of Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), the founder of "Chassidut." Chassidut emphasizes serving G-d with sincerity and joy, and the importance of connecting to a Rebbe (saintly mentor).
Rebbe
A Chassidic master. A saintly person who inspires followers to increase their spiritual awareness.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.