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October 27, 2022

10/27/2022 04:16:37 PM


Rabbi Hearshen

The story of Noah’s Ark has been turned into a children’s story for quite some time. We’ve decorated kid’s rooms with the Noah’s Ark motif and we have toys for them to play with. We imagine the entire episode through the eyes of the floating zoo. We think about the enormous amount of work Noah and his family had to do to keep the ark clean and the animals fed. We think about the ark floating on the water for days and days until it came to a rest on the top of a mountain. In making the story so childish, we fail to recall the other side of the story… the side that was not on the ark. When we look deeper beneath the surface of the waters, we find a story about destruction and mass death. We find struggle and misery. We find a world destroyed only ten generations after it was created. To ignore the immense pain that must have been a part of the episode, is to ignore the entirety of the story.

In Pirkei Avot (5:2) we learn that there were ten generations from Adam until Noah. This was to show that God was patient and hopeful that the world could improve and that after ten generations God was fed up and just gave up on the experiment. When the limit was reached, the decision was made to destroy the world through water. I’ve often wondered why water. Why not fire? Why not an earthquake? Why not any other tools of destruction in God’s arsenal? The answer I’ve come up with is that the world was not destroyed. If God had wanted to start over anew, the world would have been destroyed and then God could have had the opportunity to create Adam and Eve 2.0. Instead, God kept two pairs of each animal alive along with Noah and his entire family. That means the world was not created anew but brought back through the remains of the original creation. In Judaism, we think of water as a purifying substance. We use the mikveh to purify and sanctify. The reason God chose water was that God wanted to purify the world, and in order to do so, God put the entire world into a giant mikveh.

When the surviving land animals (humans included) emerged from the safety of their ark, they were ready to restart the world with the remnants of the past. They were ready to do so with a new vision, a covenant between them and God, and with new abilities they were given to help keep the world going smoother, such as the allowance to eat meat. The rainbow at the end of the flood invoked the lesson of hope in a tomorrow with this restarted creation. I think of hope being linked to the story because of the Hebrew for the word mikveh and the word for hope. The word for hope: תקוה and the word for the ritual bath: מקוה share the same root letters which means when we submerge in a mikveh, we’re submerged in hope, and so the same is true of the flood.

In the world today, when we’re each trying to do our part to better the world, we have to see we can’t “blow it up” and just start over. We must do our best to purify the world and make it better with what we have. We have the ability to be the change the world needs us to be. We have the ability to use our hopes and dreams to transform the world into a better tomorrow for us all.

Mon, October 2 2023 17 Tishrei 5784