Regret: Bereshit 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Are you good at changing plans at the last minute? Do you thrive when you need to be spontaneous? Or do eleventh-hour changes only frustrate and derail you?

Only 10 generations after the creation of the universe, God laments God’s boldest creation:

The Pitch: “Adonai saw how great was human wickedness on earth – how every plan devised by the human mind was nothing but evil all the time. And Adonai regretted having made humankind on earth.” – Genesis 6:5-6

Swing #1: “When there is some affliction or judgement in the space-time-soul then surely it reduces from the joy of Hakadosh Baruch Hu, as is written (Gen. 6): ‘And it grieved His heart;’ and as they said (Sanhedrin 46)): ‘What does the Shechinah say? “My head hurts” etc.,’ and this person who enters into the joy can surely know according to the matter of the joy. He can also know on what part of the structure the judgement is decreed, for he knows according to the structure of the mitzvot: If he cannot perform of the heads of the mitzvot, i.e. mitzvot that depend on the head, he knows that the judgment is decreed on the heads of space-time-soul, and likewise with the remaining structure of the mitzvot.” – Likutei Moharan

Swing #2: “While the nature of what has fundamentally gone wrong with his creation remains vague, the impact on Yahweh and his decision in the face of it are not. … The fruits of human hearts bring an ache of regret to Yahweh’s heart, and with it a marked change in his attitude toward his creations. The force of this is marked by the fact that this is one of the few direct notices offered by the narrator of just what God is feeling.” – W. Lee Humphreys, The Character of God in the Book of Genesis

Swing #3: “Therein lies the tension: The flood is beautiful but destructive. The desert is cleansing but calamitous. The people are regenerative but resistant. This struggle, I now realized, dominates the Israelites’ time in the wilderness and is the chief story line of the second half of the Five Books of Moses. In many ways, Numbers mirrors what happens in Genesis. At the beginning of the Bible, God’s task is to create humanity and he follows a vicious cycle of creation and destruction: First he gives life to Adam and Eve, then they disappoint him, and he banishes them from his garden, forcing them to start from scratch. Adam and Eve go on to spawn humanity, who also disappoint God. He destroys them and starts over with Noah.” – Bruce Feiler, Walking The Bible

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators learn about the text’s rare revelation of God’s emotions? Does it indicate that God’s decision to destroy the world with a flood is fueled mainly by a gut reaction? At what point should our emotion overrule our sense of logic? Is this what happens to God just before the flood?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: We’re resuming Emanu-El University this Tuesday; if you’re interested in celebrating an Adult B’nai Mitzvah, we’ll meet at 6:45PM, and Judaism 101 follows at 8:00PM. Classes are free and open to the public.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of regret, legendary manager Casey Stengel spoke with bitterness – albeit with humor – when the New York Yankees fired him in 1960: “I’ll never make the mistake of being 70 again.”

Shabbat Shalom!