Be Kind, Rewind: Noah 2019

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you reversed a major decision you’d previously made? Did you reverse it impulsively, or did you think about it for a long time? Are you glad you reversed it?

The flood story in the Torah is a literal rewinding of the original Creation narrative:

The Pitch: “In the 600th year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the 17th day of the month, on that day, all the fountains of the great deep burst apart, and the floodgates of the sky broke open.” – Genesis 7:11

Swing #1: “The surge of waters from the great deep below and from the heavens above is, of course, a striking reversal of the second day of creation, when a vault was erected to divide the waters above from the waters below. … The Flood story as a whole abounds in verbal echoes of the Creation story (the crawling things, the cattle and beasts of each kind, and so forth) as what was made on the six days is wiped out in these forty.” – Robert Alter, The Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary

Swing #2: “Spatial separations made in the name of purity enact the humble bowing down of his creatures before the overwhelming majesty of the Lord. Everything in creation is arranged in order; each thing on a lower rank to be kept apart from one above, contact between them to be mediated by sacred powers given for the purpose.” – Mary Douglas, Leviticus as Literature

Swing #3: “Originally, this rain descended in a regular manner to give people a chance to still repent when they observed that Noah’s prediction was about to even at that stage the rain would have proven to repentance come true. Had they done so, it would have been beneficial. Only their failure to respond even to this phenomenon turned this rainfall into disaster.” – Rabbeinu Bahya

Late-Inning Questions: Do you agree with Rabbeinu Bahya that the people had a legitimate chance to prevent the flood before God went through with it? Why didn’t they seize the opportunity to repent? How can we best recognize the moments to take bold action?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Over the next three Shabbatot, we will have guest sermons: tomorrow, from one of our teens, Sophia Fox; on November 9th, a tribute to veterans; and on November 16th, from CJF’s new shaliach (Israeli emissary) Naama Fux. Saturday mornings at Emanu-El continue to be special.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of seizing the moment, congratulations to the Washington Nationals on their stunning World Series victory. It’s hard for me to remember a team with more resilience or a better ability to come through when all seemed lost.

Shabbat Shalom!