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Noah: The Flood and the Rainbow
Video 10 of 22
So let's just focus on understanding what it is basically this text says, what happens in the rainbow covenant? So pretty much what happens is that G-d destroyed the world and after destroying the world, after Noah comes out of the ark, so G-d shows him a rainbow. In showing him a rainbow says that this rainbow is going to be a sign of a covenant. As for Me - for G-d - behold I am going to establish a covenant with you, and not just with you, but with everybody who is going to come after you. It's not just with mankind this covenant is, it's with all creatures, it's with all flesh, so it's mankind, it's animals, it's everyone. That covenant is, I'm going to establish my covenant with you that all flesh shall not be cut off - Loh yikaret kol basar. We talked about that word before. All flesh won't be cut off anymore by the waters of the flood, there won't again be a flood that will threaten the earth.
One of the strange things as you begin reading it, is that the rainbow covenant seems inordinately repetitive. It just seems to say the same thing over and over again. Pretty much we've said the main content of it right here in these three sentences, it doesn't really seem like anything more is going to be added here. But we're going to get all this down here and it's going to seem to repeat itself. Now we know that the Bible is a pretty sophisticated work of literature, it's not going to be guilty of just sort of gross repetition, the kind of thing that even your Seventh Grade kid wouldn't do or you wouldn't do if you were in Seventh Grade. So one of those mysteries we're going to try to figure out is what is the deal with all this repetition over here? So we're going to get back to that in a minute.
But let's just see what else is being said here. Okay so the next thing is G-d says, this is the token, this is going to be the sign of the covenant that I'm going to make between - with Me and with you, which is that I've set my bow in the cloud. This is for Me - again, it's going to be a sign of the covenant between Me and between the whole earth. Now what does this mean, I've set my bow in the cloud? Of course if you look at rainbow - here's your - a real quick picture of a rainbow, so rainbow is a bow, that's how it gets the word rain-bow. So it's a bow, kind of like a bow and arrow kind of bow, and as such, it's a weapon of war. At least metaphorically it's a weapon of war.
Nachmanides' approach to the rainbow by the way, is exactly this, it's that you would imagine this a big bow, and it's a bow in the clouds. What G-d is really saying is that I've taken My bow, My weapons of war as it were, and I've put it away, it's in the clouds. You even see by the way which way - Nachmanides' makes a point about this - which way is the bow facing. If you would imagine this as a real kind of bow it's facing away from the earth. So G-d is saying I'm taking My bow, it's facing away from the earth, I'm putting away My weapons of war.
If you think about that, there are modern sort of symbolic gestures which we have which get across the same idea of putting away your weapons as a way of making a covenant, a deal, a treaty, that there will be no more war. One of the ways in which human beings make a treaty one-on-one is through handshakes. If you think about how handshakes developed, if you look at the history of handshakes, basically what you would do in a handshake is that you would show your palm, you would show that there was no weapon in your palm. And your willingness to grasp another person's hand is to show, to verify, that neither of you have weapons, that you're putting away your weapons. Even if you think about salutes in the olden days, forts used to salute ships with a blast of the canon from the fort, but blasts with blanks in them. There would be blanks in the canon. The blanks would again suggest no weapons.
So this is the way we would greet. You greet someone, you make a deal, you make a truce with them, by showing no weapons, and in the rainbow something like this happening too. G-d is saying I'm making a deal with you, a covenant with you, I'm putting My bow away, I'm putting My bow in the clouds.
Anyway, getting back to the text, G-d continues and tells Noah; And it will come to pass when I bring clouds upon the earth, whenever again I bring clouds - now if you think about clouds in the context of the flood, that's kind of a scary thing. When G-d says that He's going to convene clouds in the future if you're Noah what's your emotional response to thunder clouds? That's going to make you feel pretty nervous. But G-d says, whenever there's thunder clouds in the future you're going to see My bow in the clouds and then I'm going to remember the covenant, which is between Me and you and every living creature of all flesh. That the waters no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. Now this again seems very repetitive, it's the kind of thing which we had up here. So we'll have to explore why it's here.
But that's pretty much the idea - it's a little bit different over here, G-d says, I'm going to remember the covenant, and we'll talk about that over here. Notice that whose job is it - whose job is it to remember the covenant and seemingly it's a unilateral thing, this is G-d's job. Even though a covenant is by definition bilateral, it requires me to do something and requires you to do something if we're both going to make it, there's a unilateral kind of aspect in this covenant. G-d says I'm the one who has to remember it, it's not up to you to remember it, it's up to Me to remember it.
One of the things which we want to explore by the way is to the extent that any covenant is bilateral, it requires two sides, what is the second side of the rainbow covenant? In other words, this is G-d's part of the deal, G-d's part of the deal is I'm going to remember the covenant, I'm never going to again destroy the earth. What is the human side of the deal? Is there a human side of the deal? Is there another side to this covenant? So this is a question which I think we're going to want to explore.
Anyway, just to continue finishing up the text over here. The bow will be in the clouds, I will look upon, I will remember the everlasting covenant between G-d and every living creature. Again, seems very repetitive, we had all this stuff before up here. Finally, G-d says to Noah, this is the token of the covenant which I've established between Me and all flesh. Almost a repetition of what we said before up over here; This is the token of the covenant between Me and you and everyone. So we're really going to want to try to understand why all of this repetition is in the story.
What I want to do with you now is offer you a clue towards that answer. Towards why there's so much repetition. In general, in Biblical text, if you ever see a text like this, where it just seems like over and over again we're getting this repetitious kind of stuff, it just seems like twice as long as it needs to be. You've always got to wonder whether something fishy is going on - in particular, the fishiness is a very subtle and elegant - an extremely elegant - literary tool at play just underneath the surface of the text. I want to introduce that tool to you right when we come back. I'll see you soon.
1. Water, Water Everywhere
2. Parallel Universes
4. The Sixth Day
5. Brave New World
6. Noah's World
7. Is There a 'Sabbath' in Noah's World?
8. Sabbath Echoes
9. Rainbows Have Seven Colors
10. A Bow In the Clouds
12. Chiasms: More Than Just a Pretty Face
13. Colors of the Rainbow
14. Numeric Centers; Thematic Centers
15. Taking Stock: Where Are We Now?
16. Sabbath's Center
17. How Tiring Was It To Create a World?
18. Rest As the Purpose of Work?
19. Positive Rest
20. What If a Parent Never Lets Go?
21. Conclusion: Two Ways to Destoy a World
22. Epilogue: Why the Rainbow Covenant is a Two-Way Street (Premium)
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