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Noah: The Flood and the Rainbow
Video 19 of 22
Okay, so; Vayechal Elokim bayom hashevi'i - and G-d finished on the seventh day. On the seventh day G-d finished; Melachto asher asah - His work which He had made. The word work over here as a translation of Melacha, I'm not crazy about, I'm going to talk to you about that a little bit later. But let's just keep it for now. So on the seventh day G-d finished His work that He had made. Vayishbos bayom hashevi'i mikol melachto asher asah - and He rested on the seventh day from all His work that he made.
Okay, now if you draw a line right over here - or right over here in English - and you say, this over here is the first half of the sentence, and this over here is the second half, so what's the contradiction between the first half and the second half? How do these sort of not make sense? First half; On the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made. Second half; And He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. Take a look at that, see what you think.
Okay, here's what I think. So I've crudely here outlined the first half of this and the second half of this. I've put the second half in kind of mauve and the first half in kind of bluish underline - not very pretty but underlined nevertheless. So what do you say? On the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made. And then He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. So let's just take a look at the first half of this for a moment. Just looking at the first half of this sentence over here. On the seventh day G-d finished His work which He had made. Now what if I asked you this question, was G-d doing any work on the seventh day? Yes or no, was G-d doing any work on the seventh day? So if you just look at the first half of this verse, the answer would have to be - or it would seem to be - yes. Because there's this word over here. G-d finished [all] His work which He had made. So on the seventh day if G-d was finishing, it sounds like G-d was sort of finishing up His work. So if you're finishing up your work on the seventh day, the answer is, yes you are doing something on the seventh day, you're finishing up, you're finishing up your work on the seventh day.
So now the problem is that if you look at the second half of the verse, so it says that G-d rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had made. Well that sounds that was G-d doing any work on the seventh day? The answer would be no, G-d rested from all His work that He had done, on this day. So if G-d rested from all His work, it sure sounds like the answer is no, G-d did not do any work, He was resting on the seventh day.
So the question is which is it? The first part of the verse seems to say G-d was finishing up His work, second part of the verse seems to say G-d rested all day long from all His work that He was doing.
So Rashi for one takes this contradiction pretty seriously. As it happens Rashi has an ingenious solution to this problem. Rashi is sort of the grandfather of the Medieval Commentators, and Rashi proposes the following solution. Yes, G-d did create something on the seventh day just like the first half of the verse seems to suggest. And yes, G-d also rested all day long too, just like the second half of the verse suggests. Now you argue that those two ideas seem to contradict each other? Well Rashi says, they don't contradict each other. If you actually think about it there is a logical solution that will allow both of these things to be true. So try puzzling over this for a moment folks, how could it be that G-d created something on the seventh day but also rested all day long on that day too? How could you create something on that day but also rest all day long at the same time?
Well there is an answer, you probably guessed it at this point, and Rashi's answer is, on the seventh day G-d created rest. Yes, G-d rested all day long and created something. What did He create? He created rest. Well brilliant, you say, amazing, who would have 'thunk' it, G-d created rest. But there's a problem with that, if you sit back and try this on your friends, you say, yeah sure, G-d created rest on the seventh day, if you actually think about that notion for just a moment there's a problem with it, what's wrong with saying that G-d created rest on the seventh day?
The answer is it just doesn't sound like something that needs creating. Why would someone need to create rest? To be a little bit more clear about that, what do you need to create? You create some things, rest isn't a something, it's the absence of a something. What does it mean? Rest means not working. So you don't actually have to create something called rest, the only thing you would have to do to get rest is just don't work. If you don't work you're going to get rest. So why do you say that rest would be something that needs to be created? In other words, imagine for a moment if someone said that you would need to create darkness, or you would create darkness. So you would say, darkness is just the absence of light, so I don't need to create darkness, all I need to do is turn off the lights. Light would have to be something I create but darkness is not something I would create, why do you have to create darkness? Similarly why would you need to create rest? Rest isn't a something, it's the absence of a something.
So if Rashi tells us that on the seventh day G-d created rest, if you really think about it, I mean Rashi is telling us an amazing thing about this rest. It's a counterintuitive kind of rest. It's not the kind of thing that you and I normally think about rest. Welcome to the notion of positive rest. Rashi seems to be suggesting that there is a positive thing, there is a something called rest. That the kind of rest that G-d experienced on the seventh day was not a nothing kind of rest, it was a something kind of rest. Now we just have to figure out what is that something kind of rest. What is the strange nature of positive rest?
Now a clue to that, I think, is going to come back to this notion of an omnipotent perfect being that - like G-d - that never gets tired, why would He need to rest? Ah, He wouldn't need to have the normal, conventional kind of rest, rest as in absence. Rest as a breather, getting you ready to do more work, that wouldn't be the kind of rest which you would expect from an omnipotent being. But maybe the strange notion of positive rest is something that even an all-powerful being could experience at the end of creation. So what is this rest?
I want to argue that it has something to do with what the work is. If you imagine rest as a counterpart to work, so if we want to understand the strange notion of this kind of positive rest, what we really need to do to understand that first is to understand this notion of work. What kind of work was G-d, so to speak, engaged in, in the six days of creation? So interestingly, the Hebrew word for this is not the conventional word for work which is Avodah, it's actually a specialized word for work known as Melacha. If you go back to this text over here you'll find that the word used over and over again to describe G-d's work - the word which is conventionally translated as work over here - remember I told you I didn't like that translation? The answer is, it's because it's the translation of this word over here, which is - in English if you would just transliterate it - known as Melacha, which is very different than the normal Hebrew word for work, which is Avodah. Avodah is the kind of work that makes you tired, it's regular, conventional work, what is Melacha? There's Melacha three times here in this narrative describing the kind of work that G-d is doing. What is that notion of Melacha?
Well that will be the issue, that will be the thing which we'll need to define going forward. I think once we understand what it is we may well understand its counterpart too, the rest, which is mysteriously positive in nature. So we'll come back and take a look at that in our next video.
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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