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Noah: The Flood and the Rainbow
Video 3 of 22
I want to take a break from considering whether it's real for a moment, we'll get back to the issue of evidence, but I want to consider the possible question of meaning with you. What could this possibly mean? What theory can we proffer here to make some sense of why the creation story is mirroring itself in the post-flood story? Or to put it a little bit more precisely, what would you say is the most responsible theory to proffer here? The most conservative theory? By that I mean, what would you say is the least we can surmise by virtue of these connections between the creation story and the flood story?
So I would suggest that if we're seeing the creation story mirrored in a story after the flood, think about what happened in the flood, you would say the world was destroyed. So in the post-flood world when G-d was rebuilding the world we might say that if that rebuilding process mirrors the creation process, perhaps what the Torah is telling us is that we should look at the story of the post-flood rebuilding as a re-creation event. As another creation story, as if the world is being re-created, it's happening again, creation is happening a second time. Now that sounds plausible, and, as a matter of fact, it does sound so plausible that you may just say, what's the big deal? Who cares? I mean, obviously, yeah, of course, so G-d is rebuilding the world, so tell me something that I didn't know already? Let's talk about why this is a big deal. Why is it a big deal to look at the flood story as in fact a story of re-creation?
Okay, so let me just point out to you that - like two minutes ago, before we talked about this, this would not have been the way most of us would have thought of post-flood story, as a re-creation story. Here's why. If I stopped you with a little man on the street interview, or if you did a man on the street interview, people who knew a very little about the Bible and you said to them, you know there was this time right after creation, about 10 generations later, you know that G-d decided that He was going to destroy the world and wipe mankind off the face of the world. Why would He do such a thing? So most people who know the story would say, well mankind was evil, they were very bad and G-d decided to meet that evil with a punishment. G-d decided that He was going to kill out all of mankind.
Okay, so that's one way of looking at the story. People were bad, G-d punished them. What I want to suggest is that's not the view of the story which is supported by these parallels between creation and the post-flood story. Here's why. Let's ask ourselves, what was the target of the flood? What was G-d really trying to destroy in the flood? So, as I've just suggested most of us might say it was mankind, but think of it this way, if mankind was the only thing being destroyed, then after the flood G-d wouldn't need to re-create the world would He? It would only be necessary for G-d to repopulate the world, because the main thing that happened is that people were being gotten rid of, and now that the world is back in shape again so we just have to repopulate it with people. But that's not what these parallels are suggesting.
Instead, it seems that the target of the flood was the earth itself. G-d needed to actually re-create the world in the wake of the flood because that was the target, that's what was being destroyed. Yes, after that He needed to repopulate it but there would be no need to re-create a world unless that world had been destroyed, unless the earth itself somehow, the very environment, had been completely eradicated. Again, what I'm suggesting is that it wasn't really people that was the target in the flood, it was actually the environment itself.
The truth is you actually see this if you look carefully at the text itself, when the text gives the reasons for the flood at the very beginning of the flood story in Genesis Chapter 6. You can open your texts there, or you can follow along on the screen, but look here for words that constantly reappear. Any words that you see getting really, really emphasized in these three verses over here, in Genesis Chapter 6, verse 11. So; Vatishacheit ha'aretz lifnei haElokim vatimalei ha'aretz chamas - the earth was corrupt before G-d, the earth was filled with violence; Vayar Elokim et ha'aretz v'hinei nishchata - and G-d looked at the earth and saw that it was ruined, it was corrupt because behold; Ki hishchit kol basar et darko al ha'aretz - because all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. So G-d said to Noach; Keitz kol basar bah lefanai - the end of all flesh has come before Me because the earth is filled with violence through them, I'm going to destroy them along with earth.
Look how many times the word earth appears in the story. Earth, earth, earth - the end of all flesh has come before Me for the earth is filled with violence. I will destroy them through the earth. One, two, three, four, five - five times over here in three verses everything that's mentioned has to do with the earth. The earth was filled with violence, the earth was corrupt, G-d looked and saw that the earth was terrible and the end of all flesh has come before Me. Why? Because the earth is filled with violence. It's that it's - what's primary here is the earth; what is secondary almost is the people. It's just the people created a situation that made the earth corrupt, that made the earth ruined. The people ruined the earth. The earth had to be rebuilt.
It's almost like trickle-down corruption - if you remember back in President Reagan's term they talked about trickle-down economics. If you think about trickle-down corruption, it starts with people, people were corrupt, and then the way of all flesh - implying actually animals. This actually is how Rashi sees it also. All flesh had corrupted themselves; the animals somehow were influenced by people. Actually interestingly, Rashi says that the - when the earth were filled with violence, in Hebrew this word Chamas actually seems to refer to robbery, to stealing. Rashi says that was the sin of the people of the flood, they were stealing. Then when it says all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth, Rashi sees that, what can animals do wrong? Rashi says it means they mated with animals that weren't from their kind. Well if you think about cross mating in the animal world, there's actually a similarity between that kind of idea and stealing. The idea is sort of boundary crossing. The people crossed their boundary - social boundaries - between each other by taking each other's properties. The only boundaries the animals have - similar boundaries - would be boundaries between the Phylum and the Genus and the species.
Then moving on, the last thing is the earth itself somehow is corrupt. It's the recipient - it's almost if you would think about in a physical sense, to give you an analogy, the idea of pollution, people can physically pollute the earth. It somehow, in some sort of I guess spiritual way, there was this sort of trickle-down corruption that eventually ruined the earth and made G-d decide you know, it's time to renovate. I had to rebuild the earth, get rid of the old one, destroy it - which has interesting ramifications for the meaning of the flood.
We talked in the beginning about the flood being this punishment, people were really bad and they were punished. But if you think about it now, it's not really that the people were punished, it's that G-d was renovating. G-d had to get rid of the old world and create a new world, and while He was renovating, well there's no place for you to live, so I've got to get rid of the people meanwhile. So put some guys in a boat and keep them alive until the renovation is complete, then He can put them back inside and then people come back inside. But until then, there's no place to live. It's not so much that people are being punished as it is that the world simply has to be rebuilt. It got destroyed, it's ruined, G-d can't have a ruined world.
Which leads, of course, to one last issue, which is why Noah was saved? If you think that the people were punished and Noah was saved, so Noah was so righteous that he was saved because everyone else was terrible but Noah was great? But if you look clearly at the text, the text actually doesn't say that Noah was saved really because he deserved to be saved; Noah found grace in the eyes of the L-rd - Noach matzah chein. This word in Hebrew, Chein, probably best translated as grace, is not the same thing as deserving to be saved. Grace is actually something that has very little to do with deserving, when you find grace in someone's eyes. G-d decided - G-d had to save somebody because He had to repopulate the world once it was over with, G-d decided to save Noah, and Noah was the one who found grace in G-d's eyes. But it wasn't that there was a world of people that were being punished and Noah wasn't being punished, it's that there were renovations going on, someone had to be saved. Noah found grace in the eyes of G-d.
These are some of the ramifications of this new way of looking at the flood, a way that I think is not really that obvious. The world after the flood is not just a repopulation, it's actually a re-creation, it is a second creation story, it's as if the six days of creation are happening again. The $64,000 question is if the world is being re-created, is it the same world or is it a different world? Is G-d making a new world with different rules? How might the new world be different from the old one?
We'll talk about that when we come back.
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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