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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 13 of 21
So how would we look for clues to try to figure that out? Again, in this course we've been using three tools. Whenever we've been looking at a story, on the one hand we've been asking questions about it, just trying to understand the story at a basic level, ask the questions that any intelligent person would ask. Then try to piece together sort of a new, three-dimensional view of the story that seems to emerge from those questions. Sometimes in concert with ancient Rabbinic commentary in the form of Medrash or Talmudic commentary. So that's one thing we've been doing, just looking at the story in and of itself.
But aside from looking at the story in and of itself, we've been doing something else, we've been looking at the story intertextually as it relates to other stories. Of course by that we mean all of these links we've been looking at between creation and re-creation, and looking at, in our case, the story of the vineyard as related in some way to the story of the garden. But then there's this other piece of it which we saw at least with the rainbow and with Sabbath, this notion of structure and particularly chiastic structure and the light that that can shed on things. So in our position we had one example of this where we had two stories and we were wondering about how to understand them, and one story was the original Sabbath and the other story was the original rainbow. We found interestingly enough that the rainbow was structured chiastically, in the sort of chiastic arrow-like kind of way. We also found that the Sabbath was actually structured in that kind of way as well.
So before just quitting our look at the vineyard, it would pay to just look, could we be looking at something where there's a chiastic structure? Is that part of the picture that we should be looking at in order to understand the meaning of what's going on here? So let's at least go back to the story of the vineyard and just at least check and see if we might be looking at something like that.
So it starts here, this is the introduction, this is the setting section as we talked about before. Shelosha eileh benei Noach, um'eileh naftzah kol ha'aretz - these three are the children of Noah and from there the world diverged. So let's go to the very end of the story, very end of the story, Noah dies, and right after the death of Noah, look what we have over here. These are the generations of the sons of Noah; Shem, Cham and Yefet, and unto them sons were born after the flood. Hmm, it does kind of sound like that idea is really pretty similar to this idea. Noah had three sons and from there, there were other nations that came to populate the whole earth, that's the idea over here. The idea over here also that Noah had three sons and from there, there were generations that populated the whole earth. It does kind of seem like these two things are similar. Well that's the beginning of a hallmark of a chiasm, it doesn't tell you there's a chiasm, but we can color code it, we could say we have the generations of Noah over here, we've got the generations of the sons of Noah over here. Anything else?
Well the next thing you do in a chiasm is you look to the second element - the second from first element and you'd look at the second from last element and ask do you see anything there? Okay so let's look up here and ask what we've got? Noah began and he planted a vineyard; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah vayitah kerem, vayesht min hayayin vayishkor vayisgal b'toch ohalo - and he drank the wine and he was drunk, and he was uncovered within his tent. Okay, so as we talked about these words over here; Vayachel Noach - and Noah began, what did he begin? Again according to the Medrash, it seems to be he began to create life or something. So we have this idea of Noah beginning. Then what happens? Well we know the rest of the story, this really is the beginning of Noah's downfall, he drinks the wine, he was drunk and he was uncovered within his tent. So it's this kind of idea of Noach - of might even call it - I'm going to call it Noah from beginning to end. In other words, here's Noah beginning and this was really sort of the end of Noah in the sense of Noah's downfall.
Interestingly, if you look at this section down here, you've got exactly the same idea. Noah, so to speak, from beginning to end. And Noah lived after the flood 350 years and all the days of Noah were 950 years and he died. Noah from life to death. Noah from beginning to end.
You see it actually in an interesting kind of way in a playoff of the Hebrew word. Take a look at this word over here; Vayachel Noach - and Noach began. It actually looks suspiciously similar to the beginning of this section down here; Vayechi Noach. In Hebrew almost exactly the same words, literally the same words with the exception of this letter over here; Vayechi Noach. It seems as if Vayechi Noach maybe a playoff of Vayachel Noach. If you actually look at the last idea over here, again there are opposites. Here, And Noah lived, And Noah died. So this phrase over here; Vayachel Noach seems to playoff both the very first words and the very last words of the opposing section, if this is in fact a chiasm.
But you know, we're just figuring it out, we would have to look at the next section now. So let's take a look and see if the next sections kind of corresponds; the third to first and the third to last. The truth is, it kind of does. They are about the actions of three brothers - or at least the top is about the action of three brothers, the bottom is actually about the consequences of the action of the three brothers. What these verses over here are about is what Cham did and in response - Cham uncovered the nakedness of his father and Shem and Yefet responded by putting a cloak on him. Over here what happens is Noah once he becomes aware of this, curses Cham - or curses Canaan, the child of Cham - and blesses Shem and Yefet. So the actions of three brothers and the consequences of these actions.
Actually, interestingly enough, it's a very elegant little structure within the chiasm here. There's a structure within here and a structure within here which elegantly playoff of each other. I'm just going to show it to you really quickly. Over here we would call this the - our light red section. We can really divide each of these sections up into three parts that correspond with each other. Take a look at it this way. Here's the first of the parts. In the first of these parts, that these are the actions of three brothers. Well the first thing is a focus on Cham, what Cham does. Cham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father. Over here Noach responding talks to Cham's child. He says, cursed be Canaan. So over here the focus is on Cham in the first of these red sections.
The next section which I'm going to make a little bit darker red is where there's a focus on Cham in relationship to his brothers. Cham in relationship to his brothers is section two. Cham in relationship to his brothers. Look what happens. Cham, the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father, that's the focus on Cham, right? But then Cham in relationship to his brothers is what did Cham do vis-a-vis his brothers? He told his two brothers outside. Similarly at the end, you have the focus on Cham over here; Cursed be Canaan, but then Cham in relationship to his brothers, when Noach says; A servant of servants shall Cham be to his brothers.
Now notice that the brothers are not named yet, they're just the brothers, but then in section three the focus goes to those brothers and all of a sudden they get named, Shem and Yefet. Shem and Yefet. Here is section three. Shem and Yefet took a garment, laid it upon their shoulders and went backward. Here Cham has gone, it's like he's not even part of it anymore. It's Shem and Yefet have names now and the only thing we care about is what Shem and Yefet do. They take the garment, they walk backwards, they cover the nakedness of their father. Similarly over here; Blessed be Shem, blessed be Yefet, and Cham has gone.
This progression from focus on Cham to Shem and Yefet, really mirrors what's actually happening in the story, which is Cham is being destroyed. Think what Noach is doing, he's cursing his child, he's cursing Cham and Cham's legacy is just being destroyed. Cham might have been trying to assert himself kind of as the firstborn and get the double portion. What's in fact happening is he's being cursed and becoming subservient to his brothers and his legacy is crumbling until he is almost non-existent. There's just Shem and Yefet. That's mirrored not just in the content of the stories but in the structure of how these three-fold sections kind of unfold.
But anyway, if we consider this our red section, we're kind of up to the center. The center is going to be right over here, Noach awoke from his wine. Vayiketz Noach miyaino vayeida et asher asah lo beno hakatan - Noach woke up from his wine and knew what it was that his younger son did to him. So if that's really the center, if we're really looking at a chiasm, what that's going to suggest - again, going back to our hurricane model - is that somehow the meaning of this text all revolves around this. That this whole text all comes down to, in some level, this is the center of gravity around which it all revolves. Now that's going to be a hint to us, because if we say all of this is an iteration of the Garden of Eden, the tree of knowledge story in Noah's world, if we want to understand what that really means, we're going to have to look at this verse and understand that verse.
So we're going to try and work on that when we come back.
1. The Generations of Heaven and Earth
2. Before the Rain and After the Flood
3. Splitting the Garden
4. Generations of What?
5. Of Rivers and Nations
6. The Vineyard, Introduced
7. God Begins; Noah Begins
8. The Vineyard and the Garden
9. Conflict of Interest
10. Two Hands at the Piano
11. What Cham Did
12. Why Cham Did It
13. The Vineyard's Center
14. What You Know Might Hurt You
15. Why the Drunk Walks the Line
16. The Big Picture
17. Chiasm in the Garden?
18. Chiasm in the Garden II
19. The Center of the Garden
20. The Mysteries of Imperfect Chiasms
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