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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 10 of 21
Now you know you might have left it well enough alone and said, yeah, well I guess because Canaan plays a role later in the story so I guess he gets mentioned over here, but then the text goes out of its way to say; Shelosha eileh benei Noach - these three were the sons of Noah, as if to sort of exclude something over here. Because it's interesting because here we talked about four people; Shem, Cham, Yefet and Canaan, and then all of a sudden we've got these three - that is to say not Canaan, why would I have thought that Canaan was one of these children of Noah? How does that work? Well I think that as we begin to piece together the story you'll see in the Medrashic analysis of the story, this ancient Medrashic teachings of the Sages, that actually is precisely where they're going. This possibility that on some twisted kind of way Canaan could be considered one of these first generations in a sense, but I'll get back to that.
Okay, so the next question we considered, what was it that Noah began? The verse talks about and then Noah began; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah vayitah kerem - as I talked before; And he planted a vineyard. And he planted a vineyard sounds like he's doing something else when he plants that vineyard, that's not what he began. So if he didn't begin the vineyard, so what did he begin? So that was another question we had. A third question we have, what did Cham do? At the beginning when it says what Cham did that was so bad, he saw the nakedness of his father, but later on when Noach wakes up and Noach realizes what happened, he realizes what Cham did to him. Well Cham didn't do anything to him, he just saw, right? So what did Cham do? Did he see or did he do? Finally, the fourth question we had when Noah ends up cursing the perpetrator, he doesn't curse Cham, instead he curses one of Cham's children, the fourth child of Cham, Canaan. He seems to be cursing the wrong person, so why is Noah doing that?
So these are the questions we had, I want to come back now and explore these with you. In order to do that I want to make use of this sort of ancient form of Rabbinic commentary known as Medrash. I am going to quote three or four pieces of Medrash, we're going to try to piece it together, some of them quoted by Rashi, some of them appear in the Talmud, some of them appear in Medrash Raba and other places. But before I do that, some of these ideas are going to sound a little bit wild, so I just want to give you a real quick introduction to the idea of how to understand Medrash and how to understand what it is we're about to do.
Okay, when we think about Biblical texts and Medrashic commentary, I think one of the most tragic mistakes we can make is to read Medrashic commentary in isolation from the text that it's commenting on. You can't just pick up a book like The Little Medrash Says, a sort of popular little child's anthology of Medrashic commentary, and just start reading it. Because the stories that it talks about are going to sound absolutely wild and strangely crazy. Why would the Rabbis tell me absolutely wild and strangely crazy stories? Jonah was swallowed by two different fish, that the arm of the daughter of Pharaoh extended and stretched, and how is it that we understand that? Why didn't the Biblical text say it if it was really true? How do we - why do we have to believe these strange things that are in Medrash?
I want to give you sort of two analogies for understanding Medrash. The first is air traffic control. [Clip from air traffic control]. Biblical text and Medrashic analysis operate - are kind of two different levels of meaning. There's the simple level of the text and then there is the Medrashic level of what's happening. These can often appear to be in conflict, but the reason why they appear in conflict is they're only in conflict if they were flying at one level so to speak, not if they were flying at two different levels.
Let me take a second to explain what I mean by that. If you imagine there are two airplanes, Airplane Number 1, and Airplane Number 2. So these two airplanes are coming together and they're about to hit each other. This one is proceeding this way at 120 miles an hour, and this one is proceeding this way at 120 miles an hour. But then amazingly they don't hit each other, why don't they hit each other? Why don't they crash? The answer is because they're only horizontally in conflict, vertically they're not in conflict. Vertically, if you would view this as a cross section, you would say this airplane is up here at 10,000 feet and this airplane is down here at 5,000 feet and therefore they're not crashing.
I want to argue that Biblical text and Medrashic text is kind of like that. Biblical text operates at 10,000 feet, Medrashic commentary operates at 5,000 feet. Since they're operating at different plains they don't actually crash with each other. They actually sort of complement each other. It's like Medrashic commentary is at a deeper plain of meaning then simple text; it is relating to simple text and it's accenting it. I want to argue that it's almost like the subconscious of the text, it's that your total awareness is a merger of your conscious and subconscious minds. Your subconscious mind enriches your conscious mind in many ways, in ways that you don't even realize, and that's what's really going on with Medrashic text, it's almost like the subconscious of the text.
To give you another analogy, to try to make it a little bit more clear, I'm going to use a piano analogy with you. What you see on your screen is an incredibly talented piano player, playing a piece from Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack which he actually scored himself. If you watch what's happening, the music that you're hearing is a seamless interweaving of what his right hand is playing and what his left hand is playing and it's coming together and it's almost sounding like one seamless symphonic orchestra. But he can only get that orchestral kind of sound because he's playing with two hands. If he was playing the theme that he was playing with only one hand, it would sound very simple, but you'd understand the theme. Right? It would be the Pirates of the Caribbean theme. But what if you only heard the left hand? It would sound like nonsense, it just wouldn't sound like anything, it would just be a bunch of random chords. But if you hear them together, well it really sounds like Pirates of the Caribbean. [Music playing]. It has that depth of sound which you would only get by it coming together.
Well I want to argue that something like that is going on with text - Biblical text and Medrash. The right hand is Biblical text, it's a story. The left hand is these crazy things that don't seem to make sense but they're harmony to the story. There are pieces in the melody line which the harmony part is accenting and it's picking up on. Did you notice this? Did you notice that? If you read the left hand alone, if you just see the left hand, it's not going to make any sense, but if you put them together it makes a lot of sense.
What we're going to do next is we're going to introduce you to the Medrashic half of the vineyard story and when we come back I want to show you how that left hand when you put it together with the right hand, it really combines for a very fascinating story.
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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