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Noah: The Flood and the Rainbow
Video 20 of 22
Or to be a little bit more kind of precise about it, you might say, Melacha is a creative merger of mind and action. In order to really create I kind of need mind and action together. If you think of action alone without mind, that sort of brute force labor, that's really what we mean by the kind of labor that you exert yourself and you get tired and that's the only kind of significance of that labor. It's just brute force.
But there's another kind of labor which is where - and I'm using human forms here even though we're talking about G-d - where you would imagine mind directing the labor. What I mean by that is that in your mind you have a plan, you have some sort of teleological thing, you're going somewhere, but your mind alone isn't going to actualize your plan, you actually have to do something in order to actualize your plan. But what you're doing is directed by your mind. So what you're doing is you're taking the world around you, taking what there is, and shaping it into ever more sophisticated things according to your plan. So your plan is kind of gradually emerging. I think that's kind of what I would call Melacha. It's you're tinkering with what it is that you've created. You've created something and you're building it and you're making it better according to the way you want it to be.
So let's get to rest then. If rest is always going to be the complement of work, so if I'm doing work that's defined by exertion, so as we said before, I have a certain kind of rest, I have a rest which would be defined as a breather, something which is going to give me time to recoup my strength as it were. But if I have this, Melacha, the act of a creator who is perfecting what it is that they're creating, what does rest do in that kind of scenario? What is the nature of rest? In other words, if we imagine a creator who doesn't get tired, there's no kind of exertion, a creator who is infinitely powerful, but they're tinkering and perfecting what they're creating, why would a creator like that need to rest? What kind of rest does Melacha demand irrespectively of how much exertion might be involved in doing the Melacha?
So I want to suggest that the answer to this takes us to a certain kind of paradox involved in the idea of rest, and that paradox gets back to an idea which we talked about earlier. Remember when we talked about - you find this actually in the traditional Sabbath prayers, in the Friday night, and that is this notion that rest is the Tachlit - in Hebrew - of creation. Tachlit is sometimes translated as purpose, it's probably a pretty decent translation, but it comes from the word Calah, which really means end point, the finishing off point of creation. It's the natural end point of creation. What I mean by that - and here's the paradox - is that the final creative act in making anything is paradoxically stopping to create. The reason for that is that what rest does is rest grants independence.
This is a kind of continuum over here of what we're going to describe as positive rest. I think the first stage of that continuum, and the first thing to understand is that rest grants the thing that you're creating independence from you, the creator. When I'm creating something I'm not creating it so that the thing that I'm creating is perpetually tied to me, like a little marionette. I want to ultimately break these strings that connect the thing to me, I want it to be independent. As long as I am working on something, as long as the thing that I'm creating is still under construction, it doesn't really exist yet, at least in the sense of something that is separate from me, I'm still tinkering with it. It's only in the act of ceasing, and in stopping and in pulling back that I say that the thing which I've created, ready or not, it is what it is and it is now independent from me, I am breaking these bonds that connect me to the thing, and saying, it now exists independently.
Once it is independent of me, once I am up here and the thing is over here, then for the first time I can relate to the thing that I've made. And, the thing that I've made, the creature that I've made, can relate to me. A relationship implies independence. There's no such thing as relating to something that you're still in the business of making. Something which is completely just your marionette, something which you are still in the process of making, is not sufficiently separate for you to relate to it. To think that you're doing so is really just an exercise in narcissism, all I'm doing is relating to an extension of myself. In order for a relationship to be real, in order for a relationship to be significant, the thing has to have a certain kind of separateness from me. I have to be over here, the thing has to be over there, and then we can relate to each other. Without stopping the creative process, that distance isn't there and there can be no relationship.
So stopping to create is a kind of positive rest. It's not something which is negative, it's not just that I'm trying to get my breath back so I can work some more, it is a presence, it is doing something. It is (a) the final creative act that makes the thing what it is, it grants independence, and (b) having done so, it then allows me to achieve the real purpose of creation, which is it allows me to enjoy and to relate to the thing I've created and allows the thing to be something separate, which can relate back to me.
To think about this in a slightly different way, the energy of fixing something, we might say, is very different than the kind of energy that's involved in relating to it. If you imagine even in the human realm, if you get away from the abstract theology of G-d to think about just ourselves as human beings, when we're involved in fixing something we aren't really relating to it. Imagine you're a musician, you're creating a musical piece, you're playing it a little bit and you're figuring out how you can adjust notes here and there. You're not in a position where the piece is what it is and you play it and you enjoy it and you can relate to the piece. You're just involved in fixing it, you're just testing it out.
To take a more human example, relationships. I'm married for 20 years but I'm always trying to fix my spouse [laughs], I've always got these power tools in my hand and I'm trying to make them better and work on them in these kinds of ways. To the extent that you're just involved in tinkering and fixing and trying to improve and fix you here and fix you there, I'm not really relating to you. As a father to a child - not necessarily to a spouse - if all I'm doing is fixing you, there is a time for fixing in child raising and all of that, but the goal is so that the child can achieve a certain kind of independence. When the child achieves that independence then I have a fully formed relationship with the child, two independent beings, me parent and you the child are now relating to each other. When I can create something and then nurture it through to independence, that is the purpose of what it is that I'm trying to achieve when I'm involved in the process of creating. If I never get there, I sabotage myself.
Speaking of sabotaging myself, let's talk about the opposite, let's talk about what happens with creativity with no rest, with none of this sort of positive rest, what happens then? Let's look at the arrow going in the other direction. If I don't rest, if I never stop creating, then what happens is, I create a perpetual attachment between me and the creature, the thing that it is that I'm creating, it's never really separate from me. Me and they can never relate as independent beings. Here's the final kicker, the creature is ultimately destroyed through my ongoing tinkering. Think about what happens if as a creator I can never stop tinkering, I'm always trying to fix something, I'm always trying to make it better. What if I'm an artist and I can never stop painting, I'm always adding the next curlicue, I'm always just oh wouldn't it better if I just add a little bit more paint over here and a little bit - and I never stop doing that, what happens to my painting? It collapses under its own weight. Its own artistic integrity is destroyed. The process of creation ultimately, scarily, will lead to destruction if it's not stopped.
Take a different example, what if you're a mother, what if you never let go of your child? You know, you're always fixing the child, you're always fixing the child, you're always tucking the child in and you never let go and you're never able to just let the child be independent and skate on her own. What happens then? Well it's all very nice and cute when the child is nine years old, but what happens when the child is 20? What happens when the child is 30? What do you do? You destroy the child.
This, I think, gets back to the center of the Sabbath and the center of the rainbow, but that's a story that's going to have to wait for another 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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