Wednesday, October 13, 2010
At Shabbat Services I asked the question about repentance with regard to Noah and the flood. Why were the generation of the flood not given the opportunity to repent? Noah offers no defense of his friends and countrymen. He says nothing in response to God's command. He just starts building. The rabbis suggest that the building of the ark was actually intended to be a sign, a goad, motivating the people to repent. This sign obviously failed and the world was destroyed. In the end maybe the story is not about the people's failures, despite our tradition's attempt to find a sin so great as to merit the world's destruction, but about God's. In the book of Genesis God impresses order on creation. God fashions order out of chaos in Genesis 1. The Rabbis in fact suggest that God created many worlds before this one and destroyed them because they were flawed. Only this world did God let stand despite its imperfections. With this world God must learn to quell anger. God must learn to give more room for human beings to better their world. At the beginning of our story God is angered by the disorder of Noah's generation. At the conclusion and its covenant of the rainbow God promises to forever quell this angry impulse. This is the meaning of the rainbow. The entire Bible can be read as a lesson about God learning to let go and people taking more responsibility. By the end of the Bible, as Jack Miles observes, God is silent. God withdraws to give more room for creation. We can no longer wait for God to right today's wrongs. We must fix the world ourselves. God is waiting. Every day God recreates the world and its beauty, in for example, this season's changing of the leaves' colors. God is waiting for us to improve the world. God is waiting for us to fix the world's problems and make it even more beautiful. The lesson of the Bible is that God created the world, drew us into the covenant and is forever waiting for us to better this imperfect world.