Par­shas Noach – Drown­ing in a Lack of Heaven

The Jewish Voice - - PARSHA - By: Rabbi Pin­chas Win­ston (TO­RAH.ORG)

The Tal­mud says that Noach was also in­cluded in the de­cree of de­struc­tion and would have drowned in the Great Flood with the rest of his gen­er­a­tion had he not found chayn—fa­vor—in the eyes of God (San­hedrin 108a). The ques­tion is, if Noach had chayn from the be­gin­ning, as his name, the mir­ror im­age of chayn, seems to im­ply, and the To­rah's ac­count of his life seems to say, then why was he ever in­cluded the de­cree of mass de­struc­tion of mankind?

It's a good ques­tion, but the more im­por­tant one at this time is prob­a­bly how chayn saves a per­son from Di­vine de­struc­tion, es­pe­cially an­other flood. “An­other flood?” you ask. “Didn't God prom­ise never to bring a flood against the world ever again?”

Yes and no. He promised never to de­stroy the world by a flood of wa­ter again. He never promised not to drown a sin­gle na­tion in wa­ter, as Pharaoh learned the hard way at the sea, or part of the world by a flood of a dif­fer­ent type, as we too may learn the hard way (Ze­vachim 116a).

From the fol­low­ing midrash it is clear that “drown­ing” has dif­fer­ent con­no­ta­tions:

Rab­bah bar Bar Chanah said: Once I was on a boat and saw a fish upon whose back grass was grow­ing. We thought it was an is­land. We alighted, baked, and cooked upon it. When the back of the fish be­came hot it turned over, and had the ship not been so close, we would have drowned. (Bava Basra 73b)

Rabbeinu Ya'akov ex­plained: Rab­bah bar Bar Chan­nah saw with Ruach Hakodesh— Holy Spirit—that in the End-of-Days the Jewish na­tion will rule over a peo­ple. They will as­sume that this peo­ple has no hope of ever over­com­ing them and will there­fore sub­ju­gate them. When the peo­ple have suf­fered much they will “turn the plate over on its mouth” and re­sist the Jewish na­tion. If Moshi­ach is not close at hand, the Jewish peo­ple will “drown” from the many prob­lems that will arise. (Tu­vcha Yabiyu, Parashas Balak)

Thus “drown­ing” is a eu­phemism for any sit­u­a­tion that over­whelms a per­son, and is of­ten used in this man­ner. Peo­ple “drown” in debt. They “drown” in work as­sign­ments. They “drown” from a lack of shalom bayis, or peace in the home. And now we are wor­ried if we will “drown” from Ebola, or from ISIS and its de­struc­tive bru­tal­ity, God for­bid. There is al­ready a sense of be­ing over­whelmed by both.

To some this may sound melo­dra­matic. I know that many do not like to read an­cient prophecy into cur­rent events, even when they seem like a good fit. I am not go­ing to do that. Rather I am go­ing to in­voke an­other idea from the To­rah, one that we are com­manded to fol­low even if we do not like it:

Re­mem­ber the days of old; re­flect upon the years of [other] gen­er­a­tions. (De­varim 32:7)

Re­mem­ber the days of old: what God did to past gen­er­a­tions who pro­voked Him to anger. Re­flect upon the years of [other] gen­er­a­tions: [I.e.,] the gen­er­a­tion of Enosh, whom [God] in­un­dated with the wa­ters of the ocean, and the gen­er­a­tion of the Flood that [God] washed away. An­other ex­pla­na­tion is: [If] you have not set your at­ten­tion to the past, then “re­flect upon the years of gen­er­a­tions,” i.e., to rec­og­nize the fu­ture, that He has the power to be­stow good upon you and to give you as an in­her­i­tance the days of Moshi­ach and the World-to-Come

(Rashi)

This im­plies that his­tory is pat­terned. It says that as ran­dom as events may ap­pear to man they are not, and if they are (Sifrei 32:6). sim­i­lar to events from the past about which we know some­thing we should, or rather we are ob­li­gated, to make the com­par­i­son. What we have been told is sup­posed to help us with what we have not been told, even at this very late stage in his­tory.

It has al­ways been dif­fi­cult for dis­be­liev­ers to take Di­vine Prov­i­dence se­ri­ously. Noach had to con­tend with this ev­ery day he worked on the ark, a full 120 years. They came to scoff and to mock him, never think­ing for one mo­ment that signs of im­pend­ing doom were in fact signs of im­pend­ing doom. They were prob­a­bly peo­ple who still thought, af­ter the doom was upon them, that it too would pass and al­low life to re­turn to their idea of “nor­mal.”

If they did that back then, long be­fore sci­ence and tech­nol­ogy came along to de­mys­tify life, how much more likely is this to hap­pen to­day? Now peo­ple can lis­ten to sci­en­tists who brag that their great­est con­tri­bu­tion to mankind is that they are able to show how God, if He ex­ists at all, did not have to be in­volved in the Cre­ation process.

The “sim­ple” tech­nol­ogy avail­able to ev­ery­one to­day would have made us look like gods in the eyes of the an­cients. Our lives are “mag­i­cal,” em­pow­er­ing just about ev­ery­one to have con­trol over his or her life. Even “believ­ers” who use such tech­nol­ogy have to make an ef­fort to keep God in the proper place in their be­lief sys­tem.

In the mean­time, Ebola is spread­ing. Pro­jec­tions are be­ing made and there is rea­son for great con­cern. With all of our ge­nius, and all of our re­sources, and all of our tech­no­log­i­cal knowhow we have yet to find a way to con­tain it. We have sent men into space and con­fronted the harsh­est of con­di­tions but are be­ing slayed by a deadly mi­crobe. It's hum­bling.

On an­other level, ISIS is do­ing on a hu­man scale what Ebola is do­ing on a mi­cro­scopic one. This Is­lamic ex­trem­ist group is also prov­ing to be deadly and dif­fi­cult to con­tain, and can eas­ily mul­ti­ply their threat if they can get their peo­ple into for­eign coun­tries with in­tent to cause mass de­struc­tion. These days it is so easy to do so. It is also hum­bling.

It is cer­tainly get­ting our at­ten­tion, as it is in­tended to do. Like a per­son at a large gath­er­ing who wants to be heard, and is, af­ter hit­ting his glass with a spoon, God is hit­ting His glass,

“An­other flood?” you ask. “Didn't God prom­ise never to bring a flood against the world ever again?” It has al­ways been dif­fi­cult for dis­be­liev­ers to take Di­vine Prov­i­dence se­ri­ously. Noach had to con­tend with this ev­ery day he worked on the ark, a full 120 years

so-to-speak, to get our at­ten­tion as well. I do not know if this is part of the fi­nale, but at some point in time mankind has to be hum­bled. It is part of the Mes­sianic process, at the End-of-Days.

If we had con­tin­ued to ad­vance and be­come in­creas­ingly more em­pow­ered while main­tain­ing a high level of aware­ness of God and the ap­pro­pri­ate level of hu­mil­ity, then we would be able to just main the sta­tus quo and glide with dig­nity into the Mes­sianic Era as the Tal­mud says:

Rebi Alexan­dri said: Rebi Ye­hoshua ben Levi raised the fol­low­ing con­tra­dic­tion, “It says, ‘Be­hold like the clouds of Heaven came one like the son of man' (Daniel 7:13). It is also writ­ten, ‘Lowly and rid­ing upon a don­key' (Zechariah 9:9). If they merit it he will come with the clouds of Heaven. If they do not merit it he will come upon a don­key.' ” (San­hedrin 98a)

The Tal­mud says that Noach was also in­cluded in the de­cree of de­struc­tion and would have drowned in the Great Flood with the rest of his gen­er­a­tion had he not found chayn—fa­vor—in the eyes of God (San­hedrin 108a).

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