Emerging, Renewing and Walking with Sacred Purpose
As election day approaches, with the first female presidential candidate on the ballot , it is fitting that this d’var Torah on Parashat Noah, is guided by the commentary presented in The Torah: A Women’s Commentary (pp 36-46). The editors associate the Noah story with transgression and Divine Response. We learn that it is human violence that prompts the unleashing of the flood. At the same time, Noah, the hero of his time, receives a covenant from God that promises the “immortality” of humankind.
One of the commentators (p. 37) suggests that the biblical flood is not primarily a punishment, but “a means of getting rid of the thoroughly polluted world and starting again with a well-washed one. The Flood represents a return to primeval chaos, with water breaking through all of the boundaries God created to form and protect the earth. Following the flood, “God remembered Noah (8:1). God begins to restore the world to order by reversing the direction of the waters. As is often the case, “remembering” connotes acting. The Flood reverses Creation, and the aftermath is a new Creation that recalls the Creation Story in Genesis 1. God promises, “Never again will I bring doom upon the world on account of what people do, though the human mind inclines to evil from youth onwards…As long as the world exists, planting and harvesting, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never end” (8:21-22).
The transgressions leading to the Flood transform God’s expectations. They result in new rules for guiding humankind and God’s promise of a perpetual covenant. These blessings and new directive signal a new beginning. The underlying values inherent in this covenant affirm that life is precious. Humankind is elevated because we were made in the tzelem – likeness of the Divine. This is immediately followed by restating the commandment from Genesis 1, “pru ur’vu – be fruitful and multiply,” emphasizing the on-going need for renewal. The keshet – bow is transformed from a weapon to a symbol of peace (rainbow).
Imagine what it felt like to emerge from the Ark and take those first steps on the new Earth. Today, do we see beneath our feet the same holy ground Noah saw? God, as we know, “walked with Noah.” And, beginning with Abraham and Sarah, the Jewish people began walking with a sacred purpose. Every generation since is called upon to reflect on this same question, ” Before we take another step, are we choosing to walk through our lives with a renewed sense of sacred purpose?”
Nina J. Mizrahi, Community Rabbi