Sunday, October 25, 2009

Parshat Noach: Another fine mess

(Here's the first fine mess.)

Might as well start with DovBear's post. I'm linking to his Parshat Noach post through mine just because I'm too lazy to set up that link explaining the word Parsha again.

Okay, here are the problems that I see.

  • B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 6: Noach/Noah doesn't protest when HaShem, er, Elokim, says He's going to destroy all living creatures. HaShem, Elokim, oh, man, do I have to scrounge up that link to the Documentary Hypothesis again to explain the different names of G-d? Sigh. Here it is.
  • Why doesn't HaShem, er, Elokim choose some species-specific plague to wipe out the human race only? What did the animals do to deserve to be wiped out? For the record, I think I swiped this thought from GoldaLeah's B'reishit Noach post, which you should definitely read.
  • B'reishit/Genesis, chapter 7, verse 2: HaShem--yes, HaShem, not Elokim--tells Noach to take seven of every clean beast (male and female), and two, male and female, of every unclean beast. Nu, exactly how is Noach supposed to know which animals are "clean" and which are "unclean" when that list isn't mentioned in the Torah for at least another book and a half?
  • Poor explanation: "Therefore was the name of that place called Babel (Bavel), because there HaShem confounded--balal--the language of all the earth . . . (B'reishet, Genesis chapter 11, verse 9.) Bavel comes from balal?? Wrong consonant, sorry--not even in the transition from Ashkenazi to S'fardi, or from S'fardi to B'nei Edot HaMizrach (Children of the Communities of the East, e.g., Syrian, Iraqi, Yemenite) pronunciation, where they've been known to say "tob" rather than "tov"and "panav" for "fanav," can one substitute the letter bet for the letter lamed. Close, but no cigar.
On the plus side, at least the "begats" specify "sons and daughters."


Blogger smoo said...

What I find interesting is the almost universal assumption that God's role in any tale of the Bible is one of infallible, unerring intent or action. Even in the story of Noah, God specifically regrets what he has created, later changes his mind about the appropriate course of punishment for a given circumstance. The lessons of the Bible are many but less so when we limit the lessons we can learn from the actions of the God/parent/power-figure. Perhaps we can learn what a powerful figure should NOT do. Perhaps the unexpected actions of this figure will give us pause to question what is or isn't appropriate. Maybe He purposely acted this way to educate us. Perhaps to teach us when we get something wrong, we shouldn't always give up everything we worked on and start fresh. Maybe there are alternatives.

Much of Genesis is a paradigm for the human condition conveyed through parable and allegory. (Many parts of Bereishis are allegory. R. Slifkin gives sources and goes into detail how the creation story is allegorical with deep meaning to impart without any scientific relevance). The Torah was written for us as a guide not as a history course or a theological, philosophical, scientific work (although obviously some of these factors invariably are incorporated into the stories). I suspect that the WAY the story was told in the Bible and the lessons it conveys is directed more for us in order to inform us about who we are, how we act, and what is appropriate. I don't know for sure that its purpose is to inform us of the nature of our deity. Although it does so to some extent, it's not the focus. It's not theology.

Biblical stories are ethical lessons yet they are multidimensional and some lessons may come from unexpected aspects of the parable. As I mentioned, God regretted WIPING OUT AN ENTIRE WORLD and later realizing it wasn't so effective. If He was all knowing and compassionate, He would have realized that people would be people and return to their unjust ways and He could've found a better solution (He decided that that course of punishment would never be used again). So do we just chalk it up to divine justice; they all deserved it, even the animals and wash our hands of it or do we look deeper and perhaps consider other alternative methods of justice or just recognize that God is willing to look at His own actions objectively and reconsider them? How many times do we stick to our guns once we can't undo our action? How many times do we actually admit we may have erred? Maybe God is saying if He is big enough to do so, so should we. In the end, I think no action should beyond investigation even from the protagonist who is supposedly beyond reproach.

Mon Oct 07, 03:28:00 PM 2013  

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