As a biology teacher I can totally relate to Noah connecting to animals more than humans sometimes, they love you unconditionally, they are straight forward. I love animals, almost all types, maybe not ticks and mosquitoes. I am the advisor for the animal club at College where I work, and we try to raise funds for animals in need from the flooding and hurricanes this season – oh wait that sounds like Noah!
What could it be to inspire Noah amidst all the violence of his generation to walk with God instead of his companions, and to take in all those stray animals? I propose that the force was love. He was in love with the ideals of life, with nature probably, with the Potential for Goodness and Creativity, even in terrible and violent times. In other words Noah was in love with God. And this inspired him to listen to that voice when it told him to build a boat, even though he was on dry land, and to take in all those stray animals. The animals just came to him, and he took them in. It was his destiny, and he was open to it, though it seemed to others to be strange. And that boat became a link in time for life itself, was the bridge between heaven and earth. We’ll read in a couple of weeks that Jacob’s ladder is seen as the place where heaven and earth touch, but isn’t the rainbow that bridge also? It specifically says that although the bow is in the sky, the covenant is with the earth. My yoga teacher, Maria this morning spoke of chakras and said that love, and the heart are that bridge between heaven and earth, and I totally rewrote my drash.
One of my students this past Sunday asked me if Noah story was real. I told Jack that there actually have been five mass extinctions on this planet, where life had to start over with a tiny remnant. For the Animal club last year I gave a presentation on climate change and the dying of Australia’s great barrier reef. The coral reef is the nursery of the sea, so many other creatures depend upon it including the fish that we rely on for food. In Parashat Noach God makes a covenant, a sacred deal with Noah. Genesis Chapter 9 I will make my covenant with you, and all life will never be cut short by the waters of a flood. There will never again be a flood to destroy the earth..This is a sign that I give for the covenant between Me, you and every living creature that is with you for all generations….I will place my bow in the cloud and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth. I will then remember the brit (covenant)
Why does God make this particular covenant, and what is our human part of the deal?
Perhaps this large scale destruction by drowning violates a code of Holiness based on separation that we find in Torah. For example at the end of Shabbat we perform Havdallah which means “separation”. Earlier this year, as I led a Havdallah at a Jewish retreat and questioned “Why do we thank our God of One-ness for separation? My teacher, Reb Marcia Prager, answered me that without separation “I can’t say I love you” and that, by the way God also creates bridges! There’s really a lot of instances where separation creates holiness in Torah: –we separate meat from life-giving milk, and life from death. Creation itself began by separations: light from dark, water from dry land. Holiness can perhaps be defined as a separateness. But in floods, water is out of control and drowns, becoming an agent of death and decay. Water, the elixir of life, the grower of food, the cleanser, a bringing death?! I think that’s why God’s promise is not to destroy with flood waters – it’s too perverse a mixture. The covenant creates separation! Finally the rainbow itself is created by separation, droplets in the sky are what cause rainbows, water acts as the prism to separate the colors that are hidden, from the mix of white light.
And what is our part of the covenant: I am sure we must be like Noah, caring for the creatures of the earth, and to be wary of the violence that fills our world or it will drown and devour us. We know what we should be doing, but rushing on in our busy lives to acquire the newest things and out-compete others, do we forget to look up to the sky for rainbows?
An Armenian tale I recently fell in love with about our destiny and finding Joy I learned from Daniel Schwartz’ book “Finding Joy”
There once was an orphan boy, so poor he had to work hard each day, barefoot in the fields. In his despair he wondered why, was it his destiny to be so miserable, or was there something more he could look forward to? Hearing that the Messiah was seen outside the gates of a far city, he undertook a quest – a difficult journey to ask his question. On the way he encountered a ragged looking wolf. Where are you going? Asked the wolf, and he told him. If you find the messiah can you ask him a question and bring me back the answer? Yes, promised the boy. Why must I always be so incredibly hungry all the time? the wolf wanted to know. OK, I will ask. He continued on his way and met a beautiful but sad and lonely young maiden. Can you ask the Messiah for me, how can I find a worthy young man so I won’t be so lonely? she asked. He promised. Next the young man found a large tree and rested under it. It was near a brook, and although some of its leaves were green, some branches held dry leaves. Can you ask the Messiah why I am so thirsty though I grow near a stream? And the boy promised. Finally after many long and difficult months, the boy found his messiah! Please, can you tell me if I am destined to be in misery? asked the boy. I will answer you because of your youth and persistence. It is not your destiny to be miserable if you will only take advantage of the opportunities life brings your way, you can find great happiness, answered the holy man. Overjoyed, the young man remember the questions of the tree, the princess and the wolf and ran back home to find his new luck. He stopped once again under the shade of the dying tree. “Did you ask the Messiah my question?” Queried the tree. Oh yes, said the boy, long ago when you were a sapling a wealthy man buried a treasure in a large box between your roots and the stream. Well, then said the tree, dig it up and you shall be wealthy and I will quench my thirst! Sorry, said the boy, I must run home to find my luck. And the boy ran on, and the tree dried up and died. After awhile the boy happened upon the maiden. Did you ask the messiah my question? she asked. Oh yes, said the boy, he said that one day a handsome traveler will wander by and you will not be lonely any more. Marvelous, said the princess, you are so handsome, perhaps we could be happy together! Sorry, said the boy, I must run on to find my destiny. And the princess looked on helplessly as the young man ran on. Finally, the young man found the wolf. Did you ask the Messiah my question? Oh yes, sad the boy, your destiny is not to be hungry. He said that one day a fool will come your way that does not understand about wasting opportunity, and you will know what to do. And the wolf’s hunger and the foolish young man were no more
I think the treasure is Torah, and her laws of kindness, the young maiden is love and I think the ravenous wolf in the story is war and violence. I also know in my heart that our destiny is to find happiness and joy. But to do that we must respond as life puts challenges before us, not have blinders on, and to listen to our ancient wisdom, and look to the heavens, and know that only through love can we be, like Noah, a place where heaven and earth meet.
Heaven and Earth, by Craig Taubman
I don’t know where, I don’t know how, maybe later, maybe now,
but somewhere, heaven and earth meet
Perhaps it’s only in a dream, never to be found or be seen
But somewhere, heaven and earth meet
We stop to think of miracles of better days to come
Perhaps we’re just too close to see
The miracle is you and me
I want to believe in a better day
I want to believe, I want to believe
I want to believe in a better way
And I want to believe that heaven and earth touch some place