Parashat Noach 5777: When even God “loses it”
The story of Noach is known to most of us. The thing is that maybe because we know the story so well we are not aware of how problematic is this story. Even if all human beings were evil and cruel, why God had to destroy the animals that were surely innocent? Did the fish survive because they live in the water, because that’s not fair to the other animals? What about the children, were they evil too? Couldn’t God simply scare the people out of their minds and then demand from them a better behavior? Why do we need all that death? It doesn’t matter how we read the story, suddenly it looks unjust and not fair. I want to propose you that maybe, maybe that’s the whole point of the story. That even God, our Merciful God, when in rage, if he loses it, then the consequences are beyond what is fair and just. Rashi wrote that “wherever there is unethical behavior and idolatry, indiscriminate punishment comes to the World killing good and bad people”. When violence starts, Rashi says to us, there is no way to know where it will stop, what will be destroyed or hurt. Maybe these uncomfortable feelings, this sadness, this disappointment we feel in the story of the flood are the reactions that we are supposed to feel. When we see that even in the best hands, those of God, violence gets out of control, out of direction and justice; then the Torah is telling us that there is no way for violence to solve problems or do justice. The Torah tells us that we must work for a better World where disagreements are not solved by violence, where we don’t teach our kids by beating them, where partners don’t express their anger by violence, where countries and nations don’t get dragged into violent and murderous conflicts. Dear friends, we live in a difficult World, a World of violence and war, but it doesn’t have to be that way forever. After the flood, God gave us the rainbow as a colourful symbol of peace and a holy promise to never again cause such destruction. The beautiful rainbow is a reminder of the need to build bridges and dialogue between each other. It’s the call of God saying: “The land won’t be cursed again because of man”. From the horrors of the flood comes a commitment to life and peace. As Jews it is our duty to pursue after peace, after life. To sanctify life above everything, to love peace. To build together a better World, a society more just, healthier personal relationships. It’s part of what being a Bar Mitzvah means, and it’s part of the duty of every adult here. May it be God’s will that better days will come, more just, more peaceful, happier. May we build together a better place for the next generations and every time we look up to the rainbow in the sky we remember that commitment and we will look into the future with hope and optimism.