Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew Institute of Riverdale
In many ways the Noach and creation stories are parallel.
In both, water plays a central role. The deluge reminding the reader of that moment in the beginning of the Genesis narrative when "the spirit of God hovered over the face of the waters." (Genesis 1:2)
In both, darkness plays a central role. In the midst of the deep darkness of the deluge the only light in the entire world was the tzohar (window) in the ark. (Genesis 6:16) This again corresponding to the world coming into being where in the midst of darkness God creates light. (Genesis 1:2-4)
In both, animals play a central role. Many sentences describe the entry of all the animals into the ark triggering in the reader's mind the Genesis One theme where God creates all forms of life.
In both, similar commands are given by God. When Noach leaves the ark he is told to be fruitful and multiply, reminded that he has the potential to have dominion over the world and given a diet (Genesis 9:1-3)--echoing what God told Adam at creation. (Genesis 1:28,29)
From this perspective the story of Noach is nothing less than a second story of creation. Humankind having failed once is given a second chance by God.
Tragically, this experiment was unsuccessful as described in the tower of dispersion. (Genesis 11:1-9) In fact, the tower episode becomes the segue way to yet a third beginning whose centerpiece is God's election of Abraham and Sarah. Consider the parallel imagery between the paragraph dealing with the tower of Bavel and what occurs to the Jewish people.
In the dispersion narrative there is a city, a language and a tower, (Genesis 11:1,4) much like in the Jewish realm where there would also be a city--Jerusalem, a language--Hebrew and a "tower"--the holy temple. (Menahem Liebtag of Yeshivat Har Etzion has pointed out this parallel.) But whereas the goal of the generation that built the tower was self-serving, to "make us a name" ve-na'aseh lahnu shaim (Genesis 11:4)--in the Abraham story he builds an altar not for himself but for God (va-yikrah b'shaim Hashem) (Genesis 12:8)
In one word: the first eleven chapters of the Torah are universal. God chose humankind over all other species He created. But humankind did not fulfill the chosen role God had assigned to it on two separate occasions. (Bereishit Rabbah 39:5) .
And here begins the third story of creation where God chooses Avraham and Sarah to be the father and mother of the Jewish people. Their mandate was not to be insular, but to be a blessing for the entire world. (Genesis 12:3) To redeem the Jewish people through which the entire world will one day be redeemed.
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© 5758/1997. Rabbi Avi Weiss, Hebrew
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