Posted on October 28, 2022 by Rabbi Arnie Gluck
The Story of Noah and the Flood belongs to a genre known as apocalyptic literature. Found mostly in the Hebrew Bible and the New Testament, these scriptures describe cataclysmic events that will occur before God intervenes to redeem the world. All these prophecies speak of events that will occur at the End of Days, with one exception — the story of Noah.
The story of Noah is set not at the end of history but at the beginning, and this is neither accidental nor incidental.
Having created the world as a place of order and goodness, and having given humanity tremendous power over it, God is quickly disappointed by our abuses. The world has descended into chaos, filled with violence and corruption, and God regrets having created humankind. So God decides to bring a massive flood that will destroy all but a chosen few — the righteous Noah and his family — who will usher in a new world. But here, what began as a classic apocalyptic tale takes an unexpected turn.
The postdiluvian world — life after the flood — is not perfect. There is no paradise, no messianic era, only devastation. And what is Noah’s response? He plants a vineyard, makes wine, and gets drunk to escape the horror. Then God makes a grand pronouncement: Never again! “Never again will I doom the earth because of man…nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done.” (Genesis 8:21)
What started out as an apocalyptic vision has become an anti-apocalyptic story that tells us there will be no more divine interventions. God will not overturn the order of nature and will not change the course of history. God will not save us from ourselves. Only we can do that.
After the flood God sends this very message to humanity in the form of a rainbow, signifying a new paradigm of relationship — that of covenant, of partnership. Joining in partnership with God and with one another we can bring hope and healing to the human family. There will be no replacement for this beautiful and broken home that we share, so we must join hands and commit to repair it.
The story of Noah is, ultimately, one of human empowerment. The world, with all its magnificent beauty and imperfection, is in our hands. There is much brokenness; there is no denying that. But the world is not beyond repair, and we have the tools that are needed to fix it. We have had them all along, from the very beginning.
We are blessed with minds that can discover creative and effective ways to utilize earth’s abundant resources in a sustainable and equitable manner. We have hearts that can feel for the needs of our fellow human beings and respond to them with compassion and love. We can create beloved communities in which children can grow and thrive and adults can work together for the common good. We have been given the gift of conscience to discern what is just and right, and we can establish structures for the fair and proper administration of society that grant equality for all. We were created with the capacity to accomplish all these things, and we can do them if we work together, as God would have us do.
Rabbi Arnie Gluck