Drash on Parashat Noach / Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan
Max Jared Einsohn
Temple Beth Israel
St Kilda, VIC
It is amazing to imagine that at the beginning of parashat Noach, God pondered “there is only one answer: destroy every living person, animal, and anything that breathes life.”
God must have been pretty angry at humankind to have seen the world in such dualistic, black and white, either/or terms. Having created the world just a few chapters back, it must have been tough to obliterate everything God had worked so hard for. This week’s parashah offers us a window into God’s nature, and rash (almost capricious) ability to destroy the lives of so many.
While many who have commented on Parashat Noach before me choose to focus on grappling with God’s decision to flood the world and begin again with Noach, his family and pairs of animals, I was more intrigued this week by something I noticed while reading our sacred text.
Elohim, our God, is a learning God. We were introduced to this notion a few chapters back in parashat Bereishit when God reacts to the workings of creation, exclaiming “It was good” as if in disbelief! And this week, we see that God learns something again, giving us a special gift to remind us of the complex and beautiful world we live in.
After flooding the world and killing (almost) everything, God confesses to Noach “...I will never again destroy the world and all living creatures, as I have just done” (Genesis 8:21). And then, something amazing occurs. We are introduced to another sign of God’s promise and presence in our world: the (rain)bow. 13th century Torah commentator Chizkuni suggests: “the rainbow was chosen because it is composed of fire and water in harmonious fusion. This is a sign that God, who makes peace between opposing forces above, will so too make peace below.” The Zohar further illuminates our understanding of the meaning of the (rain)bow: “for just as the rainbow is a binding-together of a sevenfold radiation, so too is the light emanating from God…the seven colors projections of the attributes of Divine Love…Thus, the rainbow was seen as a reflection of Shechinah.”
If you live in Australia, you likely have seen a lot of rainbows lately, especially in response to the recent plebiscite on marriage equality. I find it fitting that this week’s Torah portion reminds us of the meaning of the rainbow: harmonious, peace-making, Divine love. Parashat Noach also reminds us that, as we are made “B’tzelem Elohim” (Genesis 1:27), that we should learn, like God does, that we should not view the world in either/or, black or white terms.
The complexity of our world allows us to see more than just ourselves, and so we have a responsibility to consider others’ lives and the rights offered to those not like us. The rainbow is a symbol of Divine love offered to, and shared by all people, no matter what religion, gender or sexual preference. On this Shabbat, know that legal marriage for same-sex couples will be a reality someday, even in Australia. It just may take time. But we can be comforted that we have time, as God assures us in this week’s parashah that we are here to stay. May we use our time on earth to reflect the light of the rainbows that surround us, bring peace to the world, and see the beauty of the diverse, and colourful world we live in. Shabbat Shalom.