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GOD´┐ŻA SOFTER, GENTLER VERSION

From the Cyber Rav--  Rabbi Rafi Rank
rafirank@mjc.org

Rabbi Rafi Rank

When retelling the biblical stories to our children, we sometimes leave out a few critical details.  My Nursery School director, whom I trust in all these matters, reminds me each year that when telling the tale of Esther, nobody dies.  When it comes to the story of Noah, our bowdlerized Bible becomes even more extreme.  This is a story about the end of the world due to widespread corruption and perversity, and yet we have the kids gleefully singing—

The Lord said to Noah, “There’s gonna be a floody, floody” x2

Get those children, out of the muddy, muddy

Children of the Lord

You probably know this song and if you don’t, you should feel no compunction to actually learn it, but think about how different our biblical ancestors understood the story of the flood.  A flood, as the Katrina/New Orleans experience proved so painfully, can be utterly devastating.  Our biblical forebears envision Noah’s flood as capable of not wiping out merely a community or a city, but the entire world.  More frightening still is a catastrophe perpetrated by this so-called loving God to whom we pray and depend on for all of our blessings.

The rabbis, too, struggled to reconcile the harshness of God’s actions with His alleged loving nature.  Because they subscribed to a more compassionate God, they used their midrashic imaginations to clean up the story. 

The building of an ark to hold representatives of all the animal and bird species was a project of no small substance.  According to tradition, it took Noah 120 years to build it.  Ouch!  Couldn’t God have conceived of a more cost effective vehicle for salvation?  He could have, the rabbis thought, but didn’t want to.  To the contrary, He wanted Noah building this ark in his front yard so family, friends, and neighbors passing by would stop and ask, “What are you doing?”  Noah could then warn people about the impending flood and urge them to repent.  Should they repent, God would quickly suspend the whole wipe-out-humanity project.

Sad for the people of the world, Noah’s message was ignored.  But the rabbis teach us that their fate was tied up not so much in God’s wrath as it was in their own stubborn perversity.  When we ignore the truth and trample on all principles of fairness, we don’t need a divine flood to ruin us—we destroy ourselves.  Have we learned a lesson from the Bible’s story of the flood?  I hope so--

The sun came out and dried up the landy, landy x2

Everything was fine and dandy, dandy

Children of the Lord.

That’s the children’s version.  Our version of the story is yet to be written and forever rests in the choices humanity makes.

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