The flood. Virtually every tradition has a mythology about the world begun, destroyed, and begun again. Whether it’s an environmental catastrophe or an act of divine wrath, the plot is pretty consistent: something’s gone terribly wrong since creation and it’s time to hit the reset button. There’s a link, sometimes tenuous and sometimes explicit, between the old world and the new; and a new covenant between a creator/destroyer/re-creator and the next incarnation of humans.
That’s an anthropomorphic view of the Noah story and a great time to address how this blog will deal with “the G word” which will almost always be HaShem, the Name. I’m more concerned with the metaphor of self and how Torah speaks to self-exploration and development, both spiritual and emotional.
This parshah gives us great advice. Bring all the seeds you can find into your future. You’ll need them to energize your new life. And like Noah counting up the species, inventory every aspect of self that you value, that you want to preserve.
No matter how you try, you’re only human. You’re gonna bring along the cockroaches as well as the deer. But perhaps we need them in our psychic ecosystems. Maybe we need those darker edges to push against. Taoist Judaism 101: there’s no yetzer tov (the good inclination) without a yetzer hara (the evil one). There’s always duality in the land, old or new.
My favorite interpretation of the Shema, Judaism’s essential prayer, goes roughly like this: Listen up God-wrestler, it’s all the same. The world of spirit and the world of matter are all part of the same truth, and you’re responsible for seeing and keeping it all together. For holding everything in the ark of your being, keeping the ship afloat until you reach dry land and then making it better the next round. For doing tikkun olam (healing and repair) in a shattered world. Or in this case in this flooded one.
So what’s this week all about? Taking your commitment to change, to living with greater awareness and intention, to a deeper level. Harvesting your best qualities and letting your worst ones be washed away. Cleansed in the literal sense, even if it takes many applications of hot water and the occasional emotional thrashing to clear them from your psyche and daily behaviors.
We’re the ones who’re responsible for re-creating our worlds. We have friends and partners and teachers great and small in all the wonderful and painful aspects of our lives to help us learn and grow. But in the most existential of ways, we’re each a single speck in the cosmic consciousness. We’re each responsible for making the whole story a better story. How can you do that, for yourself and the rest of us?