Monday, October 26, 2009

Parshat Noach - Our end of the deal and YOURS!

Parshat Noach
The Eternal smelled the pleasing odor and the Eternal said in His heart: "Never again will I curse the earth on account of humankind, since the inclinations of the human heart are evil from his youth; nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done." (Genesis 8:21)

After emerging from the Ark, the first thing Noach does is build an altar and offer a burnt offering to God. God acknowledges Noah's offering and in return promises never again to destroy the earth, despite the human inclination to do evil. Rashi notes that the repetition of the promise, "Never again... nor will I ever again..." indicates that this promise is delivered as a solemn oath, a notion which is reinforced by the prophet Isaiah who states in this week's Haftorah, this to Me is like the waters of Noah: As I swore that the waters of Noah would nevermore flood the earth, so I swear that I will not be angry with you or rebuke you." (Isaiah 54:9). God then strengthens this oath, with a symbol the rainbow. So we ask have we kept our end of the deal? How about God – has God kept the Divine end of the bargain? Don’t we continue to give into the evil inclination? Even right after the covenant is made we see Noah getting drunk, Ham's sexually aberrant behavior, and the arrogance of the builders of the Tower of Babel.
So what happens? A set of safeguards are set up by God because there is recognition that we need help on our end, that we will not be able to fulfill our part of the deal and so after the deluge, the world is given another chance, but this time God is not taking any risks. After the flood humanity and the measures of our lives is defined by covenant and law. Therefore, safeguards are put into place, they are called Covenants and the first one is not for Israelites or Jews alone it is made with all of humanity so even before the Covenants with Abraham and the Israelite people a series of laws that were binding on all peoples according to the rabbis is established. There are seven precepts that are incumbent upon all people: they must avoid 1) idol worship, 2) incest, 3) murder, 4) blaspheming God's name, 5) theft, 6) injustice, and 7) eating flesh cut from a live animal. In this way we all stand equal in the eyes of the law before God – equal responsibility to hold up our end of the bargain.

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