Turn Our Mourning Into Dancing
by Jhos Singer
Shabbat Shalom Chaverim,
This week’s Torah portion, Noach (Genesis 6:9 – 11:32) is focused on the mythic account of a massive, worldwide, completely devastating flood. What makes this flood particularly terrible, aside from its widespread destruction, is that God consciously uses it as a tool to wipe out the bulk of life on earth. This is God’s way of repenting for having ever made us nasty, nasty humans.
And the earth was corrupt before The Powers, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said to Noach, “The end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with violence through them, I will destroy them with the earth.” (Genesis 6:11-13)
The place is a mess, and everything’s gotta go! Except Noach. And his family. And a representative sampling of all the animals, as well as some plants. Noach & Co. float on an endless sea for about a year before the waters recede enough for them to disembark.
Interestingly, specific dates are given for each significant moment of this ordeal:
- The flood begins on the 17th of Iyar/the second month
- The ark lands on Mt. Ararat on the 17th of Tishrei/the seventh month
- On the 1st of Tevet/the tenth month the waters recede to reveal the other mountaintops
- On the 1st of Nisan/the first month the ground was dry, and
- A year later, Clan Noach was finally able to leave the ark on the 27th of Iyar/second month
These are significant moments in Biblical history. They represent the humiliation of humanity and its survival; they symbolize both God’s distrust and faith in our species. They mark our redemption, rebirth, and renewal. And yet these dates pass by every year with no fanfare, no fasts, no festivals. I can’t help but wonder, then: What is the reason the Torah explicitly states the dates of these significant events?
Perhaps it is an act of human compassion. In a rare moment of self-reflection, God expresses regret for Its actions.
And The Creator said in Its heart, “I will not curse the ground any more for on account of humanity; though the human heart is inclined towards evil even from youth. I will never again smite every living thing as I have done. As long as the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.” (Genesis 8:21-22)
Perhaps, in an equally rare moment, Judaism rose to the occasion by omitting these milestones from our calendar of holidays. Though the cost to humanity was great, we, whose hearts are inclined towards evil, demonstrate an amazing capacity to be spiritually generous by not rubbing the flood in God’s face with feasting or fasting. Instead, we have turned a horror into an entire industry of children’s books, toys, and trinkets.
May this Shabbat inspire us to turn our mourning into dancing. May we be generous and strong; learning, growing, and deepening through every experience. And may we, as did our Clan Noach forebears, patiently, fiercely, and compassionately choose life.
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