Shabbat Greetings

GOD MAKES MISTAKES?!  The Creator of the Universe makes MISTAKES?  The Law Giver, the Divine Judge, the Ruler of the World, supposedly perfect in every way, MAKES MISTAKES?

But then, when God’s Creation slides sideways, are the mistakes really God’s?  But by God’s own admission – yes, God makes mistakes as we read in this week’s Torah portion, Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32).  And probably the biggest mistake was to give humankind free will! (8:21) But as we read this week, we notice that it isn’t just humankind that is messing up, but even all the animals on the Earth are doing things that God never intended!  So before you go running  in tears, or write me that you don’t want to get these things anymore, please read on.

So in this week’s portion, God is going to do teshuvah  (repentance) and try to remediate the problems.  And what is God going to do?  God still has faith in God’s creation, but God WILL wipe the Earth clean and start over.  Some say that even the fish in the sea will be throttled.  However God is still going to need a hand to put things back together, so God finds someone “blameless in his age” (6:9) – a guy named Noah and his family – to officiate over the mess and to repopulate the world with decent, God-fearing beings.  God is going to inundate the World, drowning everything and every one, and start over with Noah and the animals and plants that will come with him in the Ark.

The rest of this part of the story is well known.  It’s a shame that that whole Earth had be scraped completely, but while that bothers the Sages,  they are frightened silly that God can screw up!  If God makes a mistake, whatever will become of us and our world?!

When the rains finally stop and the waters go down, we find that Noah has become the first recorded victim of PTSD.  As soon as he got the animals off on their way and his family settled in, he planted grapes, made wine, and drank himself into oblivion!  Can you imagine?  After having gone through that horrendous storm, the rocking and pounding ship, the roar of the wind, working himself nearly to death caring for the rest of the “passengers” on the Ark, with all the noise and the defecation – the disgusting smells and the howling and screaming – and now it all suddenly stops, what is there next to do?  He crashed!  And where is God?  At first, just orders: “Take your family from the Ark and repopulate the Earth.” (8:16-17)  God, however, does comfort Noah and his family by blessing them, promising them and all future generations that God will never destroy the world again like this. (8:21, and most of chapter 9) Great!

God makes mistakes? In summary: First, God created humankind with free will.  Then, God got angry at these beings for using their free will for nefarious purposes, and killed them all except for one righteous family to repopulate the world and do good things.  But this didn’t work all that well either – we will see later in this portion the sacrilege of Nimrod and his Tower of Babel, as well as later the rise of an oppressive regimes in Egypt, Babylon, and on.  Even God’s prime mover. Noah, was turned into a drunken beast.   And humankind still has free will – God knew then that this is a risk of having a being with free will in charge, only the next time, if they screw up, God is going to make them live with results of their actions.  In fact, God even presented Noah with seven basic commandments (Noachide laws), and will eventually present humankind with the Torah, which will hopefully provide them a safe and good life if they follow it, but, of course, the Human Being thinks he/she knows better than EVERYBODY!  The Torah will be the control, but will these intelligent beings realize it?

Later in the Torah, Moses will be told by God that God wants to destroy the entire Jewish people and start over again with Moses.  The major difference between Noah and Moses is that Noah would likely shrug and move on, while Moses will convince God the illogic of doing such a thing and changes God’s mind!

That leaves us with a concept that the Rabbis explore.  Was it really God’s error, or is the Torah trying to teach us that we have to be responsible for our own actions – for cruelty and for injustice that only a being with free will can perpetrate?  And because the Humans get themselves into terrible trouble, the Human is responsible for getting him/herself out of it.  God, then, becomes a moderator and a negotiator, jumping in with both feet when the World is in true danger.

As we read, God’s promise (9:22) is, ““So long as the Earth endures, seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.”

And God seals the deal with a beautiful rainbow. So when is an error not an error?  When it is meant to teach, guide, and sometimes remediate.