Friday, October 27, 2006

Me and the Mabul

By now, I suppose all of you think that I hold Noah and his flood are a fiction. Not quite. Despite what you might think, I am not ready to pronounce the story entirely false. In my mind, there may have been a man named Noah, and he may have made a boat of some kind for the purpose of escaping some kind of flood. He might even have taken some animals with him.

Here, though, are the pronouncments I am prepared to make:

1 - Judaism and the Torah do not rest on Noah. If we go back in a time machine, and find Noah and his boat, gam zu l'tovah. If not, so what? If Noah is proven not to have existed, it does not follow from this that the torah is false, and the the mitzvos are a hoax. The story may have been included, by God, in the bible for instructional purposes. Or it may have been grafted on to the original revelation by first temple Jews (they were mostly idol worshippers, remember?) Or perhaps, this story, like Shir HaSHirim, is meant to be taken figurativly. We're Jews, and Jews aren't literalists.

2 - People who know how and where to look are agreed: There's no evidence of a global flood.

3 - The boat described in the bible isn't big enough to contain "...every kind of clean animal, a male and its mate, and two of every kind of unclean animal, a male and its mate, and also seven of every kind of bird, male and female, to keep their various kinds alive throughout the earth."

4 - The story the bible tells appears to be two different stories knitted together (Note: I am not saying that it IS two different stories, only that it looks that way to anyone prepared to engage the text on its own terms.)

5 - Doubt and discussion are always a good thing. The conversatioon we've had this week about Noah hasn't damaged Judaism, because Judaism doesn't depend on Noah.

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