Shabbat No’akh: What A Mess

וַיֹּ֣אמֶר ה’ אֶמְחֶ֨ה אֶת־הָאָדָ֤ם אֲשֶׁר־בָּרָ֙אתִי֙ מֵעַל֙ פְּנֵ֣י הָֽאֲדָמָ֔ה מֵֽאָדָם֙ עַד־בְּהֵמָ֔ה עַד־רֶ֖מֶשׂ וְעַד־ע֣וֹף הַשָּׁמָ֑יִם כִּ֥י נִחַ֖מְתִּי כִּ֥י עֲשִׂיתִֽם׃

ה said, “I will blot out from the earth humankind whom I created—humans together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I regret that I made them.” (Bereshit 6.7)

At the end of last week’s parashah HaShem has come to the conclusion that the world is hopelessly flawed:

וַיַּ֣רְא ה’ כִּ֥י רַבָּ֛ה רָעַ֥ת הָאָדָ֖ם בָּאָ֑רֶץ וְכׇל־יֵ֙צֶר֙ מַחְשְׁבֹ֣ת לִבּ֔וֹ רַ֥ק רַ֖ע כׇּל־הַיּֽוֹם׃

‘ה saw how great was human wickedness on earth—how every plan devised by the human mind was nothing but evil all the time. (Bereshit 6.5)

Feel familiar? The campaign season only exacerbates the worst qualities of human beings; they are there all the time. This is why ancient Jewish tradition contemplates whether or not human beings should have been created in the following midrash.

When HaShem said “let us create the human being” the angels fell to arguing about it; one group argued for, one against. “They will be creators of beauty and inspiration” said one; another retorted, “they will bring bloodshed and destruction.” HaShem could not deny the truth of either assertion, so HaShem ignored it…while they were arguing HaShem created the human and said “Look, it’s alive!” (Bereshit Rabbah 8.5)

And now, only a few chapters later, HaShem has decided to destroy it all. 

The attendant issue that bothers many of us is that many innocents were also destroyed. We deflect the real learning of this text by turning against the image of a puppet master god that we create for the purpose: why would a divine being erase the lives of innocent along with guilty? What kind of horrible deity is this?

But that’s a straw god. The resonance of this ancient myth is more subtle. We, created in the Image of HaShem, too easily turn away from truth we do not find palatable and go ahead with what we want – just like HaShem in the midrash. 

And it’s true: sometimes we do lose patience, and wish for the larger problems of our society to just go away. We want to believe in politicians who offer us a certain answer – ideally, one in which we do not have to participate.

According to U.S. law, a religious institution can take up and support a political cause, but not an individual campaigning for elected leadership. I support this idea wholeheartedly because I’m not your political advisor, nor should I be. My expertise, such as it may be, is to try to expand our awareness of the spiritual grounding that should be of a piece with your voting choices. 

The individuals who want your vote come and go. What kind of world are you choosing to build when you choose one or the other? 

We are all co-creators with the Eternal Flow of Life, and we are also co-destroyers. This world is difficult and full of harshness, and we dare not become cynical, becoming just another casualty of it. Just as the classic midrash includes a prayer asking HaShem to be merciful and not angry toward our flawed Creation, so we must look inward and pray for ourselves:

May it be our will that our mercy overcomes our anger.

May our mercy prevail over our other attributes,

And may we act toward all other creatures with the attribute of mercy.

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