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April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review 27 Mar-Cheshvan

End of the Great Flood

By Rabbi Yonason Goldson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | It was the first Holocaust. Nothing before or after rivaled its devastation. Only one man and his immediate family survived.


For forty days and nights the rains fell and submerged the world. For 150 days the waters prevailed over the land before they began to recede. For 365 days Noah and his family survived aboard the ark, with the animals they had saved, before they emerged to walk again beneath the sunlight.


It was the 27th day of the Hebrew month of Cheshvon that the Great Flood came to an end and the survivors disembarked to set foot upon a desolate but newly purified planet.


Yet Noah felt neither relief nor elation on that extraordinary day. The awful weight of responsibility crushed his spirit, and feelings of futility haunted his mind. Despite the miracles he had witnessed and the personal salvation he had experienced, he could not put to rest his fear that mankind was destined to repeat its sins and again bring about its own destruction.

DESTROY THE WORLD TO SAVE THE WORLD
Why had the Almighty brought the waters of the Flood upon the earth?


In the era immediately preceding the great flood, there remained alive people who had known Adam, the first man, people who remembered his spiritual greatness and could recount it to others. Living in such close historical proximity to the Six Days of Creation should have inspired those generations to strive for spiritual and moral perfection. Instead, mankind persisted in following the corrupt ways of Cain, Adam’s firstborn who murdered his brother Abel.


Men abandoned the repentant path of Adam and the path of his virtuous son, Seth. Violence and perversion defined human society. Life became cheap. Personal profit and pleasure became the ideal. The fall of mankind from such lofty spiritual heights to such base moral depravity in so few generations was a profound indictment against all humanity.


As men sank ever further into corruption, G-d instructed Noah -- the last righteous man of his generation -- to build an ark. For 120 years Noah labored to complete ark's construction, providing time for all men to learn of the sentence G-d had decreed upon them so that they might repent. Instead, they ridiculed Noah, ignored his warnings, and sealed their own annihilation.


Why did the Almighty not reveal Himself more clearly, through a heavenly voice or divine revelation? The more overtly G-d shows Himself, the less man's free will remains in play and the less the purpose of creation is fulfilled. And so G-d waited until the last possible moment to give humanity the chance to redeem itself, even as humanity’s unwillingness to turn aside from the path of self-destruction became ever more certain. Only when the infection of wickedness had worked its way irreversibly into the body of humankind then, like a surgeon left with no alternative but radical surgery, the Almighty decreed the destruction of the world in order to save the world, lest human beings destroy themselves and leave nothing that could be saved.

DESTINED FOR DESTRUCTION?
Thus came the devastation and purification of the flood, followed by the opportunity for the world to begin anew. But Noah’s heart failed him as he contemplated the task of rebuilding a world that might one day, again, deserve destruction. To assuage his doubts, G-d promised never again to bring such annihilation upon the earth.


However, since the destruction brought by the flood ultimately saved mankind from its own self-destruction, how could G-d make such a promise without allowing the possibility that man might one day succeed in self-annihilation? If man became so corrupted once, what would ensure that he not become so again, especially considering scripture’s testimonial that "the fashion of man's heart is evil from his youth."


It was for this reason that G-d placed the rainbow in the clouds as a sign of His covenant. No mere symbol, this, but a reminder of how the Almighty changed the very nature of creation as a guarantee to Noah -- a guarantee not only that He would never again destroy the world, but that the world would never again be in danger of self-destruction.


Before the Flood, earth was a paradise. True, when G-d had expelled man from Eden He had decreed that Adam would eat only "by the sweat of his brow;" but this was a curse only in contrast to Adam’s previous life in the Garden, where all sustenance grew upon the trees ready to eat with no effort at all. True, after the expulsion man had to work for his food, but the earth gave up its bounty readily, and man enjoyed the fruits of his labors without hardship. True, man had become mortal, yet he retained mastery over all creation under the heavens. Although man had traded pure spirituality for physicality, he found that material pleasures made it easy to forget the consequences of his diminished spirit. The season never changed, and the rain fell but once in forty years. Men believed themselves all-powerful, until arrogance and corruption consumed them.


After the Flood, however, the Almighty altered nature itself, tilting the world on its axis to create the familiar patterns of climatic change. In this new world, Noah and his family exited the ark to discover the phenomena of changing temperatures, of rain and snow, of summer heat, of annual seasons for sowing and reaping.


Now, ceaseless labor in the fields, together with the perpetually changing temperatures and seasons, would weaken man, forcing his body to exhaust its resources merely to sustain its basic functions. Man’s strength waned, his health failed, and the human life span rapidly declined. Whereas Noah lived 950 years, his son Shem lived only to 600. Shelah, Shem's grandson, lived only to 433, and Peleg, Shelah's grandson, to 239.


Absorbed by the work of survival, forced by the new difficulties that confronted him to turn to his fellow for help and accept his place as a member of a larger community, mankind after the Flood found less excuse for arrogance and less time for sin. True, man might, and often did, turn away from G-d. But never again would man descend to so profound a level of corruption to necessitate the Almighty’s destruction of the entire earth.


This is the significance of the rainbow, the sign that reassured Noah that his mission to rebuild the human race would not fail. The difficulties and obstacles that a seemingly capricious fate strews across our paths are in fact part of the divine plan, to save us from the pitfalls of arrogance and to provide us the opportunity to grapple with adversity, to rise to every challenge, and to climb ever upward back toward the perfection that was Eden.


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JWR contributor Rabbi Yonason Goldson teaches at Block Yeshiva High School in St. Louis. Comment by clicking here.


Previously:

First Day of Creation
Reprise at Sinai
Tu B'Av: Repentance and the foundations of love
Sin of the Golden Calf: Understanding the how and why and resulting Divine punishment
The day the sun stood still
Nemirov massacres and the Chmielnicki uprising
Independent Judea under Shimon HaMaccabee
The Great Revolt begins
Dedication of new walls of Jerusalem

© 2006, Rabbi Yonason Goldson