Jewish Journal

A grown-up children’s story

Parshat Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

by Rabbi Karen Deitsch

Posted on Oct. 26, 2006 at 8:00 pm

Inner child therapy is a psychological method aimed at giving voice to part of the adult psyche that remains eternally childlike. It purports that a vulnerable innocence exists within our subconscious; when acknowledged, a more complete and mature life experience is attained.

For example, were my inner child invited to describe Parshat Noach, she might say:
 "That's the bestest story! God told this nice guy to build a big boat 'cause he's mad that everyone's being mean and bad. So all the animals got on, too. Then God made a flood, and the sun came out and dried up the landy landy, everything was [clap] fine and dandy dandy, Children of the Lord. Then everyone got off the boat, and God made a rainbow and promised never to punish them again."
You might mock pop psychology, but I bet a childlike voice within you was singing along with "Rise and Shine." Indeed, Noah is the ultimate biblical children's story -- an enchanting legend of animals, rainbows and miracles, whose purity and simplicity call forth youthfulness in people of all ages. In fact, even Noah is described as tamim, which translates as innocent or perfect. Vocalizing our inner tamimness may, in fact, support psychological development.
However, in light of global warming, genocide and terrorism, writing on the importance inner child therapy somehow seems an inappropriate endorsement.
Noach certainly invokes juvenile fascination upon reading the pshat, the text's most simple, superficial interpretation. But conceding to its allure as a fairy tale is gravely irresponsible. We are not children. And underneath whimsical images and happy songs exists grown-up information to which we must attend if we have any hope for hearing youthful voices in our future.
Children conclude this story as "happily ever after" with God's rainbow symbolizing His promise of eternal protection. But they don't understand the meaning of "covenant," nor appreciate the concept of betzelem Elohim, that we were created in God's image. Adults, however, can comprehend that the rainbow signified an agreement: our promise to God reflective of His promise to us; a covenant is a reciprocal arrangement.
The text states: "The Earth was corrupt before God, and the Earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:11). This language posits God as witnessing His creation corrupting itself. God had charged humanity with creating betzelem elohim, and with that gift they manifest a world of injury and exploitation. His flood was an act of mercy; a purifying womb from which humanity's rebirth was a second chance to re-create with Holy intention. God declares: "I will not again curse the ground ... for man's sake." But interpreting this to promise that "everything is fine and dandy dandy" -- well, that's just baby talk. God was really saying: "I'm done cleaning up your mess. Now, it's your responsibility. 'While the Earth remains, seed time and harvest ... summer and winter, day and night shall not cease.'"
That's God's deal with us: "I'll keep everything working on Earth as I created it to. But how you re-create in return is up to you." God will not destroy Earth again, but even if He wanted to, it couldn't be worse than what we've doing to ourselves. Again.
God's flood cleansed an Earth filled with corruption and violence. That was before missiles, crystal meth, computer fraud and deforestation. Twice, He put Earth in our charge, and with full re-creative power we regenerated a planet begging desperately for purification. We betrayed our own godliness, disregarded our part of the covenant. We forwent unified existence as Echad for mentalities of mine and theirs. We renounced total consciousness -- drinking, drugging, spending and television watching ourselves into zombied stupors. Rather than recreating love and life, we re-erected a tower of babbling selfishness and greed. We, the descendents of Noah, "a just and innocent man who walked with God," lost his legacy in a cloud of smog.
We remained infantile where we needed maturity, and act as adults when we should call forth childish inclinations that mimic Noah's. He left us an inheritance of tamim, of youthful simplicity, lucidity, innocence. Let us use it in our dealings with one another and merit his blessing of walking with God. Let us take on Noah's uncomplicated faith, his irrational and fantastic belief in miracles, his attention to the voice of the Invisible through consciousness and presence of being. Let us adopt Noah's courage to act on the Divine's message while all the "normal" folks unconsciously ignore it.
We have inherited a conversation with the Divine and responsibility for maintaining the planet; we need only call out our inner child to listen for the magical sound of God speaking to us; telling us what to do. In the sound of autumn rain on an umbrella at dusk God says, "all things are beautiful." In the gap between our thoughts and judgments this very second, God whispers, "I am always here, loving you." In documentaries on global warming, God cries, "Help your planet, she is dying." In every word we speak to one another, God begs, "Take care of each other."
We must be present to listen and act, recovering unfaltering faith in God and in ourselves so as to do the unreasonable, see the invisible and listen for the silence. Otherwise we will quickly disappear, a complacent, selfish, irresponsible race.
Let us be like Noah, existent within the rebirth our Creator granted us. We are called to exist betselem Elohim, as complete, integrated beings responsible for maintaining our part of the covenant on the Earth God has maintained, just as he said he would. Our inner children and future children call out in loving song: "Rise and shine and give God your glory, glory... grown-ups of the Lord."

Rabbi Karen Deitsch is teaching at the University of Judaism's continuing education program this fall. You can reach her at karendeitsch@yahoo.com.
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