Parashat Noach – Erev Shabbat 28 October 2022 (5783)
Week of 23-29 October 2022
Torah portion: Genesis 6: 9-11:32 Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5
Theme: “So long as the earth endures”
When the flood waters had withdrawn from the face of the earth and all the people and all the animals and birds and insects – ”every living thing of all flesh “ (Gen. 8:17) – had left the ark, the lord “said to Himself: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man, since the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth, nor will I ever again destroy every living being, as I have done.” (Gen. 8:21). The next verse (8:22) is a divine promise, which is usually set out on the page in such a way that it looks like a poem:
So long as the earth endures,
Seedtime and harvest,
Cold and heat,
Summer and winter,
Day and night,
Shall not cease.
One line of this little poem – “Seedtime and harvest” – is not like the others. Summer and winter, day and night, will presumably continue as long as the earth spins on its axis and travels around the sun. Seedtime and harvest, the activities of sowing and reaping, will continue only as long as there are humans to perform them and a planet on which agriculture is still possible. A paradox that Noah could not have foreseen is that agriculture as carried out in modern times is an activity both potentially and actually harmful to the earth. The prophet, as it were, of this point of view was an American professor of medieval history called Lynn White (1907-1987), author of The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis, which is linked below. White has been criticized by those who think his historical analysis comes down too harshly and unfairly on Christianity. Nonetheless, what he wrote deserves to be read and pondered. The lord’s promise, after all, begins “So long as the earth endures,” which suggests the possibility that it might not endure forever. And, if we look again at the lord’s promise, we might notice that it concerns only what the lord will not do: “I will never again curse the ground because of humankind…nor will I ever again destroy every living creature as I have done.” He makes this promise because “the inclination of the human heart is evil from youth.” This could be understood to mean that humans are so evil that the earth might be cursed perpetually; there is no need for the lord to do so.
For Reflection and Discussion: Consider your own activities – how do they sustain and/or harm the earth? Do they show that you believe that the earth is the lord’s?
Bibliography: White, Lynn. The Historical Roots of Our Ecological Crisis. 1967. Science 155:1203-1207. Downloaded from www.cmu.ca/faculty/gmatties/lynnwhiterootsofcrisis.pdf,19 October 2022; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lynn_Townsend_White_Jr.
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Anne Morton, Canada, Bat Kol Alumna: 2010