Many people call the Bible, “The Good Book”, but it’s not really always good. In its volumuous pages, it describes heroes and villains, depicts triumph over adversity, and even provides a set of rules to live by. But sometimes the Bible doesn’t live up to its reputation, or at least doesn’t appear to. There are passages that extoll the subservience of women to men, insist that parents should kill their children if they do not behave, and even depicts God declaring genocide against nations that opposed Israel, including women and children. Rabbis and theologians have debated these portions and have found ways to look at many of them, sometimes to the extent of saying that a text means the opposite of what it says, like God has put a riddle in the Bible for us to solve. Despite that, the face readings of these texts have caused significant hardship and strife over hundreds of years. The “Curse of Ham” is one of these unfortunate portions.
Okay, enough procrastinating and creating charts! It’s time to get to Noach because the rest of the world has already moved on to the next portion, Lech-Lecha.
The Noach portion, named for Noah’s name in Hebrew, covers Genesis 6:9, the beginning of the Noah story), to 11:32 the beginning of the Abraham story. That includes three main “tales”: the story of Noah and the Ark, the story of Noah and his drunkenness, and the Tower of Babil.
For me, the story of Noah has always been one of the more difficult for me to wrap my brain around. It’s not that the story is complex – it isn’t. My problem with the story is that it feels too much like mythology, like something that would happen to Odin, Zeus, or Heracles, rather than a story that we should take any great meaning from. It doesn’t help that God acts “out of character” and lots of innocent lives, human and animal, are lost. And, like all great mythology, it aims to explain in a supernatural way a natural phenomenon: the rainbow. This isn’t something that fits well in modern Judaism or Christianity, but still it’s an important story, certainly one of the most well known, and here it is already in week #2.