Bear with me. I'm going to use a rather anthropomorphic view of Gd. Some might argue that Gd is beyond all limits and boundaries. I'm not so sure of that.
First of all, if Gd was aware of all the awful goings on down on earth, why wait until it got so bad that the only choice was to flush it clean with water and start anew with Noach and his family? Why not take some proactive and pre-emptive steps instead, and prevent things from deteriorating to the point of hopelessness?
One might suggest that Gd often finds Gd's self occupied elsewhere, and isn't giving full attention to matters down here on earth, and to his creations.
Then there is the little matter of what happened after the waters subsided and the ark returned Noach, family and animals to dry land. Oh yes, Gd did indeed take notice and instructed Noah and party to come on out of the ark. But that was it. It was not Gd who, on self-initiative, said to Noach "Oy, what have I done? I won't do it again." Not another word. Not, that is, until Noach did something.
No, Noach first had to get Gd's attention. He made an offering, and Torah tells us that Gd found the smell of the offering pleasing, and then he said, but only internally, and not publicly, that never again we all life on earth be destroyed as was just done.
When Gd finally does make this a public profession, the words are not so all-encompassing. Gd leaves a loophole. Torah tells us the Gd, to Gd's self said that the earth would never be destroyed. But to Noach and his sons, the covenant symbolized by the rainbow was a promise to never again destroy life by a flood. [Warning! Warning! Danger, Will Robinson! A loophole.]
But I digress. My point is about the need to get Gd's attention once in a while. After all, the story happens all over again. Humanity again becomes numerous, and, under the crafty tutelage of Nimrod (or so we are told) they all get together to build this tall tower ascending to the heavens. Like Gd hadn't noticed anything until it got to a certain height? Or was Gd, as has been suggested, simply busy elsewhere?
Once again, the situation is allowed to get desperate enough to warrant action by Gd. (and this pattern repeats ad nauseum: Sodom and Gomorra, the enslavement in Egypt, both destructions of the Beit Hamikdash - the holy Temple - perhaps even the Shoah is but prelude to yet another divine intervention?
But there I go digressing yet again. My point is this: if sometimes it takes things getting really bad to get Gd's attention, what makes us think we can get Gd's attention without doing some nice things once in a while-things designed especially to be pleasing to Gd - as was Noach's offering?
If every time something good happened to us we made an offering that was pleasing to Gd, perhaps we would reap a more positive response more often?
Something to consider.
And why an odor? Some might say that the smell of burning flesh is hardly pleasing. And the idea of sacrificing an animal is, for many in these modern times, quite repugnant. But maybe that's the whole point. What we find pleasing may not at all be what Gd finds pleasing. Perhaps it may take our making some offerings that are displeasing to us before we find some that are as pleasing to Gd as Noach's offering.
[As a side note-I sure hope those animals did a lot of breeding and child-bearing on the ark. Otherwise we have another dilemma. For the offering that Noach gave was made up of an offering from every kind of clean animal and bird. But if there were but the original mating pair - and one were sacrificed...and but that's a discussion for another time.]
What personally displeasing sacrifice might you make as a pleasing offering to Gd?
I leave you with that thought for this Shabbat.
© 2000 by Adrian A. Durlester
Other musings on this parasha:
A Nimrod! (Revised)
Noakh 5765-A Pshat In The Dark
Noach 5764-Finding My Rainbow
Noach 5763-Striving to be Human
Noach 5762-To Make a Name for Ourselves
Noach 5760-What a Nimrod!
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