With Rabbi Yisroel NEWMAN.
What does the Torah say about… flooded Britain?
IT’S DIFFICULT to find a positive spin on flooding.
The first mention we find in Jewish history is the renowned episode of Noah, and the Ark he was commanded to build. The vast majority of the world’s inhabitants were destroyed due to their wicked ways, and Noah, his family and certain livestock were saved.
Critics claim the Genesis flood narrative is a myth, due mainly to the impossibility, on a physical level, of building an ark that could house all the people and animals, as well as care for them. However, the Orthodox Jewish view is that God did command Noah to build the ark, gave him instructions for the construction and housing of its inhabitants, and that the story transpired.
Recently the UK has suffered terrible flooding, with people having their towns and villages under a deluge of water, being left without electricity and being faced with other misfortunes uprooting their lives. I personally witnessed Hurricane Sandy in late 2012 in New York, and saw the devastation that was caused by flooding, with people’s homes destroyed and fatalities occurring.
Thank God I was fortunate enough to live in an area of the city which was barely affected; however there are lessons to be learned from flooding. In fact everything that happens in life to mankind (especially if it’s mentioned in the Torah) has a message for everyone in all generations – more than just flood preparation classes. What is the significance of a flood? In King Solomon’s Song of Songs, there is a fascinating verse: “Many waters cannot quench the love, nor can rivers flood it.”
This verse can be understood on a plethora of levels, but in no way can its symbolism be under- stated. One of the interpretations of a flood is that it represents the difficulties of life. We are swept away by the raging waters of anxiety, of the daily struggle. How can we prevent and protect our sensitivity and humanity from being eroded? The cultural current of the modern world which seeks to wash away our Jewish dimension, by asking us “Why be different?” or “Just be the same as everyone else” is another example of the swirling waters of life – how do we resist these forces?
King Solomon tells us that deep in the heart of the Jew is a hidden love. This love is not only great but it’s constant, despite what is going on around us. It is through our love for God, for the perpetual freedom which our bond with God grants us, that we withstand the forces of the flood. Through our embrace of Jewish life and all that it contains, we reveal this love and enable it to give inspiration and meaning to our lives.
May we wish all the victims of any form of disaster shall be comforted and find the power to be able to rebuild.