CANTOR’S CORNER

Cantor Eyal Bitton shares a few thoughts on prayer and the parasha of the week.

It Ain’t Necessarily So

2023-10-21 Parashat Noach


George and Ira Gershwin once told us: “It ain’t necessarily so, the things that you’re liable to read in the Bible.” Were they right? Well, yes and no.

In the tapestry of Jewish sacred writings, we encounter a rich array of literary styles. Just as human literature embraces diverse forms like prose, poetry, song, allegory, and fable, our sacred texts follow suit. Parashat Noach, with its enduring tale of the flood and Noah’s ark, exemplifies the multifaceted language of divine communication that permeates our sacred texts.

The essence of human communication lies in its ability to convey truths in a multitude of ways. The Torah recognizes this and utilizes a diverse range of literary techniques to convey its profound messages. Parashat Noach, for instance, incorporates elements of allegory and fable. The story of the flood is not about historicity; it serves as a vessel for moral instruction and spiritual insight.

Just as a well-known fairy tale or fable captures our imagination, so too does Parashat Noach engage us in its timeless narrative. It speaks to the deepest recesses of our hearts and minds, inviting us to reflect on our human condition. The biblical account, with its vivid imagery and enduring themes, resonates with readers across generations.

Within the parasha itself, we find a powerful quote that exemplifies the multifaceted nature of divine communication. In Genesis 9:6, it states, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed, for God made man in his own image.” This statement carries both a legalistic quality and a profound moral truth. It is an example of how the Torah employs different linguistic devices to convey its teachings, blending the legal code with a broader ethical message.

In our prayers, we recognize this human mode of communication. During the Shabbat morning Shacharit Amidah, we recite, “Nekadesh et shimcha ba’olam,” which translates to “We hallow Your name in THIS WORLD.” This acknowledgement underscores the notion that we employ human ways to communicate with the Divine. Our sacred texts embrace a multiplicity of forms to speak to each other and express truths.

Parashat Noach teaches us that our sacred writings, like the vast tapestry of human literature, encompass various modes of communication. They employ allegory, fable, legal codes, and moral teachings to reach our hearts and minds. By engaging with these diverse literary forms, we uncover layers of wisdom that transcend time and speak directly to the human experience.

Through its diverse forms, our sacred texts touch our souls, inspire our actions, and guide us on our journey of spiritual growth. May we continue to find resonance in these ancient words, recognizing that the truths they convey are as relevant and transformative today as they were in ages past.