Head of Jewish Life
את האלוהים התהלך נח – and Noach walked with God
With which God are we walking?
When God is about to destroy Israel, for the people’s betrayal in the incident of the Golden Calf, He says but two words that asks us all to decide with which God we are walking:
הניחה לי /Hanichah li – “Let Me be”.
Seeing the word נח (Noach/Noah) in God’s request, our tradition sees God asking Moshe to be like Noach and not intervene. When God says,אמחה את האדם “I will blot out the human race”, He goes unchallenged by Noach, so that we soon read וימח את כל היקום – “He blotted out all existence”.
Moshe’s response is of one walking with a different God. God’s planned destruction of Israel is met by מחני מספרך/“Blot me out of Your book”. Whereas Moshe intercedes for his people, Noach, and the God with whom he walks, sees no one else but himself/Himself. The result is that Moshe’s God repents (וינחם/va – yinachem) of the evil he proposed against His people, whereas God’s repentance (וינחם/va – yinachem) that He created humans, in the time of Noach, leads to their destruction.
Perhaps it is the use of the word וינחם/va-yinachem repent, which contains the word Noach, in both the case of Moshe and Noach, leading to two critically different results, that explains the Kabbalist, Isaac Luria’s assertion that Moses was a reincarnation of Noach who served to rectify (“tiken”) his sins and the cosmic damage he created.
If we walk with a God that excludes our walking with our fellow human beings, we bring destruction to humanity and our world. Through human intercession, the biblical God is seen as evolving; His error needing rectification even as does that of humans. Remarkably, in His saying to the prophet Isaiah “For they are the waters of Noach, for Me” our tradition sees God as now understanding that Noach is to be seen as a partner in bringing about the flood, not being a partner to those he might have saved from its destruction.
At Emanuel, we encourage our students and each other to walk the path of shared humanity. To be responsible is to hold ourselves accountable. This is the way of God.
וירא ה׳ אל אברם ויאמר אליו התהלך לפני והיה תמים
God appeared to Avram and said to him: Walk before Me (extending yourself and Me to others), only then can you become blameless/whole.