Sunday, July 17, 2005

The Mabul
I am assuming that the Mabul is more like a flood than not - and therefore more historical than not. I have seen one 'orthodox' authority offering that the Mabul was more/other than historical...but since this is the ONLY published example I have ever seen, I wouldn't say his proposal has status above that of the consensus of Chazzal, Meforshim and the Rabbonim of the millenia; actual (but not necessarily exhaustive), historicity of the Mabul narrative. I want to make myself happy, and I don't know that I would consider his proposal seriously until it has a haskama from a Talmid Hakham of some standing.

There is not positive evidence for a global flood in the geological record, at least not for when we would 'date' Noach; therefore a literal, global flood could be questioned from the evidence our G-d Given senses - if we were only working from the text and current geology(excluding Midrashim, etc). If we "want our Mabul and our science too", it seems we are looking at what is, at most, a regional - or at least a local - set ofevents.

I will say that the sources I have discussing alluvial deposits for the mediterranean region for Noach's time are not from geological surveys as such, but from archeological digs - and rather old ones; between 1920 and 1930. I have no idea of new studies of the region that could say anything on that era in the historical record (or whether they even have deposits for that era in mind - especially if their interests are deeper in history; oil,mineral, etc). But I am working on finding some.

Some of these deposits are extensive and within the time of Noach - but evidence is ("remains" should be the word considering the downright antiquity of the 'studies' proffered), inconclusive for a single alluvial deposit that is a continuous level in the'basin'. I say 'basin' cautiously, since I don't know that the portion of Mesopotamia pertinent to the narrative is actually a singular, "high-edged allaround" basin-like...basin (forgive my layman's terminology). Kiruv sources that would argue at least for a "regional mabul" often seem to presume that there was a larger, bowl-like basin in whichall the river basins were encompassed. Again I have no idea; But I have seen it suggested from a fervently secular 'science' source that the "basin" people have in mind for the region is not actually a basin - and at the time (much like the present), was open in the South - thus not capable of sustaining flood waters (within his theoretical geographical confines of 'the region'), for the 120 days.

In my ignorance, I would offer to the secular source that there may have been a greater, Persian Gulf-sourced flood that raised water levels from the Southeast up into the 'basin'. It might make for a source for a 120-day flood - but it would also seem to leave saltwater-type evidence (again forgive the terminology..), in the river valleys and lowlands, positive evidence which (at least by the antiquated surveys), is not yet forthcoming.

An orthodox rabbi and scientist teaching at a yeshivah high school in NJ had implied that he had a defense for what seemed to me (from his "noddings"), something of a downright local flood, entailing only certain populated river valleys, etc. He hinted that there was a resolution from Zohar and other sources. But this rabbi (R.Dr.), after suggesting that I send him my 'issues' - hasn't been communicative. I'm a little worried about his lack of coorespondence, and may drive up to Monsey to catch one of his lectures and ask him directly again on it.

Archeology issues;
There exist examples of "cultural" continuity over time (i.e., same vertical location in the strata), within the region of the supposed regional mabul; destruction of all culture and the survival of only a family unit out of all humankind has thus far been the consensus reading of the narrative.

"Cultural" sites (you'll figure out why I keep quotationing 'culture'), and "artifacts" have been found over the globe before the time of Noach, and cultural continuity there as well (depending on the sites). I have heard (at Aish haTorah, from 'sanctioned' science speakers), attempts at explaining the concept of 'culture' as not being bound to Modern Man (with 'Nefesh/Ruach/
Neshama' souls - here I think I am more in proximity to Ramchal than the Baal haTanya or R. Hayyim Vital in saying most all humans have 'NaRaN') - and that Noach's descendents introduced the Neshama level of soul by breeding with these various 'human but not fully human' peoples - thus 'modern Souled man' would post-date Noach.

This makes sense on some really neat scientific - but not intuitive or tolerable Politically Correct grounds. Neanderthal Man for example, is no longer considered an ancestor - but a cousin. Neanderthal sites include burials with weapons, clothing, etc. But they are not in our 'line' of descent as forebearers. In addition, many, many animals display abilities beyond our comprehension with no technology; spiders and their webs, birds and their nests - all without recourse to teaching by their parents, etc. Whole societies of animals share networks and relationships between each other and other species that utterly transcend our expectations - based on our knowledge of their comparable neural power. I had considered this Cain and the peopling of the region after Gan Eden, as well as whom Adam HaRishon had relations with aside from Eve (midrashim regarding sheidim, etc). I'm saying that a Neshamah is not necessarily considered necessary, Jewishly speaking, for there to be culture and tool-making. How far we can stretch that is "scientifically" is another story. Consider that contemporary secular scientific consensus is that - indeed - nothing like a soul is necessary for anything humans have done since coming down from the trees! Heck, for them, nothing like a soul "exists" - so how could it be necessary? From language to "Beverly Hills 90210" to subway systems and spaceflight, nothing entails/demands a soul. That is the consensus of one of the strongest worldviews the world has ever seen (the world can see worldviews - views of itself?...)

Speaking of seeing things - I have not seen any rabbinic justification for this (aside from the very broad concept that not all of life was destroyed in the mabul, only that whichman had corrupted), aside from the general Jewish predilection for 'footnoting' the neshamah status of non-jews...something ELSE I'm not comfy with - other than that, I'm not even sure it's necessary.

Biological issues (I'll admit to not having explored the organic issues as much as the geo issues) -what animals were on the Ark, how fresh water fish would survive a salinated environment, Speciation before and after the flood, the bringing together and dispersion of very specialized species, again the question of source for human populations, etc. Many of these problems are cleared up by offering a regional flood, where mans behaviors had consequences for those species/types of species affected by him spiritually; did these consequences have to apply, exhaustively, to all of physical creation to apply to the spiritual dimension of all creation? Only Nefesh animals it seems are mentioned in the narrative - and they would only have to have come from the immediate environment of man. Also through to Avraham (the advent of normal time), God it seems, had to lay on the pressure to get man out into the world outside of the region.

So those are my issues in a nutshell. History and science aside, we have a narrative that itself can be read (despite doubts on the part of BibCrit theorists), as a singular, literary/spiritually meaningful narrative (Gil Student has written a piece on the unity of the narrative;links also to the first installment). It clearly has purposeful information, and can reasonably be understood to be one text, composed as one text. But I think what information we would consider to be historically meaningful seems to be coded puzzle-shaped pieces with lots of missing pieces, where we would expect to be told historically 'useful' things (hence my 'historical but not exhaustive' comment above). I say puzzle pieces because the whole narratives' historical meanings do seem to be parts of a "big picture" - one we aren't being given access to - like hearing bits and pieces from a family-based history of an actual big, historical event(an example might be one Union Sergeant's personal account of his divisionfighting at Gettysburg). We are told not all of 'it', but what was/is/will be of first importance (historical or otherwise) - and additionally the Given parts can be juxtaposed/factored together to teach different dimensions of meaning,etc. Maybe it's because these events/descriptions/statements, etc, were so very
"juxstaposable", they were the only ones Given over (whether of PARDES, literary or historical import).


At 7/17/2005 8:31 PM, Blogger frannyglass said...

out of curiosity, how does one get into the business of pushing people out of windows? what are the hours like? ;)

At 7/18/2005 11:11 AM, Anonymous fathersogol said...

Frannyglass; As I recall, Noach and fam did not leave the tevah via defenestration; one family member/primate would have been left within the tevah. If you merely meant to ask re; defenestration as such, I freelance. So it really began as a hobby, the occasional family heirloom, museum artifact, etc. As people noticed, I gained a reputation and have considered printing business cards to leave in shul.

At 7/19/2005 10:24 PM, Blogger frannyglass said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At 7/25/2005 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You might want to see this essay:

It doesn't deal with the flood explicitly, but you can easily extrapolate.

At 7/25/2005 1:32 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At 7/25/2005 2:20 PM, Blogger Pierre Sogol said...

Hazakh u'Baruch


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