Sunday, November 19, 2006

"Privileged" Perspective and the Mabul

[NOTE: 2/07 post; more from R. Kook]

[still a MAJOR work in progress]
I want to look at what HKBH Told Noach would happen, how it happened, and what he perceived of the experience and what is possibly Noach's "account" of the event. Rav Hirsch says something interesting regarding Adam - a Navi - naming in Bereshit 2:19 (all emphasis and italics mine):

"The position in the verse of the term 'nefesh hai' shows that it is to be taken as being in apposition to 'ha-adam': Man gives things names, not as God, Who sees things objectively as they are, but as nefesh hai, subjectively, from his own point of view as a nefesh an individual, hai, who receives the acceptable or rejectable impression of the things about him [did HKBH allow that First Man's perspective would be the means of language description? in this narrative?; see below regarding how this is narrative is potentially Adam's Nevuah prior to Moshe Rabbenu's]. It is according to the impression they make on him, that he gives them names. In these names he expresses the impression which his imagination forms of things, and thereby he indicates their 'sham' (hence the word 'shaim'), place in his world [which I emphasise, since his world is bracketed by his knowledge, formed by his perception], ranks them in the appropriate kind, species etc. of things. All knowledge of things is such a name-giving. But this knowledge is only subjective, is only 'ashair ikra lo ha adam nefesh hai', how a man calls things for himself, 'lo', what they are to him. What things really are, the true nature of things in themselves, no human eye sees [this I think is important regarding the narrative of Noach; Noach as possible source for the sections of the narrative that are not "Vayomair Hashem"...see below]. But although the 'nefesh hai' does refer back to the whole limited extent of human knowledge, nevertheless scepticism is opposed by the assurance which the addition of 'hoo shmo' gives, that, even if that which we know from the impression things make on us is not the whole truth of the real nature of things, still it does contain the truth. God, Who created Man and things...also guarantees men that the amount of knowledge of the nature of things which is granted him [Noach was only told so much, and from the 'other' direction, perceived so much?], is no deception. That this fraction of the truth is also true [for those for whom it mattered - Noach, his family, those who would hear the story from him - his portion was truth on several levels], and is as much of the truth of the real true nature of things that he requires in his association with things for the accomplishment of his mission on earth [see R. Kook below, also here], and that he may safely have confidence in it."

There is suggestion from within our mesorah (also recent addenda) that the Avot authored sefarim that were known by Moshe Rabbenu and in some manner were 'edited' into what became the Torah (there's also a Midrash regarding oral 'knowledge' of the people that similarly became integrated into Torah; see Spero piece). I tentatively suggest this is the case with the narrative of Noach based on the Daat Mikra introduction by [], who gives the sections [] as being derived from Noach. Assuming for a moment that The portion regarding Noach and his context [give Y. Kil's suggestion] is a "work of Noach" until the time it is Incorporated into "Torah from Sinai" - what was it's status over that time? Is this status lost or sublimated? Noteworthy would be R. Hirsch's final words; "as much of the truth of the real true nature of things that he requires in his association with things for the accomplishment of his mission on earth"; these words are mirror strongly by R. Kook below and recently R. Shlomo Fisher;

For prophecy presents itself to the prophet in accordance with his own conception of the world.

Perhaps Noach narrated portions being what Noach perceived by God's Hand, most immediately for his eras comprehension and as Nevuah for all time - which was potentially only what was necessary, only what needed to be known or grasped for the purposes of transmitting Nevuah. Here I give R. Slifkins translation of the R. Kook I noted before;

"...The Torah certainly obscures the [meaning of the act of (n.s.)] creation and speaks in allegories and parables, for indeed everyone knows that the stories of Genesis are part of the hidden Torah, and if all these narratives were taken literally, what secrets would there be?...What is most important about the act of creation is what we learn in regard to the knowledge of God and the truly moral life. The Holy One, who precisely measures out even the revelation of the prophets, has determined that only through the images of the stories of Genesis would mankind, with great effort, be capable of drawing out all that is beneficial and exalted in the great matters inherent in the act of creation [here may also be a hint towards the fact that so much of the foundations of science and human engagement in the world stem from essentially Biblical presuppositions, most in the sciences from Torah]...The crux of the matter is that the time of appearance and the effects of every idea and thought is predetermined. Nothing is haphazard. For example, we can understand that if the fact of the globes movement was made known to the masses a few thousand years ago, man would have feared to stand on his feet lest he fall from the force of the earth's movement, all the more so would he have feared building tall buildings [Rav Kook gives a valid insight embedded in their invalid logic]. A general faint-heartedness and incalculably thwarted development would have resulted....only after mankind matured through experience was it proper to allow men to recognize the earths movement, so that from it only good would come to man." (Igros HaRe'iyah, letter 91)

Rav Kook would seem to suggest that even the ensuing ignorance has its place (not false knowledge - incomplete data); faulty notions and impressions would have been held by many people in the void created by a partial grasp of things. Elsewhere in personal correspondence, Rav Kook also noted a similar cognitive value in a "right to know/need to know" framework. I'm not necessarily saying this regarding Noach - but I do wonder what place Noach had between Adam's epistemology in "naming", and that of a Prophet - where HKBH "precisely measures out even the revelations of the prophets". From both sides of human experience, there is "bracketing"; the natural time and space-bound limits on human cognitive discernment - and that which even the prophets are Told!

Similar to general unawareness of orbital physics, perhaps a grasp of what was going on with the rest of the planet during the Mabul was similarly superfluous information, and not considered of moral worth or prophetic worth to be saved for posterity. Perhaps the Torah speaks only regarding those peoples in the region and those in the "known world" because they were the only ones relevant to know about! Civilization outside these parameters is very debatable, and the late Holocene, roughly contemporaneous with the Mabul (100 years of fudge space), was witness to mass destruction of civilizations in the Middle East, Central Asia, the SubIndian continent, Southern Europe, etc (here, here, referenced works therein and elsewhere, also "absence of evidence" suggestion here) - essentially all of the world as depicted in the "linguistic atlas" of peoples after Bavel... (a bizarre, but possibly-fun set of essay here regarding 'world-soul', collective identity, etc, that may be fruitful for conceiving the era; also Holmes Rolston's Gifford Lectures published as Genes, Genesis and God , a definite highly-recommended book along with his "science and religion; a critical survey", which apparently is out in a new edition). Though the waters of the Mabul didn't necessarily affect these regions, some of the mechanics I suggest for the Mabul itself are considered a likely source for this 'universal' destruction. Or this greater destruction could have been the context for the regional conflagration that was the specific regional occurrence called "The Mabul". There were those destroyed and those perhaps rendered irrelevant (either by the Mabul itself, contemporaneous with it or prior to it), and by irrelevant, I would follow with a Rav Kook where he suggests (in a portion I left off), that not everything that actually happened over the period in Parashat Bereshit was relevant, i.e. was left out. Is it really a stretch to say other parashot in Bereshit are likewise not necessarily to be taken as exhaustive on the surface reading?

There are of course implications hinging on what God Said would happen and how Noach experienced them. There is, for example, something called the Mabul and the waters of the Mabul. "The" water was on the "earth" for a stated time; which water? There were several sources of water mentioned. Perhaps the full duration of the Mabul included a portion that was a specific water, where Noach 'slid' down the trough of lower Iraq in the Gulf itself - and indeed experienced that water (of "the deep"? - as the sea is rendered elsewhere? [find]), along with the rest of the event called the Mabul, for the requisite year long period. the shoreline was much further inland at the time (Ur was coastal), and the curvature of the earth as well as atmospheric conditions in the aftermath of the mabul could account for no land being visible to the only people who spiritually mattered -those on the Tevah (remembering also the switching between "erets" and "adamah" that occurs in the text, possibly w/ a change in meaning of each term bound by context). We wouldn't have to argue for some way that the Mabul waters covered the entire region for many months (which I am not sure is evidenced in the geological record). Returning to Rav Hirsch's commentary;

"Thus belief in God Who created men and things forms an essential foundation also to our theoretical knowledge. Without this belief, theoretical scientific knowledge can not escape hopeless skepticism, has no guarantee that they are not deducing a dream from a dream, and proving a dream by a dream".

Goes well w/ Rav Kook above, also see Ian Markham's "Truth and the Reality of God", epistemic nihilism in absence of 'assumption' of the 'Divine' - though HKBH is the true fulfillment of the Divine category.


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