Abraham and the idols in midrash and the Qur'an
A Prayer for Voting - from R' David Seidenberg

This week's portion: integration


Make yourself an ark of gopher wood; make it an ark with compartments, and cover it inside and out with pitch. (Genesis 6:14)

When the floodgates open
build a boat
with many compartments

here in these cubbyholes
stash your secret fur
your scales, your feathers

put your red in the bow
your yellow in the stern
and your blues at the bottom of the hold

pack a crate of empty journals
pack provisions for the forty days
required for transformation

and set sail
not knowing where on earth
the current will carry you

don't be surprised if you wobble
when you take your first steps
back across the gangplank

when you raise the partitions
every color you'd sequestered
will run together like water

offer all of yourself
on your altar of stone
beneath the varicolored sky

This week's portion, Noah, contains of course the story of the Flood. (Along with some other amazing narratives: don't forget the Tower of Babel! And then, at the very end, the death of Terah, father of Abraham -- the line which gave rise to the rich bundle of stories about Abraham and the idols in Bereshit Rabbah to which I referred in my recent post about midrash and tafsir and Torah and Qur'an.)

Reading the portion this week, I found myself thinking about what it means that the ark had compartments. In a pshat (simple or surface meaning) sense, the compartments are necessary because they keep the animals separate from one another. But I think it also says something about our tendency toward compartmentalization, how we separate the different parts of ourselves, our attributes and affinities.

At the end of the story of the Flood, God offers the rainbow as a sign of God's enduring covenant with humanity from here on out. I like to think we're heading for a time in human history when we'll be able, collectively and individually, to let all of our emotional and spiritual colors shine.


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