Noah

Genesis 6:9 – 11:32

The world is destroyed by a great flood. Noah builds an ark and is saved along with his family and a sampling of each species. He is given the rainbow as a sign of covenant. His descendents try to reach heaven by building the tower of Babel. The tower is destroyed and the people are dispersed.

THE BLESSING

OUR CONSCIOUSNESS HOLDS IN IT A MEMORY of utter catastrophe, of the death and rebirth of this planet. The story of the Flood represents this awareness which awakens us to the preciousness of Life. And the story ends with a great blessing, a great promise.

It is upon this blessing that our spiritual life rests. God touches our memory of devastation and says, “This will never happen again.” She makes a covenant with all of life and places a rainbow in the sky as a sign of that covenant. “I will look upon the rainbow and remember.” (1) The blessing of the rainbow is the remembrance, the assurance, that we are ultimately safe. This deep unquestioned sense of security and trust in the essential goodness and rightness of Reality becomes the foundation for the process of awakening. This sense is so basic that changing circumstances and events cannot disrupt it. A. H. Almaas calls this quality, “Basic Trust.” Its presence allows you to relax and JUST BE with whatever is.

BASIC TRUST GIVES US THE CAPACITY TO SURRENDER, to let go of doubt and step into the unknown. As limiting ego-structures dissolve and we open to an expanded perspective, it can feel as though everything we know is falling apart. The rainbow reminds us that whatever happens, we are safe. Even when terrible things happen, when the outer structures are destroyed and we are seemingly paralyzed by fear, the rainbow appears and reminds us of a deeper safety. YES, EVEN DEATH IS SAFE! And that sense of safety becomes the springboard for our next step. This innate and implicit trust ultimately manifests as a willingness to take that necessary leap into the unknown. And so Basic Trust manifests in the courage to be with what is, and then instead of being a reactive victim of circumstance, you learn to live your life from a deep wisdom, from a wide perspective.

THE PORTION OF NOAH BLESSES US WITH YET ANOTHER RAINBOW: the story of the tower of Babel. The tower of our arrogant singular purpose topples and we are given the rainbow of diversity in its place. As we seek to touch the Unity (prompted by a hunger for mastery or control), we are answered with multiplicity. We are sent on the rainbow journey to acknowledge every shade of experience, to recognize the whole spectrum of what it means to be human. We are blessed with complex beauty, confounding paradox, and the opportunity to know and enjoy all the separate colors that together form the magnificent white Light of the One.

THE SPIRITUAL CHALLENGE

The Slonimer Rebbe describes the three levels of faith (emunah):

  • There are three rungs of Faith (emunah): Trusting Mind (emunat ha-mo’ach), Trusting Heart (emunat ha-lev), but there is a rung still higher, Trusting with your limbs/embodiment (emunat ha-evarim): where Faith (Emunah) penetrates every fibre of your being, where horror can’t seize you, for your whole body feels the protective divine presence.
  • Complete emunah occurs when it unfolds in all three dimensions. As King David said, ‘My heart and my flesh [my body] sing to the Living God.’ (2) Not just the heart, but also the flesh, our skin and our muscles, our bones and limbs also sing to the Living God, for Emunah suffuses our entire being. (3)

The spiritual challenge is to suffuse our entire being with a sense of ultimate safety, to integrate into our very bodies, the promise of the rainbow.

THIS SENSE OF SECURITY is our inheritance. And yet at some point we become disconnected from our Source and lose our Basic Trust. We feel betrayed and lose our footing. The spiritual challenge is to re-connect with the truth of our safety, no matter what happens, so that we can again feel “held” by the goodness of Life, the Ground of Being. Then we can rest in the Divine embrace. Almaas describes the challenge like this:

It means experiencing the factors which brought about the profound disconnection from reality, and experiencing repeatedly the fundamental truth of non-separateness, to the point where the soul can again rest in the knowledge of that truth. Each new experience of essential truth deepens the soul’s contact with her own basic trust. (4)

AS WE RECEIVE THE BLESSING OF THE RAINBOW, we are challenged to remember God’s promise and dedicate ourselves to living our lives in its light. Whatever blocks that light must be examined with compassion, and dissolved through dedicated practice.

When the tower of our singular will for power topples and we are left with the multiplicity of languages, systems, conflicting stories, and values, our path becomes confused and scattered.

Yet the spiritual challenge is clear. Diversity must not be ignored as we seek a vision of Unity. The shining vision of our Unity should not fade as we celebrate our differences. We must not betray the Many for the One, or the One for the Many.

GUIDANCE FOR PRACTICE

Sometimes experiencing God’s faith in us allows us to find our own faith.

FAITHFULNESS CHANT AND MEDITATION

There is a sacred phrase in the morning liturgy:

“Raba emunatekha”
How great is your faithfulness!

With this prayer, I acknowledge God’s profound faith in me. God’s faith in me soothes the trembling in my soul and awakens my own faith.

CHANT THIS PHRASE for a while, directing your heart towards a loving Presence.

AFTER SOME TIME, sit quietly and bring your attention to the soles of your feet. Feel God’s loving attention seeing and knowing and loving every inch of your body, moving your attention up to the ankles, calves, knees, thighs… letting yourself be completely seen, known and loved… releasing any shame or hiddenness… allowing every part of you to be accepted by God’s loving attention… moving your attention up to the genitals, belly, hips, waist, chest, arms, hands… letting God’s gaze touch every wrinkle and crevice with complete acceptance… completely seen, completely known, completely loved… moving up your neck, face, between every hair on your head.

WHEN YOU REACH the top of your head, bring your attention to the breath, and imagine breathing in and out from every pore at once, your whole body alive with God’s attention in you.

COMPLETE THE MEDITATION by chanting “Raba Emunatekha”

(Thank you to Reb Zalman z”l for his inspiration in composing this meditation.)
1 Genesis 9:16
2 Psalms 84:3
3 Netivot Shalom, Parashat Beshalach, pp. 113-115; also, Mo’adim, seventh day of Passover, pp. 281-283. I learned this text with Rabbi Elliot Ginsburg and am indebted to his elucidations.
4 Facets of Unity, A. H. Almaas, Shambhala, 2000 p.27


Torah Journeys: The Inner Path to the Promised Land
©2006 Shefa Gold. All rights reserved.