Tuesday, March 11, 2008

The Two Noachs

Dr. Joel Wolowelsky has an interesting 1996 article from Jewish Thought (4:2) titled "The Noach Typologies" (link - PDF). R. Wolowelsky take R. Soloveitchik's dichotomy of Adam I and Adam II (in The Lonely Man of Faith) and applies this approach to Noach:
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Adam the First is bold and adventurous. Intrigued by the drama of the cosmos, he is entrusted with conquering and mastering nature... Adam the Second is awed by his encounter with Hashem. To find his place in the world, this Adam must submit to something greater than he, sharing instead of conquering...

In the first depiction, the flood is a natural consequence of the violation of E-lokim's natural law. In the second, Hashem is saddened, so to speak, by man's wickedness and regrets creating him. In the first, the only concern is preserving a male and female of each species in order to regenerate the world's population. In the second, man's relationship to Hashem must be reestablished by sacrifice, necessitating seven pairs of each species. The first evokes the language of the first chapter, including the command to be fruitful and multiply; the second speaks of the "breath of life" of the second chapter. The first ends with a universal code of justice, the second with a "personal" promise of God's loyalty.

Not surprisingly, we find two Noachs in the ark, two typologies, two representatives of mankind, each confronting the catastrophe from his own vantage point. Indeed, the Torah recounts the flood from both perspectives simultaneously, preserving the dialectic of human adventures...

Read separately, the two accounts of man's creation might each appear to present the whole picture. Only when viewed side by side does each emerge as incomplete and irreconcilable. For man's creativity, says R. Soloveitchik, flows from his constant oscillation between the poles of his existence.
(See also this post)

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