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The World Needs Another Flood

Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin
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A candle lit at a vigil held for those murdered in the Arab community, in Lod last week.
A candle lit at a vigil held for those murdered in the Arab community, in Lod last week.Credit: Ilan Assayag
Yair Assulin
Yair Assulin

A great flood is needed. One that will wash everything away, that will wipe from the earth all that has turned rotten, become corrupted, and lost its last shred of humanity. Because just like the earth in this week’s Torah portion of Noah, our world has become “corrupt” and the earth is “filled with violence” - real violence, from every direction.  I'm not calling for a literal flood, not a physical catastrophe but a “flood of consciousness” – of recognizing the failure, recognizing that it is no longer really possible to fix things, that the corruption runs too deep, is too fundamental.

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And it doesn’t matter if it’s a Jewish rock that smashes the head of a helpless Palestinian boy, or rivers of blood in the Arab community, or sexual violence everywhere, or an accursed person who takes advantage of a teenaged girl’s wounded psyche and then buries her alive. It is all part of the same picture, lava spewing from the mouth of the volcano that is threatening to erupt. And, eventually, it will erupt. If people do not bring the flood themselves, if they are not brave enough to look reality in the eye, the flood will come to them, as it always does. When the “order” disintegrates, when it loses its grip on reality, when it is solely preoccupied with itself and its corrupt ways, then the simple, existential order is also shaken.

And any ideological or ideational analysis of what is happening around us today misses the reality. Today, so it seems, there is only money, blood, greed, control, impulses. The “hilltop youth” who committed the pogrom in the village of Mufkara have no ideology. As Nissim Mossek’s 2013 film “Wild West Hebron” made clear, everything that’s been going on in the South Hebron Hills for a long time now has been all about a lust for money and control. It has nothing to do with an ideological or nationalist cause. Certainly nothing to do with faith or with God.

Likewise, Mahmoud Abbas – to whom people are again making pilgrimages, despite his being a tyrant to his people – has only a lust for control and money. And there was no ideology really at play in the riots in the mixed Jewish-Arab cities several months ago. And we saw only violence and lust and exploitation by the despicable killer from Kiryat Motzkin this week. And, this is only a very partial list. All the talk is meaningless. The reality is as primitive and crude as it gets.

“Were it not for fear of the government, men would swallow one another alive,” it says in Pirkei Avot. The Hebrew word "mora" used here connotes more than fear. It encompasses respect and trust. Without trust in the government, there is no trust in the story that it tells. The vaccination debate is just one small example. And people are swallowing one another. For good reason – when the big story appears meaningless, the animal in man rears its head.

Just think about the Tower of Babel that was built in order to kill God – (also in the Torah portion of Noah) and you can see how today’s Tower of Babel – the nation state that purports to be God – is collapsing right before our eyes. When the language becomes confused, when the world is turned upside down, the tower (and the story) collapses. Therefore, a great deluge is needed. Recognition of the failure is needed. This is the essence of that biblical flood: self-cannibalism, rebirth. If God could recognize his failure, man can do the same.

The responsibility is ours. People create stories and live within them. When the world fundamentally changes, when the language gets all mixed up, the story crumbles and is washed away. The 16th century was like this, as was the 19th century. And whoever recognizes that this is exactly the kind of time we are living in must take part in the building of the “ark,” of the basis for salvation. And just like the Midrash tells us about Noah’s time, there will always be those who are blind to the reality, who deny it, who are overly sure of themselves and their power, who will mock and disdain. Until the flood washes them away, too. Because the deluge will come. It always does. Only from within it, from inside the ark, as has ever been the case, will the new stories arise. We so urgently need this flood.

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