In this week’s Parsha we hear of Noah’s famous ordeal and the Haftarah, from Isaiah, concludes with the promise that not only will we be spared from apocalyptic floods (not sure if that includes a flood of zombies, for all you Walking Dead fans) and that the tents of Israel are about to see quite the baby boom. It’s a reaffirmation of the covenant, a promise of better things to come, and a little trust rebuilding between the chosen people and God.
Chances are we’ve heard the story of Noah since we were kids—a story even our non-Jewish friends know well. From the cutesy nursery room wallpaper borders of fluffy animals two-by-two to the movie Evan Almighty, it’s probably pretty hard to think of this vignette in a fresh way.
But somewhere in between our seeds inheriting the nations and the promising not to flood us again, there is a line in this week’s haftarah that got me thinking: “…fear not, for you shall not be ashamed, and be not embarrassed for you shall not be put to shame, for the shame of your youth you shall forget…with a little wrath did I hide my countenance for a moment from you, and with everlasting kindness will I have compassion on you.”
Let’ set aside for a moment the notion of world-floods being “a little wrath.”
If you’re a parent, you probably know this scene well. Your darling kiddo did something wrong and you had to dicipline him or her. You can’t just let Junior run rampant and do what he likes—neither the world nor his own character development will benefit from you turning a blind eye to his bad behavior. So you administer whatever punishment fits the misdeed. Nobody likes that of course, particularly Junior. But you’re not a boss who fires the chronically tardy, Facebook trolling, office supply stealing, underperforming employee whom the likely worst case scenario you might run into and have an awkward moment at Target.
At the end of the day, you’re family, an you must return the family harmony as swiftly as possible. Alright, so Kiddo messed up, served her sentence, (you are the WORST mom EVER for ruining her life, a.k.a. confiscating her iPhone) and now what?
There has to be some kind of post-punishment reintegration. There has to be some kind of statement that it’s behind you, you don’t hold a grudge, and you love him or her. If you have a young child, say a terrible two (or three, or four) you’ve likely dealt with an adorable teary eyed munchkin wailing in your arms after being told “no” or put in a time out. You hug. You say, “I love you, but you can’t chew on the dog, now let’s make better choices.” You both move on. Harmony has been restored.
You’ve had a little wrath, but you now have kindness and compassion.
It’s not just a model for family unity. Think about the last time you were slighted or reproached. Maybe you got in a little tiff with an old friend, or exchanged some snarky comments you later regretted. You have a choice. You can hold on to that moment of shame, or you can awknowledge what happened, show kindness, and let it become water under the bridge ark.
Casey (Kefira) McCarty is a published author living in Ohio. She is the Assistant Director of the Columbus Idea Foundry, a community workshop space, and is an artisan who crafts jewelry, Judaica and fine art available online and in Central Ohio galleries and boutiques. You can find her online shop at www.sinemetudesigns.etsy.com