Metaphors in the Torah: "Noach" (Genesis 6.9 – 11.32)


Illustration: "The Tower of Babel"
By Gustave Dor'e

Genesis 6.9 – 11.32

One would think that a Torah portion named: “Noach” would begin at chapter 5, line 28 so that we would get Noah’s entire story, including the prophecy of his birth, in a single reading. Regardless, it doesn’t hurt us to go back a little bit and review the previous chapter.


In short: we are told that Lamach, the father of Noah, predicted that this boy would give us rest from the frustrations that our hands received from the land that was cursed by God.


What is crucial to understand here is that we are being told it was the LAND that was cursed, not Adam and this, in my opinion, eliminates the entire concept of: “original sin” as developed in the writings of the Pharisee Paul of Tarsus.


Furthermore, we shall see later on, when God condemns the Children of Israel to wander in the desert, those under the age of twenty are not punished, because they are described as: “not knowing the difference between good and evil”. In other words: men are NOT born with sin; it is something that they acquire through the process of growing older.


Another important point to note here is that Noah is the tenth generation from Adam and, as we shall also study later: “the number ten” should be associated with Jacob’s son: “Asher”, whose name means: “happiness”. Of course, this number should also be associated with: “The Ten Commandments” and: “The Ten Plagues” which, in Hebrew, are actually referred to as: “The Ten Hits”.

In order, however, to really appreciate what is taking place in the story of Noah, I believe it is well worth while recalling both a parable given by the son of Gideon, as well as, the statement made by Samson when he discovered his wife had revealed the solution to his riddle (Both these stories can be found in the Book of Judges).


Briefly: Gideon’s son said that: “grapes” are the fruit which: “make both men and gods happy” and we just touched upon the connection between the name: “Asher”, “happiness” and “The Ten Commandments”. In the second reference: Samson told his wedding guests that they would not have: “known the answer” to his riddle if they had not been: “plowing with his heifer”.

My conclusion from these two stories is that, in ancient times, knowledge of God’s laws was thought to bring happiness and knowledge of God’s law was associated with grapes and wine.

Furthermore, in ancient times, “studying” and: “obtaining knowledge” was associated with: “plowing a field” and, as we shall see later, the specific animal one used to plow the field was an indication as to which particular type of knowledge one was trying to obtain.

Thus the prophecy in Isaiah about: “beating swords into plowshares” and: “spears into pruning hooks” has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with peace. These metaphors are actually a reference to: “men giving up old sources of knowledge for new ones”.

In the previous Torah portion: “Beresheit”, we noted that Adam was punished by being expelled from: “the garden” and we discussed that the garden should be considered: “a source of knowledge” because it contained various fruit trees. Adam was then told that he would only be able to obtain the fruits of the land by working hard and producing sweat from his brow. 


This punishment, as we just noted, was described by Noah’s father as: “frustration of the hands”, meaning that: “Adam was unable to grasp the true meaning (or the full meaning), of the fruits of knowledge which he worked so hard to obtain”.


We also discussed in the previous Torah portion that on the Sabbath we are commanded to: “rest from our labors of studying and educating ourselves” and: “to sit quietly, allowing God the teacher to provide us with higher levels of understanding”. Thus, the name: “Noah” means: “rest” and we see that, eventually, Noah will plant grape vines and produce wine. 


Even in modern times we are familiar with the concept of: “the earth being a school” and in practically every university in the world one can hear the question: “What is your field of study?” Hence, what we are really being told is that: “by cultivating the grape”, Noah had “established a new religious school” based upon the idea of God providing spiritual knowledge to those who rested from their labors of studying.


In other words: it appears to me that both “drinking wine” and “resting on the Sabbath” are forms of cutting one’s self off from the daily cares of life and, when we are detached from the daily hustle and bustle, there is an increased possibility that we will be able to focus on messages from other sources, which, in my opinion, means: “internal sources”. 


Let me just emphasize that I am not saying that a religious education is not important. Men clearly are commanded to work and study for six days in the week. What I am trying to suggest here is that the story of Noah is indicating to us is that there is a limit to how much information a man can obtain through his own efforts.


In this week’s Torah portion we are told the story about the flood and Noah’s ark. As we briefly mentioned in the previous article: “water” should be associated with: “explanations about the word of God”, yet the Torah clearly shows that too many explanations by men is NOT a good thing (By the way, my own father used to say the same thing about eating ice cream).  


So, what we see is that water is used to kill: “the evil generation” and to remove this “flesh” from the face of the earth. The crucial word here is “flesh”, because in Hebrew “flesh” and “meat” is the same word and we already explained in the last commentary that this Hebrew word also means: “preachings” or: “the gospels”.


Hence, what we really are being told in this story is that God has removed false teachings from the school of the earth and that God did not literally destroy almost every living being. This procedure of purification is associated with the number: “40” and the meaning of this number is associated with Jacob’s forth son: “Judah” whose name means: “to praise or honor God”. The Hebrew word for “honor” is the same word as used for: “the human liver” and one of the functions of the liver is to remove toxins from the blood. Later, when God speaks to Noah about meat, he tells him that it is forbidden to eat the blood, because the “soul” is in the blood (The translation in English that: “the life is in the blood” is incorrect)


It is my opinion that: “the ark of Noah” is a metaphor for: “a religious school” or: “a monastery” and “each animal” represents: “a different academic specialty”, but in order to get a better appreciation of what is going on here, we must return to Adam in the garden.

Thus, “The Garden of Eden”, with its “trees of knowledge” also represents: “a religious school” or: “an archive” (the Hebrew word for: “garden” shares the same root at the word for: “archive”). We are then told Adam “names” the animals. This, in my opinion, is similar to what happens in modern times when high ranking government or corporate officials are also “named” to the positions they will hold.

Accordingly, what we are actually being told is Adam, as head of the school, was assigning each scholar to a department of studies. In the previous commentary, we noted that Eve’s name is associated with “life” and “understanding”. The Hebrew word for “life” shares the same root with the word for: “animals”. Thus, we could say: “animals” are a metaphor for: “those with understanding”.

Hence, this is why the snake and Balaam’s donkey can speak.  “The snake” represents “an expert in religious law” and what we are being told then is that, originally, God did not want religious schools, but rather wanted men to obtain knowledge of God directly from God himself.

The key to this concept is expressed in the idea of clothing. Basically, when walking down the street of any major metropolis one can easily identify a religious leader by the clothing they wear. Catholic Priests have white collars, Buddhist monks have orange robes and religious Jews have black hats and coats. Adam and Eve, however, were originally naked and in the Books of Samuel we are told that when King Saul was naked the people asked: “Has Saul become a prophet of God?”

Thus, we see that, “after eating the forbidden fruit” (obtaining knowledge from a new source), the very first action of Adam and Eve was to clothe themselves. Therefore, “nakedness” should be associated with: “receiving communications directly from God” and “clothing” should be associated with “sources of knowledge from men”. So, Noah’s act of drinking the wine, symbolizes both: “innocence” and: "a state of communication with God". Hence, later on we will see that when Lot drinks wine, we are told that he did not realize what was happening to him (i.e. he no longer knew the difference good and evil). Interestingly, the rabbis also make this connection with intoxication and the inability to distinguish good from bad, when they celebrate the festival of: “Purim”

In such a short article, it is impossible to deal with every single aspect of every single story in this week’s Torah portion, nevertheless, I would like to discuss what I believe is one of the major misconceptions in Bible study: namely that “the dove” of Noah represents: “peace”. 


We have stated in the previous article that: “heaven and earth” represent: “two different levels of understanding”. What needs to be understood here is that in Hebrew the words for: “heaven” and: “sky” are the same; hence, “a bird” represents: “a medium between God and man”. Later we shall see that when God wants to kill Moses it is his wife “Zipporah: the bird”, who intervenes and saves him. Traditionally, the dove is associated with a spiritual intermediary.


In ancient times, olive oil was considered a source of light, hence: “messiahs”, were considered to be: “enlightened beings” because they were: “anointed with olive oil”.

Along these same lines, in the previous article, we touched upon: “The Mount of Olives” representing: “a source of teaching at a high level of enlightenment” which in the last days (i.e. the final lessons) will raise the spiritually dead to higher levels of understanding. 

Finally, we mentioned that Adam selected the leaf of a fig tree in order to make him appear to be a source of knowledge about God, yet, at the same time, Adam used the leaf to help conceal his location. Thus we could say that: “the leaf” is a metaphor for: “something which indicates a hidden source of knowledge”.

We also mentioned that Adam suffered from “frustration of the hands” which represented: “man’s inability to fully grasp certain types of information”.

In short then: We are presented with an image of: “a dove bringing a leaf from an olive tree in its mouth, to the hand of a man whose name means: ‘rest’, while he is inside of a wooden ark floating on the water”. This combination of symbols all come together to form a single message:

 “A previously concealed source of enlightenment will be delivered, via the spirit, to those who patiently wait (i.e. rest) for God to communicate to them and do NOT try to reach the highest levels of understanding through their own efforts”.

Here it should be clarified that the fig leaf is used to conceal the source of Adam’s seed as well as the source of Eve’s fruit: hence “a fig leaf” also becomes a metaphor for: “the concealed knowledge itself” and not just the source.

Furthermore, since: “water” represents: “the explanations of men”, this suggests that: “the wooden ark floating on the waters” represents: “a school of knowledge which is based upon the teachings of men, but which exists at a higher level”.

What is also extremely important to note here is that, in Hebrew, the ark of Noah is described as “walking” on the waters and, of course, “walking on water” is one of “miracles” found in the New Testament; thus, all the metaphors we will be studying in this series, can also be applied to the New Testament as well. But, as Rudyard Kipling once said: “That is another story….”


We have already touched upon the significance of clothing, so I do not want to go into too much detail about the story of Ham and his father Noah, but what I do believe is worth mentioning is that for some strange reason, Ham himself is not cursed. It is only Canaan, one of the sons of Ham who is cursed. In my opinion, it is a mistake to interpret the Torah literally and conclude that the often quoted blessing: “be fruitful and multiply” has to do with expanding the population.


“The tree” in the garden is clearly associated with: “knowledge” and, as we have already commented upon, “the Torah” is compared to: “bread” and the word for: “meat” is associated with: “preaching”.  Accordingly, it is my personal opinion that: “all blessings” in the Bible have to do with: “increasing knowledge about God” and: “all curses” have to do with: “inhibiting the acquisition of knowledge about God”.


We have also discussed that: “working” should be associated with: “studying”, hence the curse on Canaan that he will be: “a slave to his brothers” has nothing to do with the form of slavery experienced in North and South America after Columbus arrived. “Slavery” in the Torah is a metaphor which means: “being forced to accept the religious beliefs of another people”. Similar to the way the people of Eastern Europe were forced to study communism in the years after World War II.


The last issue I would like to deal with in this week’s Torah portion is the image of: “The Tower of Babel”. “Heaven” represents: “a high level of understanding” and: “The Ten Commandments” were written on stone. Thus the Moslems built their mosque on a large stone on Mount Moriah and this structure is called “The Dome of the Rock” (we have already shown in the previous Torah portion that the name: “Moriah” comes from the root of the word for: “teacher”). Since the Ten Commandments are written on stone, we can clearly see the connection between stone and the word of God.


Thus we are told that the men built with bricks of mud instead of stone, and that they used “slime” instead of mortar. The name: “Babel” means: “confusion” and the name: “Adam” means: “ground”, so we can begin to appreciate then that the problem is not so much that men wanted to know more about God and reach heaven, but rather that they wanted to accomplish this feat through their own efforts (i.e. via the bricks).

Hence the story of the Tower of Babel represents: "the confusion which results when men attempt, through their own teachings, to reach higher levels of understanding".


 Later, of course, we will see that the Israelites, as slaves of the Egyptians, are forced to build structures using bricks made from mud and straw (i.e. water and ground mixed with plants containing no fruit).


Probably the clearest example of these two concepts was a religious school established around the time of the fall of the second temple. Its official name was Yavne, which can loosely be translated as: “those who will build”, nevertheless, amongst the teachers at this institution, the school was referred to as: “The Vineyard”.


So “builders” is a metaphor for: “those who attempt to reach higher levels of understanding” and: “vineyards” represent: “religious schools”.


In conclusion: The problem was not that the people wanted to build a tower; the problem was the building materials they selected to work with contained no fruit (i.e. the study materials they selected had no knowledge).

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