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Actually, while Burke gets the credit for this great quote, he didn’t say it first. When the people create the golden calf, G-d offers to destroy all the people and create a new nation just from Moses:
Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.”
But G-d does not actually say, “let Me be.” This translation is very loose, while the text is quite specific: G-d uses a verb form of Noah’s name! He is telling Moses to “be like Noah, and let me do my thing.”
There are four major messages in this one word here:
1: G-d is telling us that Noah did not do anything to stop G-d from bringing the flood and destroying the world. Noah never advocated or argued. He just minded his own business – not lifting a finger to save anyone outside of his nuclear family. So, in using this word, the Torah is connecting Noah directly with passivity.
2: G-d is challenging or even tempting Moses: Should I start all over with you, just as I did with Noah? Or are you going to make yourself a better man than was Noah, “a righteous man in his generation”?
3: By bringing up a very old name and situation, G-d is telling not just Moses, but also each and every one of us, that we are offered the very same challenge that Burke identifies: when confronted with evil, do we do nothing?
4: In the outcome of this episode (where Moses persuasively argues that G-d should save the Jewish people), we are to learn another lesson: not only should Noah have argued, but we, too, should refuse to accept that any specific future is inevitable, ordained by G-d or man and so out of our hands. On the contrary: we are empowered to follow in Moses’ lead, ignore Noah’s passivity, and change the course of history. Even if G-d Himself proposes otherwise.
For evil to be defeated, we must act.
[another @iwe and @susanquinn production]Published in