A Deluge of Choice
Our world today is flooded by information and many other
unprecedented comforts. Never in history has there been
so much prosperity. Despite the so-called recession and
economic downturn, our grandparents could not even dream
of the abundance available to us today.
But do these new opportunities make you feel emancipated
They tell us that we are living in revolutionary times
– the Information Age. They tell us that we have never
been so powerful, never so free, that we now have the unprecedented
ability to access any information anytime anywhere. But
are you feeling freer today? With all the information at
our fingertips, are we happier people, more fulfilled, less
fearful, making better decisions? Has the Information Revolution
informed us or inundated us? Are these gushing waters destroying
or refining us?
Our modern age, with all its breathtaking technologies,
has its share of maladies, many not unrelated to our scientific
advancements and higher standard of living. Indeed, the
argument can be made that our unprecedented cascade of information
and slew of options has also brought on unparalleled misery.
Is our only option to escape and insulate ourselves from
the flood of choices? Or is there a way to fully take advantage
of our wealth of knowledge and prosperity without being
annihilated by it?
The answer to these critical questions can be found in
comparing two Biblical verses, which describe the state
of the earth, one of them in this week’s Torah portion.
In only a few select verses does the Bible describe the
state of the earth – “the world was filled...”
Two of these verses stand out in stark contrast to each
“The world filled with corruption” (in this week’s Torah
portion, Genesis 6:13).
“The world filled with Divine knowledge as the waters cover
the sea” (Isaiah’s Messianic prophesy, 11:9).
The association of these two verses is not just in the
fact that they both use the same opening term (“the
world filled,” “moloh ha’aretz”),
but also in their context. The corrupt earth self destructed,
wiped out in the great flood of water. This is eerily similar
to Isaiah’s statement “the world filled…as
the waters cover the sea.” Yet in the Messianic prophecy,
the water filled earth is a blessing – a world filled
with Divine knowledge, while the flood on our chapter is
an agent of destruction.
Another interesting correlation is the opening of the verse
in Isaiah: “They will not hurt or destroy… for
the world will be full of Divine as the waters cover the
sea.” In our chapter the world is annihilated by the
floodwaters precisely because the people were corrupt and
were hurting and destroying each other, whereas in Isaiah
the submerged earth manifests a higher state of consciousness.
We thus end up with two contrary scenarios, two types of
floods, which appears like a catch-22 situation: Isaiah
declares that a world submerged in Divine knowledge will
eliminate violence and destruction. In our chapter the floodwaters
also put an end to the violence – but through destroying,
not elevating, mankind.
So which one is it? Does knowledge and information obliterate
or refine us? The answer lays in the addition of one word
by Isaiah: He says not just knowledge, but Divine
Knowledge is compared to water. Like water, knowledge makes
us and everything around us grow. It is nurturing, moisturizing,
empowering. In short, a great blessing. Yet, knowledge can
be used for selfish and destructive purposes, to take advantage
of and hurt others. Or it can be used to build and improve
life and the world around us.
The choice lies in our hands:
When knowledge is seen as Divine – not merely as
a product of the great human mind, but a gift from above,
endowed to us in order to use the knowledge to refine life
– then it’s deluge is a great blessing. However, if we see
our lives and our blessings – and the knowledge we gain
– as self-made, and we direct these gifts only toward selfish
ends; if our world become filled with greed and corruption
– then even the knowledge and prosperity we gained turns
into a torrential flood that will, due to our conflicting
interests, overwhelm and destroy us.
However, if we humbly recognize that the knowledge is Divine
Only when we humbly recognize that water/knowledge is Divine,
and its purpose is to affect and be integrated into your
life, does it prevent hurt and destruction. When it is just
ordinary water/knowledge it can become a curse lacking focus
and integration. When asked how he, as a professor of ethics,
could behave unethically, Bertrand Russell once said, “I
am also a teacher of mathematics and I am not a triangle.”
Academics often take pride in their detachment: “I
can be completely knowledgeable of a given topic and it
does not affect my behavior.” Contrast this attitude
with Maimonides’ words, that a true scholar is recognized
in his actions: how he talks, walks, sleeps and does business.
A seamless flow between knowledge and behavior.
To have knowledge affect you this way requires bittul
- total immersion in the pure waters of knowledge. True
knowledge is not about you, it’s about the Divine
truth of the knowledge and your humble recognition that
you are a transparent channel for this knowledge. Like a
fish submerged in water – always connected and aware that
its entire sustenance comes from the water.
When Adam and Eve ate from the Tree of Knowledge –
the knowledge of good and evil – they began to sense themselves
as separate entities from their Divine mission. They unleashed
knowledge that is divorced from its higher purpose. Ten
generations later in the time of Noah this dichotomy evolved
into total corruption, with one person turning on another
in a blatant war against humanity, hurting and destroying
The waters of the flood came to remind the world and purify
it with a total immersion, reminiscent of the world as it
was at the beginning of creation, completely submerged in
water, the source of life, and a foretaste of the world
that will be “filled with Divine knowledge as the
waters cover the sea” – a knowledge that transforms
the person into a Divine vehicle, preventing human hurt
And mind you, the flood began as regular rainfall, as a
warning and reminder to the people to wake up and correct
their ways. First come several symptoms, a taste of what’s
ahead, corrupt executives, unsound financial decisions,
an economic breakdown, information overload, _________ (fill
in the blanks) – all attempts to remind us that we
need to act. And when we do, the water does not need to
turn into a flood, it can become a rain that waters the
Our current flood of knowledge with its assault on our
psyche, is in many ways worse than any physical flood. Yet,
within the curse lies the cure. This flood of information
alerts us to the dangers of knowledge without focus; information
without integration. And it reminds us that we must embrace
Divine knowledge – knowledge that lifts and empowers
us to be proactive and take control of circumstances, instead
of knowledge and information that turns us into robotic
observers and victims as it demoralizes and makes us anxious.
What can we do to find refuge from the flood around us
– the flood of greed, fear and information?
We must build an ark, a ‘teivah, ‘ which also means
‘word.’ By surrounding and immersing ourselves in the sacred
words of Torah and Tefillah (prayer) we create an oasis
of Divine knowledge and words that protect us from the raging
Designate time each day for prayer and Torah study, build
a ‘teivah’ that will serve you well as a ship
swimming through the swelling floodwaters that surround
Yet, a defensive response is not sufficient. True, we need
to protect ourselves from the flood, but the ultimate goal
is to transform the world into a place where we need not
fear a destructive flood. Just as Noah is commanded after
the flood to “leave the ark” and build
a new world, we too must build a new world. The only thing
that will do justice to the flood, and the only guarantee
that there will be no more hurt and destruction, is by inundating
our lives with torrential goodness and kindness, creating
a world flooded with Divine knowledge “as the waters
cover the sea.”
In our lives we have both options: A deluge of waters that
will overwhelm and destroy us; or a deluge of Divine knowledge
that submerges us in its watery embrace.
Both earths are covered in water. The difference is us.
Have we allowed ourselves to be defined by self-interest,
and then when the floodwaters come, get consumed by them?
Or have we built our “arks” – surrounded ourselves with
sacred words, allowing ourselves to be lifted by the raging
Both are deluges. But the choice is yours.