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All Good Things

10/27/2022 10:08:59 AM


My dog does not excel at long term strategizing. I imagine his inner monologue going something like, “Oh here is my favorite toy! I am so very excited. I shall DESTROY IT!” His love language seems to be chewing. And whatever is most beloved shall be torn to shreds. I have no way of knowing if he misses the objects, or if at night, when his little paws are dream-running through fields, the lost toys haunt him as happy ghosts of his past.

When I was a kid, I was incredibly sentimental. I still am I just cope better now. I treated every object as if it deserved humane diffidence. Behold, a cut out card-stock heart with accordion paper arms and legs and a smiley face I made on vacation? Save it forever in a special place! Stuffed animals? So close to sentient that I must make sure each gets enough attention every day. I lived with an urgent need to preserve and protect anything good that crossed my path.

I felt honorable in my quest. I think I came by it honestly. We can see the clear scaffolding of my mindset in the way we usually read Noah: Destroy the bad! Preserve the good! This is what we think God does — with floods, fire and brimstone, war. Thus destruction must be punishment. And it indicates that what was destroyed was bad too. And good things must be made to last forever.

But how many good things have I ruined, trying to save them forever?

Sometimes the destruction is part of the good. The best things can be incredibly fleeting.  A first bite of cake, lavender picked and crushed for its smell, fireworks exploding, laughter, discovering something new -- all of these things do not last by design. Their end is part of their beauty. If you save that cake forever, just looking at it, you will have missed much of its goodness and probably have ants.

Maybe Noah needed to build an ark to bring his family and all these animal species into harmony. Maybe we need many languages from Babel to turn our attention from our own glory to discovery of the world. Maybe sometimes we must destroy things because that is the way they are at their best.

So when is destruction a good thing? I imagine it’s when we feel we have the choice. As we read Noah this Shabbat, may we each face destruction without fear, shame, and resistance. May we instead find the empowerment to know for ourselves when good means finite.

Shabbat shalom!

Sun, July 14 2024 8 Tammuz 5784