Rabbi Yair Robinson
Noach 2022: “I’m Not Lost, I’m Exploring”
Gen. 9:12-16 Plaut p. 64
When I take my runs in the morning, I often see a car in one of the neighborhoods near my house that has the bumper sticker, “I’m not lost, I’m just exploring”. It’s a cute slogan, and I’m sure we’ve all seen similar ones before. And it usually brings a smile to my face as a run past. In a world where so often the bumper sticker is meant to provoke, or poke, or incite, or get under your skin, it’s nice sometimes to see a simpler, even gentler idea.
Of course, the person might actually be lost, and might be poking fun at their own inability to read a map or have a sense of direction, but there’s also a meditation there on what it means to be open to the world around you. Maybe you are lost—so what? Maybe there’s something new to be seen or experienced in the process. We can either be stressed (and let me be clear, usually I’m the one who’s stressed), or we can be open to the potential for learning, for wonder, as we pass a tree whose leaves are in full glorious crimson, or a house with interesting architecture we’ve never seen before, or a person who needs help that, perhaps, we’ve passed a hundred times, but this time the light works out for us to roll our window down to offer a couple of dollars.
One of my favorite authors, Douglas Adams, used to talk about the idea of “Zen Driving” when you’re lost. It doesn’t take you where you’re trying to go, necessarily, but it takes you where you need to be. Is that because of the will of the cosmos, or something in the ether urging us on to our destiny? Or rather, is the sense that we arrive where we need to be actually emerging from our human ability to draw connections, and that sense of wonder is it our ability as human beings to make connections, and to stand in wonder at the world.
Here at the end of the Noah story, as the ark disgorges its cargo, as Noah and his family stand on firm ground for the first time once again after the flood, there’s a sense of anxiety. What now? What does this mean? What direction are we going to take? And God responds with words of covenant, words of promise—essentially words of reassurance—and with placing the rainbow in the heavens, a sight to behold, an opportunity for wonder so rich and marvelous that seeing it compels its own unique blessing in the Torah. As readers, we have a sense of urgency in this part of the Torah—what are we supposed to DO? What is this all ABOUT? And in a way, the text is telling us to slow down, to not worry, to open ourselves to wonder, to awe, to beauty, to learning. To openness itself. To taking time to see what there is to see around us, and not just speed by toward our destination. After all, why not explore just a little? May we find a way to do so as we say, ‘amen’.