Gently the rising water bore up the crowded ark high above the earth. It floated on the sea and was tossed hither and yon by the tug of the moon and pushes from prevailing winds.
Higher and higher did the ark rise on the surface of the water, over mighty oak trees and sheep covered hills, and over the shepherds of the sheep and the sheepdogs, and over desolate mountaintops. Teaming flesh and swarming creatures all succumbed to a vast army of raindrops. Even the birds of the air without places to perch, fell exhausted into the watery abyss.
The earth was surrounded by a soupy ocean brimming with every form of life it had ever known. Nothing escaped this stew of death but a wooden houseboat filled with the makings of a brand new world, and terribly confused fish and sea monsters which navigated around a million corpses.
For forty days and forty nights streams rose up from the earth as they had from the beginning of time, while the planet was being pelted with rain from above. Thus the waters above the sky rejoined the waters below in a colossal reversal of Creation. Day after day the continual shower washed the air, air that the wicked men who provoked this catastrophe could not breathe to save their lives. Nor could the power of their anger, or the memory of their murders, or their evil inclinations gain them or their neighbors or their children a moment of relief from this losing battle with death.
Inside the lifeboat the wives wept in fear and grief over the loss of their mothers and brothers, sisters and fathers, while their righteous husbands thanked God Who delivered them from evil. Awe and humility, awe and humility.
Slow down author! Don't gloss over the most powerful weeks in the history of humanity. What transpired inside that ark? Ask God to tell us; ask Noah to tell us. How did their thinking and their emotions evolve during this watershed period of human life? Though thousands of years have buried these powerful weeks deep deep deep down in our history; call them forth to this surface of time. Tell us what we want to know. Tell us what we need to know about the very first forty day Lenten period when God's chosen people left a dead and dying world to enter the womb of God. How did this primal Lent change our ancestors and inform our Great Lent?
"Noah, I'm terribly frightened; water is actually falling from the skies! How can we survive this?"
"Sha-me, I told you this would happen! Did you not believe me?" replied Noah a little too impatiently.
Now that the dry week of confinement was over, and the rains began to fall Sha-me, Noah's wife, wasn't sure what was worse, the anticipation of calamity, appearing insane to her neighbors and friends, sitting inside a building filled with loud, smelly animals, on beautiful sunny days, or the beginning of the end of the world. Unlike her neighbors Sha-me knew that the end was near, but that knowledge had sat like a rock in her heart; she wanted to dis-believe.
"Please my dear, we have no choice but to trust God. Look, He told me this would happen, and it did. We will be safe, I assure you." replied Noah a little more compassionately.
"But these animals! They are so loud! I can't hear myself think. My heart is clogged with worry. And how can we feed them all? We gathered food, but they are ravenous! And they smell so bad, I want to throw-up." cried Sha-me.
Noah felt as Sha-me did but refused to entertain those kinds of thoughts. He knew that his job was to keep the peace and sanity. Outside, the rains were coming down sporadically, and nothing terrible had happened yet. The people and animals outside the ark were simply afraid of something so unusual as water falling from the sky. Some of them, the men who taunted Noah the most, and who watched him and his sons while they were building; these men tried desperately to recall how he did it and tried to build shelters as Noah had. Others rushed into already crowded caves. The most remarkable effect of the rain was that the people stopped fighting amongst themselves. Some were too busy responding to this natural phenomenon while others were paralyzed with fear.
The animals outside of the ark were just as startled by the water falling from the sky as the humans were, only they couldn't build, or were smart enough to seek shelter. Dogs ran in circles, chickens and roosters squawked and squawked. Lions roared. A choir of horses neighed in syncopated rhythm louder than ever. The birds of the air had no sense of danger. They nested and perched safe and securely on branches of mighty trees far away from the clamor below.
People who lived on other continents, who never knew Noah or saw his ark being built, who had no inkling of something unusual about to occur, reacted differently. For these men, women, and children sheer chaos reigned. Men and women screamed, children cried, but like their neighbors, they sought shelter anywhere they could find it, in caves, under trees, in the clefts of rocks. Children and teens gazed into the skies to see where the water was coming from.
Not everyone in the ark was as upset as Sha-me. Shem and Ham realized how lucky they were and how proud they were to be sons of the one man in all the world to be saved from annihilation. From the time they learned what God had told their father to do, and they started to build the ark they felt privileged to be singled out for this mission. They were ready. Ham and Shem were ready to stand victorious over their wicked neighbors. They weren't even afraid of the unusual water fall. At thirty, they were mere children open to adventure. Besides, their father Noah had told them what to expect and the falling water proved that he was right. There was a peace in their hearts that they didn't comprehend, it made no sense that they should feel so calm and even slightly joyful in the midst of this natural phenomenon, but they did. The young men were not yet aware that their mother, Sha-me, was so upset.
When they were not commiserating, the young wives took the medicine of busyness by nesting; they made beds and decorated the walls of the ark with pictures and designs they drew with pieces of charcoal.
After a few days of light soothing showers, the rains accelerated with a vengeance. The steady beat on the roof of the ark was so loud that the sound of it even quieted the dumbfounded animals inside. By the third day of steady rainfall man and beast alike subconsciously tuned their own vibrations, their heartbeats, their breaths, to the rhythm of the drops, so that in a strange way the rain became as much a part of each one's physical being as their own flow of blood.
During the first week the ark still stood firmly on the solid foundation of earth. These were busy days as the family settled-in to routines of feeding and housekeeping, sleeping and socializing. Without the river to bathe in personal hygiene was a challenge. Noah cleverly constructed several large tubs smeared with pitch to collect water on the top level. One tub was for washing and another for drinking. A room on the ground floor was reserved for relieving one's self. It was Shem's idea to build a box with an opening on top. The plan was for the person to sit on the box and expel whatever they needed to. Shem put a wooden cover over the hole to keep the odor inside. It wasn't as good as going behind the bush and walking far away, everyone with their own favorite spot, but there was no choice. The family had many changes to grow accustomed to.
The outside world during this first week was still very much on Sha-me's minds. She did not know how her neighbors were reacting; she could only imagine it and she was right. After the first few days of hiding from the rain, most of the villagers got used to it and returned to their daily routines. Women watched their little children, men hunted and fished. No one was prepared for death.
Noah and his family had been preparing for survival for so long that the shift to the reality of it gave each one of them a mild subconscious jolt of melancholy when it actually started. Japheth and his was wife Coochie had doubted their father Noah when he told them that water would fall from the sky and everyone on earth would die. The couple couldn't imagine how water could kill; it was so useful and essential. Japheth and Coochie wondered how something so important and good could also be so harmful? "Besides," Coochie said, "if this God of Noah created the world and was so good, why would he want to destroy?" Coochie had many friends who were happy people, women with many children they loved. She couldn't believe that their creator would destroy them...and with water. Coochie and Japheth didn't dare express their cynicism to Noah, or even the brothers. Yet, their doubts was their favorite topic of conversation when they would go for walks together during the building days. Now that they were cramped up in this ark with thousands of animals and water outside falling from the sky, Coochie and Japheth didn't have the opportunity to talk about this reversal of their expectations, nor did they want to. Each in his or her own way was still trying to accept it. The falling water frightened Coochie and even Japheth too. Where was it coming from? It may as well have been raining frogs for how strange it seemed that there were rivers in the sky spitting at the world below.
During these early days all of Noah's family, the faithful and the two cynics alike were focused on their physical survival and comfort-seeking. Between their yearning for fresh air, and adjusting to the sounds of the animals and the cramp quarters, thoughts about God and the wisdom behind what was happening could find no opening in their minds to seep in until one night while trying to fall asleep Noah spoke to God.
"My Lord," said Noah, "are you still with me? I haven't heard from you in so long."
"Fear not, My son. I am with you."
"My family is afraid; what should I tell them?"
"Tell them that this ark is not a prison. It is for the shelter and protection of their lives. They should not fear, but be grateful to be within these loud walls. Tell them to think less about the outside world and to think more about what is reigning in their hearts and about this small gathering, My synagogue that is your family.
"But, Sham-me, and Japheth, they want to know why their friends and relatives must die."
"Tell them that I have seen that the wickedness of humankind is great on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of their hearts is only evil continually. I am sorry that I have made humankind on the earth, and it grieves me to My heart. I must start over. Your family is the remnant that I will use for a new beginning."
Noah loved the Lord and feared Him. He wondered in his heart what he had done to find favor with God. He knew about the violence and hatred that ruled the lives of so many of the people, back biting and back stabbing each other continually. He knew about the murders and the rapes. He too was disgusted with the world, so Noah didn't want to challenge God's decision, but he also knew that the children and a few others were not quite so horrible. Noah wondered deep in his heart where he hoped that God could not see, if there could have been another way to make a better world without annihilating this one first.
"Noah, wake up." said God to the daydreaming man. "We can talk later; go take care of your family, and tell them to be grateful and not afraid. They are given an awesome responsibility to create a peaceful, loving world free from all enmity. Let them think instead about what this means and practice loving each other. Now go, I hear the zebras calling for you."