This weeks Torah Portion is Noah. Noach was famously seen by the Creator as righteous in his generation and was instructed to build an Ark to preserve his family, the animal kingdom and himself from an almighty flood that would sweep across the earth killing almost all living things. After 40 + 150 days Noach opens a window and starts to look for clues as to the state of the flood, the earth and the possible disembarkation of the contents of the ark. Noach has a plan, he releases a Raven.
Raven’s are one of my favorite birds and they are part of one of my favorite family of birds. They belong to the Corvus group and are sadly painted with rather a bleak brush. Graveyards, Edger A Poe, witchcraft .. there is no end to the dark mythology that man has painted on this beautiful chapter of creation, even down to it’s collective term, an ‘unkindness’ or ‘conspiracy’ of Ravens. We have all played the ‘if I were an animal I’d like to be a…‘ game (wolf please) and in those terms, if I was to choose a bird I’d choose Raven.
I think the Raven is the subject of character assassination. The Raven was released by Noach waited .. and waited.. but the Raven did not return. Noach, undaunted chooses this time the dove and sure enough the dove returns after some time carrying in it’s beak a sprig from an olive tree, letting Noach know that the waters had indeed receded. The beautiful white dove (imagery so often used in christian art) saved the day and the nasty ol’ evil Raven didn’t.
Maybe it’s a reflection of my own self. Perhaps it’s a mirror to the type of person I am. I’m well aware that I’m not a ‘personable’ person and in fact I’m something loner (some might say bordering sociopath) but I think Noach made a mistake in releasing the dove. If Noach knew his animals at all he would have trusted the Raven.
Ravens are super smart. They are not sheep. Ravens are great providers and scavengers, fierce warriors and devoted companions. If the Raven of the Ark didn’t return it was because it found a way to create a new life and that means land. If the waters had not started to drain away that ebony genius would have returned to the only source of shelter, food and safety. The Ark.
I’ll go further.. Doves are often trained to return to a roost. The return of this one with it’s branch, if anything, just shows that it wasn’t able to survive alone and reverted to learned behavior. It had to return, branch or no.
The Raven is the hero. It was released while the rest of Creation was in it’s container, it found a new horizon and a means to survive and thrive. Ok, perhaps not so community minded at that point. Perhaps not so poetic or graceful.. but given the choice of which bird I’d choose to rely on.. I’d go Raven everytime.