“Noah sent the raven and it went out and back forth until the waters dried upon the land” Genesis 8:7


Where did she go, this raven, as the cataclysm subsided, and how did she live in the new world? Noah, in verses 8-10 also sends a dove that found no rest but brought back a twig before being sent from the ark forever.

What happened to them both is the question explored by Israeli Tamar Biala in a modern midrash, a creative exploration of the Torah text — taught to me by Rabbi Avi Kilip of Mechon Hadar — that can help us consider how we humans move away from the Covid-19 pandemic too.

Biala playfully explains that although the fate of those birds has been passed over in many a human house of study, it became a keen topic of interest in the House of Study of the Birds.

After years, they sought out the raven and the dove. The dove has been busy ever since the flood, repopulating the earth with doves, responding to desolation by redoubling her efforts to rebuild.

The raven, it turns out, has never stopped flying, eventually exclaiming, as the birds persistently try to coax her back to normality: “Where should I stand? And where should I rest my wings? Anywhere I try to stand, the dead eyes of my brothers and sisters are staring at me.”

The other birds must conclude, “What do we know about the dove and the raven, we are not doves, or ravens, and it wasn’t we who were sent out from that window, to go and look”.

We might learn not to pressure ourselves to deem this as over; so much has changed and been lost. We have all dealt with this pandemic and been affected by it in profoundly different ways, which we are still grappling with and understanding in ourselves.

We can have compassion and respect for all those ongoing reactions that we cannot fully understand, for we are not doves or ravens, and we are not each other. We can also be sensitive to our own feelings, as we grapple with this present and the future, sensitive to all that has been lost and to each other.


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