Torah and Veda are two ancient sources of spirituality still vibrant today. Torah is conveyed through the sacred language of Hebrew and Veda is conveyed through the sacred language of Sanskrit. The focus here is on meditation, mysticism, philosophy, psychology and the underlying spirituality that has been incorporated into religions, and not as much on the religions themselves. Your comments and posts are welcome.

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Monday, November 10, 2008

Curious Canaan: The Curse of Noah, The Mission of Abram

Many people are familiar with the biblical story of Noah and his Ark. Not as many are familiar with an incident involving Noah and his sons and grandson, Canaan, after The Flood, when they had once again settled on the dry land. One day, Noah imbibes in a little too much of his favorite beverage, the fruit of the vine. One of his three sons, Ham, happens upon Noah lying naked and inebriated in his tent and apparently does something to his father to humiliate him. It is not clear exactly what was the form or nature of this humiliating act, but there are various speculations about it, including castration. He then gloatingly reports this to his two other brothers, Shem and Japtheth, who gingerly approach Noah in his naked, inebriated, humiliated state, and cover him with a blanket. When Noah eventually awakens, he becomes immediately aware of his humiliation and its perpetrator, and curses not Ham, but Canaan, the youngest of Ham’s four sons. There are various explanations/speculations about why Canaan, and not Ham, was the recipient of Noah’s hangover wrath.

Soon after the above story (after one significant aside, relating the tale of the Tower of Babel), the Torah narrative proceeds on to the beginning of the story of the husband and wife pair of Abram/Abraham and Sarai/Sarah, considered to be the first Jews and first Jewish Patriarch and Matriarch. It is clear early on that young Abram is a person of significant spiritual sensitivity with a mission/destiny both personal and communal. An important early initiatory phase to fulfilling his mission (along with his wife, Sarai) is to leave his father’s household, his homeland, and everything that is familiar to him in order to discover his true Self and thus be better equipped to fulfill his destiny. Spurred on by his father, who begins, but does not finish the journey, Abram receives further Divine guidance that leads him, most curiously, to the land of Canaan, the land of Noah’s cursed grandson and his descendants, to accomplish this. So we have here, soon after the story of The Flood, yet another story of waywardness and redemption. That which has been cursed must now be redeemed and serve as a vehicle for self-transformation. Indeed, the processes of redemption and self-transformation seem to go hand-in-hand.

But lo and behold! We are told later on in the narrative that Abraham and his entourage are not the first to come to Canaan for such purposes. Shem (from whose name originates the term “Semite”), the oldest and most favored son of Noah, and a direct lineal ancestor of Abraham (with whom Abraham has already studied, along with Eber, another teacher in the direct bloodline between Shem and Abraham, and the originator of the Hebrew language), has preceded Abraham there and established the first priesthood at Salem (later Jerusalem). When Abraham is ready, after enduring further trials and tribulations, Shem (referred to here as Malchizedek) passes on the yoke/mantle of messiah/priest/prophet to Abraham, which is later successively passed on to the two other Patriarchs, Isaac and Jacob.

Many years later, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, whom had left this land due to famine, only to become enslaved in another land which they hoped would bring them relief and salvation, return from their slavery in Egypt once again to the curious land of the cursed Canaan and the blessed Shem and Abraham; to the Promised Land of transgression, redemption and self-transformation, of blessing and of curse. This time it is not merely an individual or small clan or two as in the past, but rather a large multitude consisting of many tribes and others united as a fledgling people and emerging nation. They take up, once again, the yoke/mantle of messiah/priest/prophet of old through Moses, Aaron and Miriam and the succeeding priests and prophets in the land that we now know as Israel/Palestine.

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