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The God Squad: If it bleeds, it leads? Not for God

April 18, 2014|By Rabbi Marc Gellman

Q: I love your column. You're so open, honest and straightforward with your answers. I'm 61 (a widow for 35 years) and was raised Catholic. I watch the news each night and see the weather that's occurring in the U.S., people rioting, etc. I'm scared to death. Is the end of the world coming? How will we know? This is a great concern to me. I want to be with my family when it does. Could you please explain this to me? — J., North Branford, Conn.

A: After seeing (and reviewing) the new movie "Noah" and living through this horrible winter in New York, I too have experienced some end-of-the-world mood swings, so your question resonated with me.

My first suggestion for you is one I follow myself: Try watching a little less news on TV and go for a nice walk in the long-delayed but deeply welcome spring air. The change of seasons is the first and perhaps most powerful argument that the world is not about to end.

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In fact, the covenant God makes with Noah after the flood uses the images of springtime and nature to reinforce this promise and message of hope (Genesis 8:21-22): "...the Lord said in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; neither will I again smite any more every thing living, as I have done. While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease" (KJV).

In Genesis 9:13, God goes on to declare: "I have set my rainbow in the clouds, and it will be the sign of the covenant between me and the earth" (NIV).

Unfortunately, the hopefulness of this covenant took a beating in later biblical and post-biblical literature and history. By the first century, things were bad for both Jews and Christians. The Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans in 70 CE, Jesus was crucified and Christians became a persecuted minority.

All this horribleness led to the creation of a genre of religious literature about the end of the world called eschatology. These books are part of the Apocrypha. (Christian denominations disagree on whether these writings, by early Christians, should be included in the biblical canon. They are not part of the Hebrew Bible.)

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