The rabbi replies, “If it’s good news, you can tell me straight away. If it’s bad news, I can read it for myself in the story of No’ach and the flood”.
There are many versions of this incident, but the one that Sholem Aleichem uses leaves us with a sheaf of questions.
Since when are No’ach and the flood bad news, and from whose point of view?
Since so many humans were swept away by the waters, one can understand that for them the approach of the flood was all highly unwelcome news.
No’ach and his family, however, survived, and presumably that is good news as far as they and future history were concerned. The animal species also survived – good news for them and for us too.
From God’s angle the flood allowed a new beginning. The first phase of earthly history was not a great success. But only when that first phase had played itself out could the new era begin.
It’s not only history as a whole that knows of phases that give way to one another but personal and family history.