The following text from just before the flood seems to imply that G‑d did something wrong, was sorry for it, and surprised by its happening:

"And the L-rd repented that He had made man on the earth, and it grieved Him in His heart. And the L-rd said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping thing and the fowls of the air, for I repent that I have made them."1

How could that be when He knows the end before the beginning?


Here's what the ancient Midrash2 has to say on these verses:

A heretic asked R. Joshua ben Korchah: "Don't you Jews say that G‑d knows the future?"

Rabbi Joshua answered, "Yes."

"Why then," continued the heretic, "is it written that 'grieved Him in His heart'3?"

Responded R. Joshua, "Was a son ever born to you?"

"Yes," said the heretic.

"What did you do?"

"I rejoiced."

"But didn't you know that one day he will die?"

Replied the man, "One rejoices when it is a time for rejoicing, and one mourns when it is a time for mourning."

Said R. Joshua, "So it is with G‑d."

Rashi, the classic commentator, cites this Midrash and adds a few words to explain further. He adds, "Although it was known to Him that they will sin and be destroyed, He nevertheless created them for the sake of the righteous who will descend from them."

Meaning that G‑d created humankind because He wanted righteous human beings. So when He created them, He rejoiced. He knew there would be wicked people, for there cannot be righteousness without wickedness, good without bad. But now was a time to rejoice. Later, when the wicked would arise, that would be the time to mourn.

If you wish to go a little deeper, ponder this: Is G‑d involved in His creation, or does He stand beyond it? On the one hand, to be the Creator of all that exists out of nothing, He must be entirely beyond all the creation contains. On the other hand, He must be here right now in every event that occurs.

So we say that He is both—in the language of Chassidut, He is within all things and yet encompasses them all at once. To be G‑d, He must, so to speak, be of two minds at once:

He must see things from beyond and from within at the same time.

This is what Rabbi Joshua was explaining to the heretic: On the one hand, G‑d knows all before it happens. He is beyond it all and nothing affects Him. At the same time, He involves Himself within every event of the story as it happens. He is there intimately, within the sorrow and within the joy, within the pain and within the beauty that comes out from that pain. Both modalities are true at once and in both together is He found. 4

I wrote something on this topic in an article called Playing G‑d, but let me know if this helps answer your question.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman Interactivity-With-People Team