Parashat Noach

I realized two weeks ago that I waste a lot of time summarizing the Parasha, so that I don’t have so much energy left by the time I actually get to my point. So I am not going to summarize the parasha anymore, but the original is better anyways so I recommend to whoever reads this blog to read the original text of the parasha as well because it’s pretty great.

So, I’m diving right in. Why does God decide to destroy the world by flood? In Bereishit we’re told: “And it came to pass when man commenced to multiply upon the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them. That the sons of the nobles saw the daughters of man when they were beautifying themselves, and they took for themselves wives from whomever they chose (…) And the Lord regretted that He had made man upon the earth, and He became grieved in His heart. And the Lord said,  I will blot out man, whom I created, from upon the face of the earth, from man to cattle to creeping thing, to the fowl of the heavens, for I regret that I made them.” (Bereishit 6:1-2, 6-7).

And in Noach we are told: “Now the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth became full of robbery. And God saw the earth, and behold it had become corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way on the earth. And God said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become full of robbery (hammas — חמס) because of them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth.” (Bereishit 6:11-13).

One of the best-known traditional explanations, based on textual interpretation of several verses, is that the cardinal sin of Noah’s generation was sexual impropriety. Bestiality was rampant, and there were not social rules proscribing certain sexual relations. But why was this such an issue?

When Adam gives a name to all the animals in parashat Bereishit without finding a helpmate for himself, Rashi posits that Adam had sexual relations with every kind of animal in order to “check” whether they were intended for him. So why does bestiality in Noach all of a sudden lead to the destruction of the world?

I think it’s telling that the other problem with Noach’s generation was “hammas.” Chabad.org translate this as robbery, but if you look at other examples of the use of “hammas” in the Bible it appears that it means something more like “destructive chaos”, or “chaos that disrupts the natural order of things.” (look for חמס on this site and compare all the results that come up: http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/olam_hatanah/index.asp)

I think the problem with Noach’s generation is that they weren’t moving forward. Man is in God’s image; just as God created the natural order, man needed to create the social order. But instead of ordering, man was consciously staying in a state of social chaos. So when Adam committed the exact same acts of bestiality as Noah’s generation, he was not only not punished, but was actually rewarded with the creation of woman, because Adam was involved in creating a social order. By the time of Noah’s generation, however, woman is already in the picture, and conclusions of the experiment with animals is over — they are in a different category than man. When Noah’s generation is involved in bestiality, it is not with the purpose of moving anything forward; rather on the contrary it is keeping society in a state of unordered chaos.

Same goes with robbery, Chabad.org’s choice to translate hammas. Widespread robbery stems from an absence of recognized property rights, which leads to social chaos as well. God created the world, and created man in it. Man has a job to do, to create the social order, the same way God must created the natural order. Man was not doing his part in the creation, so God tried again.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s