A Brief Note on a Whole New World – Parsha Noach

Parsha Noach is a difficult chapter of the Torah. God had reconsidered having made Man. He did not like his ultimate creation. The offspring of Adam had become wicked and evil. There was however one man who found grace in God’s eyes. His name was Noah. God decided to save Noah and his family, and to preserve the earth’s faunaParsha Noach is their story.

God determined that He would bring a massive flood and drown earth’s inhabitants, or as so elegantly phrased; to blot out their existence. Noah and his family would survive the divinely directed deluge in an Ark that he was instructed to build. As well, Noah was to gather all that lives: two of each animal were to be collected; a male and female of each species. God wanted a tabula Rasa. Noah and his descendants would thus be the seed to repopulate the world, hopefully one to God’s liking.

The Torah does not record Moses’ reaction, if any, to God’s recollection of this significant event. While most of the surrounding cultures spoke of a great flood, the Egyptian tale which Moses would have learned about at the royal court was significantly different. This telling may have also been Moses’ first confrontation with God’s abundant anger, which Moses’ would unfortunately experience time and time again while leading the Israelites in their bleak forty year peripatetic existence.

The particulars of Mans’ offences are not recorded; the broad stroke of the indictment was all encompassing: “the earth had become corrupt before God; and the earth was filled with injustice, but equally ambiguous. What had Man done to merit extinction?

Early interpreters of the Torah searched for the one true evil thing that precipitated God’s wrath and the destruction of His very creations and pointed to a cryptic report recorded in Bereshit 6:1-5: “And it came to pass when Man began to increase upon the ground and daughters were born to them, the sons of Elohim saw the daughters of man were good and they took themselves wives from whoever they choose”. The text goes on to suggest that wicked giants (the {“nephilim”) resulted from this unholy union, who in turn brought evil amongst men and encouraged the corruption, which was said to have become rampant. 

Sforno’s theory of what lay behind the almost total destruction of mankind, focused on man’s injustice to one and other. It was the breakdown of the public order which influenced God’s decision; each person robbed the other – the landowners robbed the sharecropper through force, whilst the sharecropper robbed the landowner through deceit. Man had become corrupt and disdainful of any moral and ethical constraints. Rashi was of a much different viewpoint. Man was guilty of the gravest sins of idolatry, sexual immorality and promiscuity.

The narrative is also unclear as to why the animals, domesticated and wild, were made subject to such a harsh decree, but it is clear that they were killed for the foulness of their own deeds. Rashi opined that sexual immorality had also pervaded the animal kingdom such that “even domestic animals, the other beasts and the birds had relations with those which were not of their species”. The Ramban looked at it differently. He suggested that animals were included because they had gone astray of their natures: all animals acted as predators and all birds acted as birds of prey. Simply, the Rule of Law had been abrogated; the Laws of Nature had been ignored.

However, God’s hopes were soon dashed. The descendants of Noah rose to the occasion, only not as God had intended. 

The Torah describes post-diluvium civilization as united and at peace. Its major strength was described as the ability to works as one. The “generation of the dispersal” was not accused of perpetrating any of the known evils, sexual immorality and idolatry. Their transgression was much more subtle. God complained:  “Behold, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is what they begin to do; and now, should it not be withheld from them, which they propose to do”.  Many commentators opined that they sinned by utilizing their knowledge and resources in a bid for self-aggrandizement and power, conduct that was unacceptable in a society bound to God. Their behaviors were also seen as challenging God. 

The opening chapters of the Torah describe God’s disappointment with his ultimate creation, Man. Adam had quickly and much too easily failed, and his descendants had proved to be unworthy. Even starting afresh had not helped. God, perhaps noticing the futility of his actions, needed to change His modus operandi. He needed men that would stand for Him on the earth. The Parsha ends with a record of the birth of Abraham, the progenitor of the Children of Israel. And so, it is with him that God begins to build a relationship with Man.

This entry was posted in 2014, Genesis/Bereshit, Noach. Bookmark the permalink.

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