Parashah Noah

This Shabbat, the parashah was Noah (Bereishit/Genesis 6:9-11:32). This is the story of the flood, the curse of Ham, the origins of various peoples, the Tower of Babel, and the beginnings of Abram (Abraham).

Landschaft mit dem Dankopfer Noahs by Joseph Anton Kock (c. 1803)

Landschaft mit dem Dankopfer Noahs by Joseph Anton Koch (c. 1803)

In this parashah, we learn the wrongs of violence, invading the intimate and personal space of someone, and uniting as one worldwide organization.

Bereishit 6:11-13

וַתִּשָּׁחֵת הָאָרֶץ, לִפְנֵי הָאֱלֹהִים; וַתִּמָּלֵא הָאָרֶץ, חָמָס.

וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים אֶת-הָאָרֶץ, וְהִנֵּה נִשְׁחָתָה:  כִּי-הִשְׁחִית כָּל-בָּשָׂר אֶת-דַּרְכּוֹ, עַל-הָאָרֶץ.

 וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹהִים לְנֹחַ, קֵץ כָּל-בָּשָׂר בָּא לְפָנַי–כִּי-מָלְאָה הָאָרֶץ חָמָס, מִפְּנֵיהֶם; וְהִנְנִי מַשְׁחִיתָם, אֶת-הָאָרֶץ.

Now the earth had gone to ruin before God, the earth was filled with wrongdoing. God saw the earth, and here: it had gone to ruin, for all flesh had ruined its way upon the earth. God said to Noah: An end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with wrongdoing through them; here, I am about to bring ruin upon them, along with the earth.

We see that humans were doing wrongs, the implication being violent barbarians constantly killing each other. God felt bad for having created mankind and wanted to end the experiment. However, Noah and his family were good people, so he told Noah to build a vessel so that they could survive the pending flood. He then told Noah to take a pair of every type of animal, male and female, to repopulate the Earth. Of the pure animals, there were to be seven pairs.

After the flood, God saw that He had Himself gone too far and promised never to create a worldwide flood again. As a sign of this promise, a rainbow would appear during rainstorms. God then realized man needed a way to take out his violent inclinations, and permitted man to eat meat, but not with the blood. All humans are to eat meat without the blood. An implication of this is that animals must be dead and not eaten alive. Additionally, murder becomes outlawed for all humankind, and the death penalty instituted as a punishment.

Bereishit 9:6

שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם, בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ:  כִּי בְּצֶלֶם אֱלֹהִים, עָשָׂה אֶת-הָאָדָם.

Whoever now sheds human blood, for that human shall his blood be shed, for in God’s image he made humankind.

After this, Noah planted a vineyard and got drunk on the wine. Ham came into his tent and saw him naked (and may have violated him). Ham told his brothers, Shem and Yefet. The latter put a cloak on their shoulders and carried it backwards to cover their father, so as not to see the horrifying sight. When Noah woke up, he knew what had happened and cursed Ham and his son Kanaan for invading his space.

Bereishit 11:6

וַיֹּאמֶר יְהוָה, הֵן עַם אֶחָד וְשָׂפָה אַחַת לְכֻלָּם, וְזֶה, הַחִלָּם לַעֲשׂוֹת; וְעַתָּה לֹא-יִבָּצֵר מֵהֶם, כֹּל אֲשֶׁר יָזְמוּ לַעֲשׂוֹת.

YHVH said: Here, (they are) one people with one language for them all, and this is merely the first of their doings- now there will be no barrier for them in all that they scheme to do!

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegehl the Elder (1563)

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Bruegehl the Elder (1563)

Finally, the text discusses the development of the nations of Earth, and the discusses how an ancient United Nations and universal city came to be. The people of Earth built a city together and tried to build a tower to the heavens. God saw this happening and was troubled by it. If humanity could succeed at that, they could do any sort of evil. So He scattered the peoples around and changed their languages. We learn from this the dangers of universalism here. One world government is antithetical to liberty. The United Nations is a similar endeavor to Bavel, and has wrought all sorts of evil on the world. Fortunately, it does not have that much power in the grand scheme of things, but the potential is there.

It is important for humans to maintain the differences and organize accordingly. If we ever are to agree on something, it would probably be a great evil. We should strive to be peaceful, but not completely united.

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