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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 6 of 21
By the way, one last thing that occurred to me that's really kind of cool that I just want to share with you, if you think about the generations of heaven and earth being parallel to the children of Noah coming out of the ark, remember when we talked the rivers in our last video, about the four rivers that come from headwaters? So what you have over here in the creation story is the idea of a source of water - some sort of source of water which is in Eden, which then breaks into four headwaters and from there goes through the world. What you have sort of is a mirror image of that in the story of the post-flood, the story of the world after the flood. Which is that in the creation story all life is coming from this water source which then waters the whole world, and then isn't it kind of interesting that after the flood where do you have life coming from? You have life also coming from a source, but what's the source? The source is this little boat which was used to save people from water, water all around it. So it's a mirror image; it's the people coming out of the boat onto dry land, they become the source of human life that spreads out throughout the world. Anyway, just wanted to share that with you.
But the question that we were asking before is, how far do these parallels go? The last riddle I had left you with, which is if you keep on reading the story after the generations of heavens and earth in creation, do you continue to hear parallels in re-creation to what happens after the story of the children of Noah? And particular, the story after the children of Noah is going to be the story of Noah and the vineyard. This very kind of oblique and difficult to understand little episode.
So I want to read that story with you now and before we even get to the question of are there parallels here between the stories of creation and re-creation as they express themselves in the story of the vineyard, I want to just keep things simple and just look at the story of the vineyard, in and of itself. Again, as we've done before with the story of say, the Garden of Eden and the tree of knowledge, just kind of ask the questions that a normal, average person would ask as they're reading through this story, and ask, what are the things that kind of should catch our eye, they're a little strange in the story? A lot of things that are strange in the story. So let's see.
Here's the story, let's kind of read it through really quick. Va'yihiyu benei Noach hayotzim min hateivah - I'm just going to read it in Hebrew and you can follow along in the English. And these are the children of Noah that came out of the ark. Who were they? They were Shem, Cham and Yefet. So how many? Let's just number them, one, two and three. Shem is number 1, Cham is number 2 and Yefet is number 3. V'Cham hu avi Canaan - now strangely, right after we mention these people, even though each one of these people has other children, only one of them, Cham the third, do we have a second-generation descendant mentioned. Cham hu avi Canaan - Cham was the father of Canaan. Cham was actually the father of lots of people; Canaan was his fourth child, how come we only hear about Canaan? The answer is because probably later on Canaan is going to play an important role in the story down here, so it's a little bit of a foreshadow.
But it is a little bit strange that we talk about the Bnei Noach - the children of Noach, and the question is what do we mean by children of Noach - when the children came out? Are we talking about first-generation descendants of Noach or are we talking about second-generation descendants of Noah? The verse is a little confusing because first it enumerates these three which are the first-generation descendants of Noah, and then we just - we hear about one of these which is a second-generation descendant, it just seems a little bit confusing.
As if that wasn't confusing enough if you go a little bit further into verse 19 it gets confusing some more, because right after we've mentioned a fourth person here; V'Cham hu avi Canaan - and specifically added someone in from the second generation - the verse goes back and says; Shelosha eileh - these three were the sons of Noah. As if we're just like ignoring this Canaan again. So really a lot of confusion. Are we talking about four people here, which is to say Shem, Cham and Yefet including this child called Canaan? Or are we talking about three people here, which is just Shem, Cham and Yefet in and of themselves? In which case we're sort of ignoring Canaan, and that's seems to be what's happening in verse 19. These three - which three? Just Shem, Cham and Yefet and not this child of Cham, Canaan. So I know this may sound very picayune and why are we getting into this? But it will be important later. So let's just chalk up question number 1 over here, which is again, are we talking about first-generation descendants or second-generation descendants, and what's Canaan doing muddying the waters over here?
Okay so let's get rid of some of this ink, and go a little bit further and see if we - what else we find in the story.
Okay; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah vayitah kerem - very strange words, very difficult to translate. Now many translations - the translation you have here, the JPS 1917 translation, actually a translation I really like, kind of difficult to read sometimes, but at least it's pretty literal. Preserves the problem, preserves the ambiguity in the sentence. Most translations that are not as good will translate this as; And Noach a man of the earth began to plant a vineyard. Vayachel over here would mean And he began. What was he doing? He was beginning to plant a vineyard. But that's a bad translation, that's not actually what it says. Because if you look at it carefully it says; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah - and Noach a man of the earth began. Then there's this Vav over here which means And. And he planted a vineyard. Now the And suggests that what he began was not really planting a vineyard. In other words, Noach began X, something, Noach began something, what did Noach begin? What did Noach begin? We don't know what he began, he began something we'll call X, and then after he did that, And he did something else, he planted a vineyard.
That's the proper way to read it. If you look at this English translation that's the ambiguity which you have right here. And Noah the husbandman - or whatever that means, the man of the earth - began and planted a vineyard. What do you mean he began and planted a vineyard? But that's a problem in the Hebrew. So it's not that he began to plant a vineyard, if it was that it would have said; Vayachel Noach ish ha'adamah - in Hebrew - Litah kerem. That Lamed there would mean to, to plant a vineyard. But it doesn't say that, again Noah the man of the earth began And he planted a vineyard. So of course the great question over here, what we're going to call question number 2 is, what did Noah begin? How come we don't know what he began? How come it's left ambiguous?
So that's question number 2. Question number 1, what's Canaan doing over here? What's question number 2? What did Noah begin?
Let's continue a little bit more. So anyway he plants this vineyard; Vayesht min hayayin vayishkor - so he drinks from the wine. He evidently made wine. Vayishkor - and he gets himself drunk. Vayitgal - and he becomes naked; Betoch ohalo - in his tent. Then all of a sudden; Vayar Cham avi Canaan et ervat aviv - Cham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father. Vayaged l'shnei echav bachutz - and he told his two other brothers, which would be Shem and Yefet, outside. Vayikach Shem v'Yafet et hasimla - and then Shem and Yefet took the cloak - this word is a little strange over here; Hasimla - the cloak, instead of just a cloak, it's almost as if there was a particular cloak. Took the cloak; Vayasimu al sh'chem sheneihem - and placed it on the shoulders of both of them together. Vayelchu acharonit - and they walked backwards; Vayechasu et ervat avihem - and they covered the nakedness of their father. All the while; U'peneihem achoranit - they're facing backwards; V'ervat avihem lo ra'u - so they didn't see the nakedness of their father. So they preserve the dignity of their father by not gazing on him in his drunken nakedness. Now at that point; Vayiketz Noach miyaino - shortly thereafter Noach wakes up from his wine, sobers up. Vayeida et asher asah lo beno hakatan - and he sees what his little son Cham did to him.
Now what's interesting here is that - and again we might call this question number 3, which is that there's a little bit of a discrepancy here between verse 24 and verse 22. I would ask you this, what exactly did Cham do? Well if you just look at 22, it seems kind of innocent. Vayar Cham avi Canaan - Cham the father of Canaan sees the nakedness of his father. All right fine, he - what did he - what happened? He didn't really do anything to him, he just saw him. Well look at verse 24 though. Vayiketz Noach miyaino - Noach wakes up and sees; Et asher asah lo beno hakatan - and sees all of a sudden, knows, what his little son did to him. But he didn't do anything to him? Did he? So the question is, did he see something or did Cham do something? What was it over here? So we're going to call that question 3, what did Cham do?
Let's go on. Vayomer - so Noach very angry says; Orrur Canaan - cursed be Canaan. Eved avodim yihiyeh l'echav - let him be a servant of servants to his brother. I don't know about you but this is going to lead me to question number 4. Question number 4 is he's cursing the wrong person? What are you doing cursing Canaan for? Canaan wasn't the guy who saw your nakedness. Who was the person you're really angry at? Seemingly you're really angry at your younger son, which is the fellow by the name of Cham. Right? Right over here, this guy over here. Cham, he's the person you - it's true Cham was the father of Canaan, but what are you doing cursing the son, you should be cursing the father? The son didn't do anything, Canaan is innocent, he's not doing anything, so why are you cursing Canaan? So question number 4 seems to be misplaced curse. What are you doing cursing Canaan?
I mean, are these good questions? I know these are my questions, why - he's cursing the wrong guy, very strange.
Vayomer baruch Hashem Elokei Shem - and he says blessed be the G-d of Shem. Vihi Canaan eved lamo - let Canaan be a servant to him. Yaft' Elokim l'Yefet - strange words over here, exactly what this means. I have a little bit of a theory about it, which I'll save for later, but; Yaft' Elokim l'Yefet - let G-d grant beauty to Yefet. To Yefet - related to the word Yafah - beauty. Let G-d grant beauty to Yefet; V'yishkon b'ohalei Shem - and let Yefet dwell in the tents of Shem, whatever exactly this means; Vihi Canaan eved lamo - and let Canaan be a servant to both of them. So basically he's cursing Canaan that Canaan should be a servant to both Shem and Yefet. Anyway; Vayechi Noach achar ha’mabul shalosh me'ot shanah v'chamishim shanah - and Noach after the flood lives for 350 years. Here are all the years of Noach and he eventually dies. That's the end of the story.
So really four main questions over here in the text. (A) How come we have Canaan over here, what's he doing in a story seemingly about three sons of Noach, how come he's introduced as a fourth? Then immediately we have; These are the three sons of Noah, again as if excluding Canaan, so is Canaan excluded, is he included, what's he doing here? What exactly did Noah begin over here? Vayachel Noach. If he wasn't beginning planting the vineyard, so what was he beginning? Then, what did Cham do? Did he do anything? Did Cham see, as implied by verse 22 or did Cham do, as implied by verse 24? Then the misplaced curse, how come Noah is cursing the wrong guy? These, I think, are the four crucial questions in the story.
I want you to think about these questions, see what you make of them. Next question up, are there any parallels between this story and the story of creation after the generations of heavens and earth? How do any of those parallels, if anything, shed light on some of these mysterious questions on the story of Noah and the vineyard? We'll talk about that when we come back.
1. The Generations of Heaven and Earth
2. Before the Rain and After the Flood
3. Splitting the Garden
4. Generations of What?
5. Of Rivers and Nations
6. The Vineyard, Introduced
7. God Begins; Noah Begins
8. The Vineyard and the Garden
9. Conflict of Interest
10. Two Hands at the Piano
11. What Cham Did
12. Why Cham Did It
13. The Vineyard's Center
14. What You Know Might Hurt You
15. Why the Drunk Walks the Line
16. The Big Picture
17. Chiasm in the Garden?
18. Chiasm in the Garden II
19. The Center of the Garden
20. The Mysteries of Imperfect Chiasms
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