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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 11 of 21
So here's what the Medrash says about this, The Medrash comes down on the side of doing. It said what Cham really did was he did something but the Torah was being polite and described it as seeing. Here's the Medrash, I'm just going to show it to you in Hebrew and I'll translate it for you. This is Rashi, actually a medieval commentator, quoting the Talmud much earlier - a good 600 years earlier on what it was that Cham did and here's what Rashi said. On the words Vayar et ervat aviv - that Cham saw the nakedness of his father. So he quotes a dispute in the Talmud. Everybody agrees that he did something the only question is, what? Yesh omrim sarso, ve'yesh omrim ravo. Again kind of a shocking analysis, I'm just going to translate what it says here. Some of the Rabbis say that what Cham did was that he castrated his father, some say that what he did is that he sodomized his father. It's sort of a shocking analysis here by the Rabbis.
Often by the way when you have a dispute like this sometimes it's helpful not just to talk about the differences but actually about what the common denominator is. What would be the common denominator between castration and sodomy? It's really some sort of sexual assault, that's at least how the Rabbis see it. Where do they come from? How did they put two and two together? Where are they coming from with such a strange kind of thing?
So I believe there is some textual evidence for this kind of analysis. It comes actually from an analysis of this word which appears in the text. The word which the English is translating as Ervat is actually the first time the word is going to appear in this particular form in Genesis; Ervat aviv. What exactly is the connotation of that word? Again, remember the only way that you know what words mean in the Torah is by figuring out where it is they're used. Where is this word Ervat used? This is the first time it's used, where are the other times it's used? Turns out that it's used 18 or 19 times in quick succession - and this is the vast majority of the times it's used - is later on in the Book of Leviticus. Let's take a look of how it's used over there and I think you'll see some clues.
Okay so we're going to put a split screen up here on the board again, and I'm going to show you on the left hand side of your screen over here, you're going to see the Noah story, the Noah and the vineyard story from Genesis Chapter 9. Then up on the right side of your screen I'm going to put this text here from Leviticus Chapter 18, from Vayikra Yud-Chet. So again, up on the right side of your screen this is verse 22, this is the verse we've been talking about with this word Ervat; Vayar Cham avi Canaan et ervat aviv - he sees the nakedness of his father. Then later on this is the part about when Noach wakes up; Vayeida et asher asah lo beno hakatan - he sees what his younger son had done to him, which implies that there was some sort of action. I think that's one piece of evidence the Sages are coming from when they say that there was actually something that actually happened to Noah. But the other piece of evidence I think comes from over here, from Leviticus Chapter 18.
Take a look at these words over here, we actually have to scroll down a little bit till we get to that section, so just bear with me for a second. Okay so here we go let's look at verse 6 over here. Ish Ish el kol she'er besaro lo tikrevu legalot ervah - every person should not come to those who are close to them, to those who are family, to those to who they are related; Legalot ervah - to uncover Ervah. Think of that metaphor uncovering Ervah, what does Ervah mean? Well here it's translated as nakedness but how do you know it's nakedness? Well the last time, again, we have these words of Ervat brings us back here to Noah, what happened to Noah, when Noah's nakedness was uncovered. But what's happening over here? The Torah is actually being euphemistic, because what's going to become clear as we go further is that we're talking about illicit relationships, incestuous relationships within the family. Who is the first one? The first one is Ervat Avicha - the Ervah of your father. Well isn't that interesting, that the last time we had Ervah is when we were talking about a son approaching their father in that kind of illicit way. So here; Ervat Avicha lo tegaleh.
Also, if you think about that metaphor of uncovering nakedness, where does that uncovering idea come from? Well we come back here to the story of Noah, what did Shem and Yefet do? They covered up the nakedness of their father. By implication what was Cham doing? Seemingly Cham was doing the opposite, he was uncovering the nakedness of his father. So what I want to just show you is that the metaphors here of Vayikra, of Leviticus, all seem to be borrowed from this story of Noah.
Over here, we are talking about some sort of incestuous, illicit kind of relationship and we just have one Ervah after another Ervah, after another Ervah. Again, it's talking about don't be involved in any of the incestuous relationships. I think this kind of - perhaps - is where the Medrash is coming from and arguing that yes, in fact Cham did do something. The Torah is being polite, it's not getting into explicit descriptions of what happened, but if you read between the lines, you can get some sort of sense of what happened. Exactly what was it? So that's a debate, but it's some sort of act of intimate violence that Cham perpetrates upon his father. This is the first Medrashic point that I want to bring to your attention.
Now I want to go to a second Medrashic point which in some ways is even more astounding than the first. Let's move away from our split screen for that. Let's get then to our second piece of Medrash. The second piece of Medrashic commentary is going to actually in an oblique way address all of these other questions which we've asked, which is why is Canaan mentioned there in the beginning? What was it exactly that Noah was beginning? Why is it that Noah curses the wrong person, Canaan instead of Cham? The Medrash is bothered by all of these questions, but I think its starting point is really this question over here, number 2. What exactly was it that Noah began?
So let me kind of prepare the way for you by making the really audacious suggestion that the Medrash is actually picking up on the same intertextual parallels which we ourselves have been noticing between the world of creation and the world of re-creation. It is using perhaps those intertextual parallels to come to an understanding of what it was that Noah was beginning. Let's go back to those parallels for a moment so I can show you what it is that I mean.
Okay, here of course is all of these pieces of the Garden of Eden story that get paralleled in the Noah and the vineyard story, and we talked about this before. But right at the beginning of this section is this idea that G-d begins an enterprise and Noah begins an enterprise. As we were talking about, what it was that Noah begins is ambiguous, because if we go back to the text we have the strange grammatical discrepancy where on the one hand it says; Vayachel Noach - Noach began something, but doesn't say what it began. Later on it says; Vayitah kerem - and he planted a [garden/ vineyard 7:57], but again, as we talked about before there this, And he planted a garden, suggesting that what he began was something else. So the question is, what was it that he began?
What I want to suggest is that the Sages say the answer can be found right over here on the intertextual parallel to Noah beginning. Remember over here Noach the Ish Ha'adamah - the man of the earth begins, well what does that remind us over here, a man of the earth? That reminds us of G-d creating man from the earth. Well what was - what enterprise was G-d beginning? Vayitzhar Hashem Elokim et ha'adam - G-d was creating a man. Enter the Sages, what they're arguing is, that's what Noah was doing also. Noah also was beginning, he was beginning what? He was trying to create a man. Or, he was trying to father a child.
Okay, so I hear you're protesting, saying, that's just ridiculous, how could you possibly say that Noach was beginning and what he was beginning was he was trying to father a child? How - the man was like 600 and some odd years old, what is he doing having kids now? It just seems like preposterous. But actually there's some evidence for it. Look back at the very beginning of this chapter. How does this chapter begin? What story are we actually continuing here? Remember how Noah comes out of the ark, remember the sixth day in Noah's world and G-d blesses Noah and his children, what does G-d say? Look at verse 1. Vayevarech Elokim et Noach v'et banav - and G-d blessed Noah and his children and said to them be fruitful and multiply. Have children. Now who did he say this to? G-d didn't just say this to Noah's sons, G-d blessed Noah and his sons. Vayevarech Elokim et Noach - Noach got an explicit blessing from G-d, an explicit directive along with his kids, be fruitful and multiply.
Noah seems to be in some way trying to take this seriously, he seems to be trying to have children, and this is where the Sages seem to be coming from. Later on in verse 20, Noah in beginning an enterprise is Noach the man of the earth is doing exactly what G-d did when G-d created a man from the earth, which was that he was trying to create another human being.
Now with that in mind, try to understand what it is that Cham is doing, what is the effect of either castration or this other kind of intimate violence? Is going to make the fulfillment of that dream, of having a fourth child, impossible. Oh, a fourth child? How many children of Noah were there? There were three. How many rivers were there? There was four. The generations of the heaven and the earth, four rivers. The generations of Noah, three, but there was perhaps a phantom fourth. There was supposed to be a fourth, Noach was trying to make the fourth, and Cham had other plans. What those plans were, according to the Sages, is something we'll talk about when we come back, I'll see you then.
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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