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Noah and the Vineyard
Video 12 of 21
Here is the Medrashic take on it right down here, let's read this through. Again, it's in Hebrew but just follow along with me and I'll translate for you if you don't know the Hebrew. The Medrash is bothered by Noach's curse over here; Orrur Canaan - why was Noach cursing Canaan? So here is in effect what Noah was saying according to the Sages. When he cursed Cham he was really saying; Atah garamta li - you were the one who caused me; Sheloh olid ben revi'i - that I am unable to have a fourth child. Remember we were talking about - I suggested to you that the Sages are working with the presumption that Noah was trying to have another child, he was trying to have a fourth child. There were three children, he was trying to have a fourth.
Again, I suggested to you that the Sages might have been working off of these intertextual parallels between the vineyard and the garden. If you just set up the garden on the one hand and the vineyard on the other, as we were talking about in our last video, there were four rivers that came out of Eden, that seems to be parallel to the children of Noah, how many children of Noah were there? The islands of nations that came out from these children of Noah, there were three or were there four? So the text is kind of ambiguous about it. There was a missing child, there was like a phantom child, that was supposed to - it was as if Noah was destined to have four. There was supposed to be four rivers coming out of Eden, there were supposed to be four head waters which would start the new world of Noah. So Noah was trying to have that fourth child which he felt that he was destined to have.
Again, continuing with the evidence, G-d began what? What was G-d doing? G-d created a man. So according to the Sages, it was Noah who was beginning to create a man. Again, as we talked about before, if you just look at the text at the beginning of Chapter 9, what did G-d bless Noah? Be fruitful and multiply - and not just to Noah's sons but to Noah himself. So then maybe when it says that Noah began, maybe he was beginning to fulfill G-d's command, be fruitful and multiply. So that we talked about last video.
Here you see it coming out in what it is that the Sages say. Orrur Canaan atah garamta li sheloh olid ben revi'i - you foiled my plan, you were the one who disrupted my ability to have this fourth child. Orrur bincha revi'it - and therefore because you got in the way of me having a fourth child; Orrur bincha revi'it lihiyot meshamesh et zar'am shel eilu - I will curse Cham your fourth child - and if you look at the text later on you will find that indeed Cham has four children, and the fourth of those children is Canaan. So in a kind of tit for tat, perhaps a questionable wisdom, because he's cursing one of his own grandchildren here, he's destroying the legacy of his grandchild, Noah is. But he's saying in tit for tat, I'm taking revenge upon you and I am cursing your fourth child because you got in the way of me having a fourth child.
Again, whether you view this as actually physically making it impossible for another child, which would be castration, or just dealing with the aftermath of the trauma of being sodomized, in one way or the other, creating some sort of traumatic event which disrupts Noach's ability to procreate.
Why did Cham do it? Mah ro'oh Cham shesarso - what agenda might he have to commit such an unspeakable crime upon his father? Omar lahem - here - and this again is another astounding thing the Medrash says. This is what Cham in effect said to his brothers. Odom Harishon - let's go back to Eden. In Eden Odom Harishon the first man how many children did he have? Shnei banim hayu lo - he had two children. Well how did that work out for him having Cain and Abel? Horag zeh et zeh bishvil yerushat ha'olam - one kills the other in order to inherit the whole world. The world wasn't big enough for the both of them according to Cain, so Cain killed Abel in order to be able to have dominion over the entire world. Now, Cham says to his brothers; Avinu - our father; Yesh lo gimmel banim - our father has three children, not just two; V'odenu mevakesh ben revi'i - and he now wants a fourth child? There's not enough space in here for all of us.
So now with this in mind, let's come back to our questions back in the vineyard story. So you see the Sages are talking about what was it that Noah began? He was actually trying to father a child. What did Cham do? He got in the way of Noach fathering that child. Why is it that Noah curses the wrong person? In an act of vengeance he's cursing his fourth son because he interfered with Noah's ability to have a fourth child.
Now, let's get back to this question, why then is Canaan, child of Cham, mentioned right at the very beginning? Right after Shem, Cham and Yefet and right before the text goes out of its way to tell us after it's talked about four people, it says, these three were the sons of Noah. Well if Cham wants to increase his portion in the world - they're going to be these nations that diverge and inherit the world, and Cham wants to increase his share of the inheritance, so if there's three children how can you increase your share of the inheritance? Let's work with the idea that there were supposed to be a destined four just like the rivers. So if I get rid of Noach's ability to have a fourth child, and there's still a destined fourth child, well what would Cham want to do?
Well let's go back to the beginning of the text, the text that sort of ominously sets the tone for all of this. And the sons of Noah that went forth from the ark, from which diverged all of the nations from which the whole [world 6:07] over spread, were Shem, Cham and Yefet. As we talked about, here's Cham wanting a larger share. Oh isn't that interesting? Cham the father of Canaan. A fourth child. The fourth river. What's Cham's agenda? Oh, I'll promote my son Canaan into the first generation and that way instead of having one portion out of these four, I will have two. It will be me and Cham, together we will have a double portion.
A double portion. If you think about it in Biblical terms, what is a double portion of an inheritance? If these children will inherit the world, that that was their inheritance, what does a double portion remind you of in an inheritance? Well later on in Deuteronomy the Torah actually talks about a firstborn child getting a double portion. Who is Cham? Was Cham actually a firstborn child? And Noach woke up and he knew what his little son did to him. It was little son. Cham was not the firstborn, he's the little son trying to be the firstborn, trying to get the double portion. If you think about it, we are in the Book of Genesis, the very beginning of the Book of Genesis, does that theme remind you of anything in Genesis? Again, I think this is where the Medrash is coming from. The Medrash is coming from really looking at this in context and saying, this is the first of many stories over the struggle over the firstborn.
Take a look at this for a second. Let's talk expansively about this issue of firstborn in the Book of Genesis. Let's look at four men - we can even really look at five, but we'll keep it simple and look at four men and their children in the Book of Genesis. Right, the first one is the ones we are talking about, Noach with his children Shem, Yefet and Cham, we'll come back to them, Cham being the youngest apparently. Okay let's talk about another really important man later on in the Book of Genesis; Abraham has two children, Ishmael and Isaac. Isaac himself has two children, Esau and Jacob. Jacob himself has two children, Reuven and Joseph. Now let's talk about the firstborn. Who is the firstborn? Well over here it's going to be Ishmael, over here it's going to be Esau, over here it's going to be Reuven.
But one of the fascinating themes is that this firstborn is not always the person who ends up being treated as the firstborn. In Abraham's situation it was actually Isaac who ends up carrying on Abraham's legacy. In Isaac's case it is Jacob the younger who ends up carrying on his legacy. In Jacob's case, Jacob sees the one who will carry on his legacy as Joseph rather than Reuven. Perhaps, the Sages are arguing, the very first part of this dynamic starts right here, starts with the story of Cham and Noach. Cham is trying to get himself a double portion - or actually now that I think of it, maybe we're going all the way back, according to the Sages, to Adam? The way the Sages are understanding it, Adam himself had two children, had Cain and Abel, and according to their argument over here the agenda of Cain was to destroy Abel so that Cain could have the double portion. So he could have the entire world, not just his half portion, but the double portion. So maybe it goes all the way back to that story according to them?
But you see what the Sages are doing? Through the way they sort of reconstruct this narrative, they're arguing that this story over here fits with all of the other stories. It's a story about someone trying to usurp their position in the family. To try to argue that the world is not big enough for the three of us. I am going to have the phantom fourth child, that child is going to be Canaan. So that is the narrative, the way the Sages see it, the way sort of - if we talk about the left hand and the right hand, the way that sort of subconscious of the text, the Medrash is sort of playing out the themes in the story and trying to sort of resolve the questions that emerge through just the simple, basic reading of the story.
What we need to figure out, having looked at all of this, is okay, I want to go with this Medrashic sort of analysis for a moment, with these kinds of ideas - whether these kinds of things literally happened or not, this is the flavor of the story that they're trying to give you. I want to go with that flavor and now I want to come back to this great question. We've seen in previous videos these copious parallels between the vineyard on the one hand and the garden on the other. This is just a continuation of all of these parallels between the story of creation on the one hand and what we've been calling the story of re-creation, Noah's world, on the other hand. Somehow these parallels, these intertextual links, have led us to the conclusion that the vineyard is a tree of knowledge story in the world of Noah, is what the tree of knowledge looks like in the world of Noah. Why should that be so? We're now in a position to answer that question, and that's what I'd like to come back and do in our next video.
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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