A World Undone
Paradise Lost: From Eden to Flood
Rabbi David Fohrman
Founder and Lead Scholar
A World Undone
The following series of lectures is entitled; Paradise Lost: From Eden to the Great Flood. The lectures were delivered by myself before live audiences at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. The recordings of these classes were then edited, creating the series you have before you now. The tapes in this series provide a conclusion of sorts to ideas we began to develop in another series of lectures entitled; Serpents of Desire: Good and Evil in the Garden of Eden. That earlier set dealt with the stories of Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel, this current set relates the overarching themes in those stories to the narrative of the Great Flood. There are two tapes in this series, this is the first of themThis is a very difficult story to deal with. When we think of the flood we tend to think of it in terms of fairytale, Noah and the ark. If you go through your average children store you're likely to find some happy picture of Noah with the animals and coming out with the rainbow [unclear 1:01], right? The whole thing. So that's our association with the story. But the truth is if you actually lived through it, it wouldn't have been such a happy thing. I mean you're talking about the cataclysmic destruction of virtually all of mankind, not to mention a lot of animals. So there are a lot of questions that the story raises, not all of which I feel prepared to answer, but I'll raise them anyway in the interest of raising them.
I think one of the questions that bothers a lot of people is that the story seems horrifying; there's thousands of people - hundreds of thousands of people - die at the hand of their creator, what could have brought it about? How do we understand this story? Is it a brutal story? I think that's one problem. If you want to ask a slightly different angled question, you can say well what did the animals ever do wrong, why do they have to be killed even if the people were bad? Was Noah really such a good guy that he was the only one that could be salvaged from a whole world, this one guy? Those are sort of some of the general questions. There's a lot of other specific questions to raise, but those are sort of some of the general questions.
I just want to say one or two remarks about those questions at the very beginning, and maybe we can revisit them at the end - and again, I don't know that I have really satisfactory resolutions to any of those, but just a couple of things to think about. One is that if you look at Noah as he's described in the very beginning, so how is he described? He's described as an Ish Tzadik - as a righteous man. He's described as an Ish Tam, I think also. As a Tzadik - a righteous person; Tamim - who is whole; Hayah b'dorotav - in his generations. He's described as someone walking with G-d.
Yet what's interesting is that what you see in the very beginning of the story - actually even just before the very beginning, because when we tend to look at the story we tend to think of it as beginning - or at least I do - tend to think of it as beginning in Chapter 6, verse 9. But if you look in Chapter 6, verse 8 when G-d talks about His decision to destroy the world, we have the following verse which is interesting. V'Noach matzah chen b'einei Hashem. Immediately after G-d decides to destroy the world it says; V'Noach matzah chen b'einei Hashem. Literally the way that's translated is; And G-d found - how do you translate Chen in your verses? Grace, favor. Found grace or favor in the eyes of G-d. I'd say grace is probably a good translation. Chen is a tricky, little word.
Oftentimes if you would - I think if we would ask the average person on the street why was Noah saved from the flood and you would have to give your really quick answer, you would say because he was righteous, because he was good, because he didn't deserve to die. That opens up a whole questions which is, and everybody else has gone completely - I mean, animals deserved to die? Noah didn't deserve to die, the animals deserved to die? But that's actually not what the text says. The text does not say that Noah was righteous and he didn't deserve to die. The text makes no claim that Noah deserved to live. What it says instead is that he was an Ish Tzadik - he was a righteous person but he was; Matzah chen b'einei Hashem - he found grace in the eyes of G-d.
I don't know exactly what this means, but Chen, as I said, is a very tricky idea, this notion of grace. I guess grace is a good way of interpreting it; grace implies something which you have that's not really deserved. In Hebrew the word Chen comes from the three-letter root Chanan - it literally means to give something freely. In other words, to give something freely without any sort of compensation. G-d, for example, is described in the Book of Exodus in the famous passage where immediately after the Golden Calf G-d appears to Moses and describes, so to speak, these sort of character traits of the Divine. So He describes Himself as Chanun v'Rachum - as compassionate and - how do you say Chanun? Graceful, not the word, but as someone who has Chen, or someone who bestows Chen, someone who gives grace.
Grace and compassion are two different things. I think compassion is more linked to the specific person, in other words - I think I may have said this before here, I'm not sure. But the Hebrew word for compassion is Rachum - comes from the three-letter word Rechem, which also doubles for womb, interestingly. In other words, Racheim as a verb is the same root as Rechem in noun form, which suggests that if you want to understand what compassion is, it's the verb form of being a womb.
So if you think what it means to be a womb as the essence of compassion - by the way, another Jewish philosopher who was not a religious - well not an observant Jew, but probably a religious Jew, Emmanuel Levinas, a French philosopher, argues - he has an essay called - it's in his book, I think, [Nine Talmudic Essays 6:24], or something. But he has one of those essays on Judaism and femininity which is very interesting, and in one of those essays he writes something which I think really is true, which is that he argues that - he says that traditionally we have associated compassion with femininity, and we tend to think that women are by nature compassionate. Or we tend to think of it as a feminine quality. But what he argues is that compassion is not the core quality, the core quality is actually femininity and compassion is derivative from femininity. In other words, there is no such thing as compassion - there's femininity and an expression of femininity is compassion.
I would argue that the Hebrew language agrees with that when it argues that compassion is nothing but the verb form of the noun womb. That compassion is derivative of being a womb. What does it mean to be a womb? Or what does it mean to be compassionate? What it means to be compassionate is to provide the services of a womb. What does a womb do? A womb nurtures and it nurtures life and it gives sustenance and it gives a perfect environment and it gives a safe environment. Everything needed for something to grow into what it possibly can be.
The womb is very hands-off kind of organ - we haven't succeeded yet in replicating a womb by the way, scientifically. You can have test-tube babies but you can't have a baby born without a womb. You think what does a womb do already? It provides sustenance, provides a place to live, big deal. But the subtlety of what the womb provides and how difficult it is to provide that perfect environment, perfectly calibrated to what the fetus needs at every moment, is a very, very difficult thing to do, and modern science hasn't succeeded in doing it. But it's a very hands-off kind of thing where you allow something to develop.
But interestingly, the womb is also a critical organ. By critical I mean, critical in the sense of discriminate, it's a discriminating organ. In the sense that studies have shown that most pregnancies actually end in miscarriage - even though we don't realize it, a woman just experiences it as a heavy period - but 80 per cent of pregnancies actually end in miscarriage. What happens? The womb, so to speak, asks a questions of a fetus before it allows a fetus to implant in the womb. What is the question, so to speak, that the womb asks? The question that the womb asks is - what? Is are you viable? If you're viable so then I'll nurture you and I'll give you what you need to be. But if you're not viable then I'll expel you. So in that sense the womb is discriminate, really only one out of five fetuses answer that question correctly. But if you can answer that question that you're viable then I'll allow you to become whatever it is that you can be.
So interestingly, compassion also is not an indiscriminate virtue. In other words, when you ask for compassion - when a person throws himself upon the mercy of the court, what really is he asking if he's asking for compassion from the court? So compassion stands at an opposite pole from justice. If you're looking at a prosecutor, so a prosecutor who stands in justice has a question for a defendant, the question is not are you viable, the question is what have you done? If I know what you've done, I know how to treat you. The question of the womb or the question of the defense attorney or someone seeking compassion, is not what have you done, because even if you've done something wrong I can still extend compassion to you if you're viable, if you can make something of yourself. The question is not so much what you've done in the past, it's what you can become in the future. But it's still a critical question, what can you become?
If you can't make an argument that someone can make something out of himself, then even compassion doesn't have an argument. At that point compassion doesn't have an argument but there still is one other argument that could be made, and that's the argument of grace - that's the argument of Chen. The argument for Chen can still be made. And that is another one of G-d's attributes, so to speak; He's not only Rachum - compassionate, but He's also Chanun - He also gives grace which is fully undeserved, which seems to be very close to an uncritical free gift, which is also - seems to be a possibility. It's interesting that despite the fact - and you find Biblical characters asking for Chen now and then. There's that - even that phrase which is ubiquitous in the Bible; If I found favor in Your eyes, really is, if I found grace in Your eyes - it doesn't really mean favor it means if I found grace in Your eyes. People ask occasionally for Chaninah - for a free gift, for something that is very close to undeserved.
It's interesting that Chen would be the quality which the text associates with Noah. Because here you have Noah and you think of him as a righteous person and the way we would tend to think of it is that G-d is as critical as possible and the one person who rises above the critical bar of this G-d is Noah. That bar is set very high and Noah is like the best guy in the world and he just makes it over the bar where everyone else dies. My Rabbi - the Rabbi of the Synagogue that I go to - once gave a talk where he argued that if the world is being destroyed there's no such thing as being righteous enough to be saved. In other words, if there's a cataclysm happening on that scale you can't make an argument that you're righteous enough in justice to be saved, there's no such thing. The only thing that can save you in such a situation is Chen. And even if you are a righteous guy - Noah wasn't saved because he managed to get over the bar, Noah was saved because it was part of G-d's plan that somebody had to be saved, and you might as well pick Noah. But from Noah's perspective it is grace. I mean that's all it is - when you're wiping out the world.
That also has implications for everyone else by the way, because if Noah didn't deserve to be saved it might also be that not everybody deserved to die. And the animals might not have deserved to die either. Nevertheless, everyone died except for Noah, who even he, didn't deserve to live, he just got grace. Why then does everyone get wiped out if not everyone deserved to die?
So I'm not going to get into this in detail and I don't know if I have a really satisfactory resolution for this, but again, just something to think about. When we think of ourselves as people, more often than not I think, we think of ourselves as individuals - especially in America which is a very individual place; we prize individual rights and the ability of the individual to manage his own destiny. Yet I think there's no denying that human beings operate on more than the level of just individuals, they do operate on the levels of community as well. We have levels of community which are real.
A fellow by the name of Grier wrote a book called Living Systems - available in the Hopkins' library if you're interested, it's a very expensive book, very thick. But in Living Systems what Grier argues is that in any living system you could find, on whatever level you find it, there are certain components that always exist in living systems. There is a source of energy production, there is some sort of central command structure, there is locomotion, there's various different levels. What he argues is that they exist at different levels and - it's interesting, he's goes through seven levels of organization in living systems. The smallest of which he argues is the cell.
So if you look at a cell for example and you say to a cell, who are you cell? So take your average skin cell, so who is a skin cell? So there's really two ways that a skin cell can answer that question. One way that a skin cell can answer that question is, I'm a cell, look at me, I do perfectly fine on my own. I've got my nucleus, I've got my messenger RNA, I've got my DNA. I can replicate myself, I have a perfect reproductive capacity. I have my [cilium 14:14] in case I need to get anywhere. I've got my lysosomes - my garbage disposal units, I have my mitochondria - my energy-producing units. Everything that I need is pretty much right here, I'm a self-sufficient system. And it's true by the way, the cell is one of the most spectacularly organized systems in the world. If you would look at it under an electron microscope it would dwarf in its manufacturing capacity, in just its output, what even the largest industrial center such as New York City put out over the course of a year. And it's an amazing thing, it works on its own.
Yet it's not true that the skin cell is only a skin cell, because the skin cell is only telling you half the story, if that's what he says. Because he's also part of the skin and he's not being honest about his identity if he doesn't realize that he's part of the skin. Now if you look at the skin and you say, who are you? So skin can say, I'm skin. But skin isn't being honest unless skin says, I'm part of a body too. And that's another level of self in which skin operates.
What Grier argues as well, is that when you look at any individual body then it's also the case that the body operates at different levels. Who am I? So I can say I'm Fohrman, I do just fine on my own, I can go forage for food, I can teach classes, people will give me pay checks, I can do all sorts of things and survive. But Fohrman is not really being honest if that's all he's says about his identity, because he is part of a larger system. Part of that system is family, part of that system is community, his town, part of that system is country. There are levels of community - part of that system is humanity, being part of humanity as a whole.
I think that in an individual society such as we live in we tend - I think we intellectually realize this, but we tend to err on the side of individual more than we err on the sides of community. When we think about ourselves we tend to think of ourselves as individuals more than as members of community, when in fact both are true and neither negates the other. But to really understand who we really are, we have to understand that both exist.
By the way, a lot of things in life don't make sense - maybe this is an obvious point - but a lot of things in life simply don't make sense unless you understand that you exist at the level of community. I mean, for example, imagine a skeptic comes along in the Jewish faith and asks the following question. I don't understand why I should be obligated to observe the commandments of the Torah. Why? Because the Torah was given at Mount Sinai 3300 years ago, and everyone went and said yes, we'll accept this. G-d appeared at the mountain, 600,000 people stood around - 2.1 million people stood around and said, okay we hear, we'll accept it, we'll do it. Now why does that obligate me? Did anyone ask me? Was I there? Did I - I wasn't there, I'm born 3300 years later, I never said yes, why am I obligated to do this?
Now the Commentators, by the way, struggle with this. So some commentators say well because everyone's sort of disembodied souls existed and were there at the time and the whole community was there. So then if I still want to be a skeptic, what would I say? I'd say okay, fine, let's say my soul was there, but what seat did my soul get at this event? Like, was I a voting member, or was I up in the mezzanine watching? Well if I was up in the mezzanine watching and I never said yes, so why am I obligated to be a part of this thing? I mean that's a reasonable question. And it's something which the commentators really struggle with.
I'll tell you my own opinion on this, although I haven't seen it anywhere. But my inclination would be that the answer to this is - I'll give you another example. Let's say occasionally black leaders will demand an apology for slavery from who? From President Bush. Now let's say I'm President Bush, why can't President Bush say, how could I apologize - let's say I wanted to apologize for slavery, how could I apologize? I never owned slaves, slaves was a long time ago, what do I have to do with apologizing for slavery? You could argue such a question, how could any leader of a community apologize? The answer really is it's that both of these questions come from a misunderstanding of self. Because there's different levels at which I operate, and there really is an organism called a community.
In other words, it's not just fake, it's not that a community is a lot of people who decide to live together and they put up a gate around their community and they hire a police force and this is their community. That's not what a community is. A community really is an entity, it is an organism, the same way that an individual is an organism. The same way that a cell operates at two levels of organism, so it's not just a cell. A body is an organism, a community is an organism. Community - the same way that, by the way, I'd say, who are you? Well for the last - if you look at your body, how many of the cells that are in your body existed 15 years ago? None. So now - so you aren't the same person, so you're not responsible for what you did 15 years ago, right? Wrong. Because even though any individual - and indeed all individual cells can die but the community is more than just a conglomeration of its individual cells, it has a reality which outlasts the life of any - indeed all of its individual cells.
The same thing is true for the Jewish people. Why is any Jew obligated by what somebody said 3300 years ago? The answer is he's not obligated to observe the Torah because of anything individually that he said, it's not an individual obligation. He's part of a community and the community is obligated, and to the extent that he's part of that community, he's obligated by that. Ah, he didn't like it, ah, he was born into it, all right, that's part of life is being part of a community. Why is it that it would make sense for a president to apologize for slavery - I'm not arguing whether they should or they shouldn't - but the concept would even make sense? The reason why it makes sense is because there is a community called the American Nation and the head of it can make statements and apologize effectively for things that weren't in his lifetime. It's just - that's part of what makes sense.
So too I think when you look at something called the flood and you say, okay, what happened in the flood? Was G-d mad at a whole bunch of individual people that really ticked Him off and He decided to get rid of them, except that the really good ones He saved? No. What was happening was happening on a communal - I would argue, what was happening was happening on a communal level, [unclear 20:41] - by the way, it's an interesting question, and I don't give you any answers to this question, but I'm going to raise this. Which is, that if we think about humanity's relationship with G-d or any individual's relationship to G-d, when we tend to think about building a relationship with G-d, we tend to think of that as a very individual thing. And it certainly is a very individual thing. But I would argue it's not only an individual thing, because G-d relates to individuals but He probably also relates to communities as well. There's a communal relationship that - there's a one-on-one sort of relationship that G-d establishes with communities. And that's part of my relationship, that's why it makes a difference that I'm part of a community, that I care about the community, because it's part of myself.
I think G-d looking at the community of humanity made a decision and the decision was probably a decision to shut down the operation, that the experiment failed. Experiment A, Plan A for creation, failed. Now what's interesting is that He didn't just completely destroy creation, He decided to preserve one little piece of creation and to start again with that - which is interesting. Why, I don't know. But it seems to be that G-d looking communally at the entire thing says, some people deserve to live and some people don't deserve [to live 21:56], this is not an individual thing, the community that My relationship to this experiment is, it didn't work, I am shutting it down.
There's great personal tragedy in shutting down an experiment and it's interesting to ask what responsibility does the Creator have for evil that happens on His watch, even if it is a result of human beings' freewill. G-d gave them freewill, what responsibility does the Creator have for that? Leaving that question aside, I think the context for asking that question is understanding that the flood was, I think, an issue of humanity as a community vis-à-vis G-d, and G-d's decision that this thing wasn't working.
It's in very broad brushstrokes, but the truth is there is many problems with the flood story that I'd like to bring - many problems that I have beyond this with the flood story that I'd like to bring to your attention and discuss with you.
I'm going to begin with what I consider the most serious problem, a problem that if it's really a problem I think is - we talked before about elephants in the room, and big questions and little questions, to me this is a big question. This is a question that's big enough that if it's a real question - in other words, maybe it's just a mistaken question - but if it's a real question, it's a question that's big enough that I think that it almost gets in the way of understanding the whole story. But here is the problem.
If you ask yourself why is it that G-d decided to destroy humanity? How come? If you look at the text and say according to the text what happened that made G-d decide to destroy humanity, you can find the answer in the text. You would look in Chapter 6, verses 5 to 8, where G-d seems to come to that decision and you would come to a description of what happened, what was it about man that G-d decided enough is enough, it's time to close down the operation, it's time to destroy the world. What is it that G-d says?
Chapter 6, verse 5?
[Response from audience member: Wicked.]
Okay wicked. And specifically the wickedness is described in a very specific way. What it says is; Vayar Hashem - and G-d saw; Ki rabah ra'at ha'odom ba'aretz - that the evil of man was great in the world; V'kol yeitzer - and now this is the very specific explanation; V'kol yeitzer machshevot libo rak rah kol hayom - and the inclination of the thoughts of his heart was just evil all day long. So that is why G-d decides to destroy the world because mankind has been evil and the inclination of his heart is evil all day long.
Here's the problem. Actually, let's see if you can see the problem. I'll point you to a verse and you tell me if you think there's any problem with this verse. Look at for a moment, Chapter 8, verse 21 - and let me set the scene for you. The flood is over, the ark has rested on top of Mount Ararat, Noah comes out with all the animals, Noah builds an altar, offers an offering, and G-d responds. This is G-d's response when G-d thinks to Himself the following thing. Vayomer Hashem el libo - G-d says to His heart; Loh osif l'kallel od et ha'adamah ba'avur ha'odom - He says, you know, gee, this is a really bad idea, I'm never again going to curse the earth like this on account of man and destroy everything. As He says later; V'loh osif od l'hakot et kol chay ka'asher asiti - I'm never again going to destroy all living things as I've done now. Why? Ki yeitzer lev ha'odom rah min'urav - because the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth, all the time.
Now think about that. Listen to this for a second. The reason that G-d decides to destroy the world is virtually the same reason that He decides never again will He destroy it! One second, hold on, I just want you to realize how fantastic this is - how fantastically difficult this is. I mean, this is really problematic. G-d says, oh gee, what a bad idea, destroying the world.
[Response from audience member: (Unclear 26:11)]
Like, oops. Right? But, oops - but it's one thing to say oops I made a mistake, it's another thing to say, oops, the very reason why I destroyed the world is the reason why I'll never again destroy it. This is crazy. I mean, it's one thing to say, I overreacted, but to say that my reason for destroying the world was really a reason - what - to save it? This is ludicrous. In other words, I would ask G-d - I would say G-d, if this is really true, couldn't you have figured this out 15 minutes ago, 40 days ago, before the first raindrops? I mean you're the omniscient one, you're supposed to know everything. And again, by the way, it's particularly problematic if our view of G-d is as an omniscient being, an all-knowing being. All-knowing beings we don't think of making these kinds of mistakes in math. I mean this is a pretty cataclysmic mistake.
But the text seems to set this up - by the way, and the text goes out of its way to make the connection. It uses the same language; Yeitzer machshevot libo - the inclination of man's heart and the evilness, is exactly the same language. There's other aspects of it which is the same as well. For example, is there any other aspect of verse 21 - 8:21 - which reminds you of 6:5? Look at 6:6. Anything about 6:6 which reminds you of 8:21?
[Response from audience member: The L-rd regretted.]
Well - okay, that's not a literal translation. What is the literal translation of those words? Give me a really literal translation of 'G-d regretted'.
[Response from audience member: It says He was sad.]
Sad. Good, He was sad. Even more literal than just sad? He was saddened blank. What does it say?
[Response from audience member: His heart.]
Saddened to His heart. Vayitatzeiv el libo - He became saddened to His heart, is the word where we describe G-d's regret, He became saddened to His heart. Now, fast-forward to 8:21, what does G-d do? G-d smells the incense; Vayomer Hashem - and G-d says; El libo - G-d speaks to His heart. So again you have that same thematic element, G-d was saddened to His heart, and now He speaks to His heart.
By the way, G-d doesn't speak to His heart very often - I haven't done the search, but there's very few times that this kind of language is used in the Bible. It's like the Bible is intentionally harking you back to that episode. So now the question is, why? I mean if the text is going out of its way to make this connection between the two, how can we possibly understand this, short of just saying well G-d made a really bad mistake, a very elementary kind of mistake? So this is one problem.
A couple of other problems I want to raise also with this story. I think an interesting thing to ask yourself with any Biblical story is could we have done this simpler? So for example if you're doing the story of the 10 Plagues, an interesting question to ask about the 10 Plagues is, did we really need 10 plagues? In other words, if G-d is G-d, all-powerful, and the goal is get the Jews out of Egypt where they are enslaved, so figure what's the simplest way to do it? If you're G-d do you really need - and you can use whatever you want, you can use lightning, fire, ice - I mean anything, the sky is the limit, because G-d uses all these plagues - would you really need 10 plagues, or was that just for show? I mean could you do it more simply? Yes, you could. What could you do? If you were G-d and you wanted to get a certain nation out of slavery, what's the most efficient way to do it?
[Response from audience member: I was going to say transport them…]
Yeah, you could use the old magic carpet trick, or you could do - magic carpet would work.
Or you could just - how about freezing the Egyptians in place? That would work. Just freeze Egyptians, let Jews go. And by the way, that actually happened in one of the plagues, which plague?
[Response from audience member: Darkness.]
Darkness, right. Plague number 9 is darkness, no Egyptians can see even their hands, [nose 30:05] and face, and the Jews can see everything. Isn't that a golden opportunity to leave? No one goes. Very strange. So one of the problems in the 10 Plagues is understanding why it had to be so complicated. Why couldn't people just go free easily?
So here also if we ask the question, looking at the flood, if you're G-d, could you do this simpler? If you think about - I mean this thing was the size of the USS Nimitz, I mean this is an aircraft carrier style boat. It took over a century for this guy to build the thing. I mean this is a - you're not talking about a little hobby project. I think a reasonable question could be asked, okay, let's simplify, goal is wipe out humanity, save one guy, you're G-d, what's the simplest way to do it?
[Response from audience member: Probably not what you're (thinking 30:50).]
How about put him atop a mountain, a really high mountain, get everyone up there; "Noah, get some supplies, go to the top of Mount Everest and stay there for a while there's going to be a flood down below". That could have been one way of doing it, right?
So one interesting question is isn't it unnecessary work to make Noah spend a long time fashioning an aircraft carrier? I mean, first of all G-d could have provided him with an aircraft carrier, G-d could have said - I mean the same G-d that brings about a flood can say poof, here's your boat, we can do it that way. Or if we don't want to minimize the miracles, you can say, go on top of the mountain. What's the notion of this poor guy having to learn carpentry and build himself this whole boat and very specific dimensions, the whole thing? It seems - I don't know, maybe it's not a question, but it always seemed to me a little odd. So that's one issue.
Another issue also is what happens to Noah after he leaves the boat? Does anyone know? Immediately after he leaves the boat so he offers his offering, G-d decides never to do it again, and then Noah busily sets about doing something strange. What does he do? He plants a vineyard. He plants a vineyard and he waits for the grapes to ripen and he makes himself wine and he promptly gets himself drunk. And the text bothers to tell us this. So (a) why does the text bother to tell us this, I mean why do we need to know intimate details of his life that he decided to get drunk? And (b) it's as if to say that this was somehow Noah's reaction, I mean what exactly is he doing here, why is he getting himself drunk? It seems to be this deliberate act to build this vineyard and for the purpose of getting drunk, I mean what exactly is going on with that? Another strange thing.
Another odd thing here is if you look at - I want you to look for a moment at Chapter 8, verse 13. Could we have a volunteer to read that?
[Response from audience member: And it came to pass in the six-hundredth-and-first year, in the first month, on the first of the month, the waters dried from upon the earth, Noah removed the covering of the ark (unclear 32:58) and behold the surface of the ground had dried.]
Okay, good, so let's stop there for a moment. So now if you had to summarize what happened here, so you'd leave out all of the years, and you'd just say, one day the earth was dry. But the Bible doesn't do that, the Bible gives us a date. Would you care to tell me what the date is? The date is, as the text gives it - let's just do the math - it's the six-hundredth-and-first year, the first day of the first month, so that is 1 January. So 1 January, so to speak, first day of the first month, on the six-hundredth-and-first year.
Now the problem is here that when you're dating something you need to provide what? A point of reference. You can't just say, the six-hundredth-and-first year - of what? So you might thing the what is what? Creation. The problem is if you do the math and you add up all the years, it's not, it's definitely not creation. It's something…
[Response from audience member: (Unclear 34:00) Noah.]
Ah, so if you look at the text you'll find - so for example, take a look at Chapter 7, verse 6. Chapter 7, verse 6 says that Noah was 600 years old when the rains started falling. So presumably what's happening here is that we're talking about Noah's life. But the problem with this is that it doesn't say we're talking about Noah's life. In other words, the normal thing to do if I were talking about Noah's life, would be in the text to say; And it happened when Noah was 601 years old, that on the first day of the month, the waters dry. That would be the normal way to say it.
If you say it happened in the six-hundredth-and-first year, what is strange about that? If you don't provide a point of reference so it sounds like - like what? It's sounds like it's either from Genesis, from the beginning of the world, or from some established point of reference which you - but to make no - the problem is that Noah's life is a terribly subjective point of reference. I mean, so it's one guy - I know true, an important guy, but all of a sudden to phrase it in this way without even naming Noah as the point of reference, I think makes a very subtle point. The subtle point that I think it makes is what? That Noah becomes the point of reference. In other words, it's almost as if Noah's life shifts from being a subjective standard of measure to an objective standard of measure - to an actually objective yardstick by which time can now be judged in this world - which I think has profound implications. But that's an interesting thing here that the Bible is treating Noah's life almost as if it's becoming an objective standard of time that it doesn't even need to mark, it's just the way time is now reckoned - which is an interesting kind of thing.
Finally, I want to ask one other question - and with this sort of jump in to a broader analysis of the story - which is the following. What was G-d's purpose in bringing the flood? If I were to have to ask you just very briefly why did G-d bring a flood, you would say, in order to…
[Response from audience member: Drown the world.]
Drown the world. Well not - and specifically to drown who? Humanity and while we're at it the animals. That's what you would say.
However, actually if you look at the text of the Bible, the text seems to suggest another agenda. There was another agenda besides destroying humanity which was, I think, really odd, and I have to tell you the truth I never realized that this was another agenda until I was doing this with my kid when he was learning Noah in school, and he was in First Grade, maybe Second Grade, and he was just reciting the verses. You hear it recited long enough and it starts kind of ringing in your ears and you notice that the verse is actually saying something that you never thought it was saying. So if you read, for example, the beginning of the story in Chapter 6, verses - say - 9 to 12, you will find that if you just read the text simply it does seem as if there is another agenda. What is that agenda?
So maybe we can have somebody read that text.
[Response from audience member: This is the account of Noah. Noach was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time and he walked with G-d. Noah had three sons; Shem, Cham and Yefet. Now the earth was corrupt in G-d's sight and was full of violence. G-d saw…]
Okay one second, I'm just going to add an addition here. 'Now the earth was corrupt before G-d' - can someone give me a little bit of a different translation? Okay, lawlessness. [Unclear 37:46] becomes - gee it's interesting, none of your English translations have it. But in Hebrew the word earth is repeated one more time - even though it's understood. In other words, you could just say that - like your translations suggests - And the earth was corrupted before G-d and it was filled with violence. But it doesn't. In Hebrew its - oh sort of unnecessarily; The earth was corrupted before G-d and the earth was filled with violence.
[Response from audience member: G-d saw how corrupt the earth had become, for all the people on earth had corrupted their ways. So G-d said to Noah, I'm going to put an end to all (unclear 38:25) for the earth is filled with violence because of them, I'm surely going to destroy both them and the earth.]
Now if you listened carefully here you will notice that there's another agenda besides destroying humanity, which is what? Destroying the earth - which is not the same thing. I'll destroy humanity along with the earth. In other words if earth is just a synonym for humanity then it doesn't work, because I'm destroying both humanity and the earth. There is another agenda, the destruction of the earth itself, which is very strange.
Notice how many times does the word earth appear in these few sentences. Everything is earth, earth, earth, from the very beginning. What became corrupted? The earth became corrupted - not just humanity, the earth became corrupted. Vatishacheit ha'aretz - the land became corrupted before G-d. Vatimalei ha'aretz chamas - and the land, the earth, was filled with Chamas - Rashi translates it as robbery. But it doesn't say that humankind did a lot of robbing, it phrases it in terms of the land, the earth. The earth was filled with robbery. Again, G-d then looks out, what does G-d see? Not humanity, G-d sees the earth. Vayar Elokim et ha'aretz - G-d looks at the earth - verse 12, and He says; V'hinei nishchata - and behold it was - how do you translate this? Corrupted.
The other word which is appearing over and over here is a variation of the Hebrew word Shacheit - verb - which I think you've been translating as corrupt, as a verb, but it also means - what it literally means in Hebrew is twist, to be twisted. So, 'the earth was twisted before G-d and the earth was filled with - either violence or robbery - and G-d saw the earth and saw that it was twisted'; Ki hishchit kol basar et darko al ha'aretz - because the way of all flesh had twisted itself upon the land. G-d then said to Noah; The end of all flesh has come before Me. Why? Because the earth is filled with Chamas - with robbery or violence - because of them, and now I'm going to destroy them along with the earth.
There's this very strange agenda here, which is not only the destruction of humankind but the destruction of the earth. Also the twistedness of the earth. You would think of people becoming evil but you don't think of the earth becoming evil, I mean what did the earth do? The earth became corrupted. It's a very strange thing. And it seems that - by the way I think this gets to the issue of the destruction of the animals. What are the animals? They're part of sort of the earth - in other words, nature. G-d says, specifically, I'm not just out to destroy humanity, I'm literally out to destroy the world, to destroy earth. Because the earth has become twisted, has become corrupted. It's a very strange thing.
[Response from audience member: Now this is the same (earth theme 41:19) that earlier with Adam and Eve he had referred to as being joined in creation with?]
Ah okay, very good. So now we come back to our earth theme - going back all the way from Adam and Eve through Cain. Earth has been no passive bystander in this story from Adam and Eve through Cain. Earth is very much a part of the story and is a part of the Noah story too. What we'll have to do is relate somehow everything that's been happening in Adam and Eve and Cain to the earth in this story, because again, the earth is taking center stage.
You see it by the way in another way too. If you look at - I just noticed this yesterday actually. Look at this language and tell me where you've heard this before. Verse 12 which we just read in Chapter 6. Here's the language, I want you to tell me - a little Bible trivia quiz here, tell me where have you heard these words before? The words are; Vayar Elokim et ha'aretz v'hinei nishchata - that G-d looked out on the world; V'hinei nishchata - and behold it was twisted. Now, where have you heard the following words; And G-d looked out upon the world, and behold it was x?
[Response from audience member: It was good.]
It was good. It's a direct quote from the creation of the world in Genesis. At the very end of - Genesis, at the very ultimate moment of creation when G-d finishes creating the universe, on the seventh day, and He looks out and He finishes everything. He looks out upon the world and behold it was good. Now He looks out upon the world and behold it is twisted. It's a direct quote from there. Almost to say that the creation that I established then which was good, is now no longer good, but somehow it's twisted. Not just that mankind is twisted, but creation itself is twisted in some strange way. Therefore the destruction that comes down is a destruction not just of man, not just of humanity, but of creation itself.
You see it also in another interesting thing. A fellow by the name of Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom called my attention to this. If you look at Chapter 1, the story of creation and you look at the Noah story, you'll begin to find some very, very interesting parallels. I really should have assigned this to you for homework, to compare Chapter 1 and Chapter 8 of Genesis. If you compare Chapter 1 and Chapter 8 from Genesis you'll see a fascinating series of parallels one after the other. One is the story of creation, Chapter 8 is the story of the flood, and the rehabilitation of the world after the flood.
Take a look at the following thing. I'm going to read verses from Chapter 1 in Genesis, and I want to you guys to keep your fingers on Chapter 8 in Genesis, which is the story of the world after the flood, and whenever I quote a verse in Genesis Chapter 1, I want you to tell me if it reminds you of anything in Genesis Chapter 8. Okay? Here we go from Genesis Chapter 1. Okay, the very second verse of creation, the very second verse of the Book of Genesis - the Book of Genesis opens with the following words. In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. Listen to verse 2. And the world was formless and void, darkness was over the face of the deep and a wind of G-d blew upon the face of the waters. What does this remind you of in Chapter 8?
[Response from audience member: Verse 1.]
Verse 1. Can someone read verse 1?
[Response from audience member: G-d caused a wind to blow across the earth and the waters subsided.]
Okay good, so again; G-d causes a wind to blow across the earth and waters subside. Chapter 1, verse 2; G-d causes a wind to blow across the face of the deep and the spirit of G-d, or the wind of G-d, hovers over the face of the waters. So there is wind over waters in Chapter 1, verse 2, there's wind over waters in Chapter 8, verse 1.
By the way, what is the state of the world in the flood? Chaos. Okay even the word flood, by the way, in Hebrew doesn't really mean flood. Do you know what the world Mabul really means? Mabul really comes from the word [Behalla 45:41], which means complete chaos. It's a state of chaos that the world is in, everything becomes topsy-turvy.
You see it also by the way at the very end of the story when G-d promises that it will never again happen again, He says, from now on all the seasons will remain constant; Summer and winter and night and day will all remain constant. Implying that during the flood none of that remind constant, there were no seasons, there was no night, there was no day, it was all - what? Kind of formless and void, as you remember here from the very beginning of Genesis; The world was formless and void and there was a wind of G-d upon the face of the waters.
Okay, let's move on to day number 2 in creation, and I'm going to quote to you now from verse 6, what does this remind you of? Vayomer Elokim - and G-d said; Yehi rakiyah betoch ha'mayim v'hi mavdil bein mayim l'mayim. He says that apparently there were these - there was all this water and G-d said, let there be some sort of sky - a Rakiyah - in the midst of the waters and let it divide between waters and waters. And G-d made this sky or division and He divided between the water that was under this division and the water that was over this division, and He called that division Shamayim - the heavens, and that was the second day. What does this remind you of in Chapter 8?
[Response from audience member: Verse 2.]
Chapter 8, verse 2. What happened in Chapter 8, verse 2? The fountains of the deep and the windows of heaven were stopped and the rain from heaven was restrained. Where was the water coming from, from the flood? From both above and below. The waters from above and the waters below are coming back together. In Chapter 1 in Genesis, the waters above and the waters below are separated. Here again they're separated.
The appearance of land in day 3 - what does this remind you of, day 3, I'm quoting now from Chapter 1, verse 9. And G-d said, let the waters be gathered into one place underneath the heavens and let the land be seen, and it was so. What does this remind you of in Chapter 8? Well what do you see in Chapter 8, verse 5? The tops of the mountains - that the waters recede and land is seen. In creation as well, in day 3, the waters recede and land is seen.
Moving on in day 3, going onto Chapter 1, verse 11. Vayomer Elokim - and the next thing G-d says is; Let the earth give - sprout forth grasses and let the trees come out and let the trees multiply and one tree will give birth to the same kind of tree, and there will be trees and there will be grasses upon the earth. What does this remind you of in Chapter 8? When do we know that there were trees? A dove. Chapter 8, verse 11. The dove came to him in the evening and lo, in her mouth, was an olive leaf plucked off, so Noah knew that the waters were abated from upon the earth. So the next thing that happens after the appearance of land is you have the appearance of plant life and vegetation.
Day 4. What happens in day 4? Day 4 in Chapter 1, verse 14, is that even though you had light and darkness beforehand, however, you did not really have a constant system yet of planets and stars and all of that. That shows up in day 4 where we have the following words; G-d says, let there be lights in the heavens; Lehavdil bein hayom u'bein ha'lailah .And what's the purpose of the lights? The purpose of the lights, interestingly enough, is not just to provide warmth and heat and light and photosynthesis to the earth, but also another thing, another more subtle reason which actually is true and which - I was watching a DVD last night from The Discovery Channel on oceans and there were some parts of it - I thought it would be great for my kids, there were some parts of it that weren't so great for kids though, the part about the killer whale stalking the calf of the grey whale. That was when it was time for them to go to sleep, so it wasn't such a happy bedtime last night, I must tell you.
But the more tame part of this, it was talking about the subtle role that the sun and the moon play in terms of the generation of life in the oceans. That the rhythms established by the sun and the moon are critical for life in the oceans to exist the way it is and there's many plant life and bird life and animal life which takes its cue from where the moon is and where the tides are and where the suns are. So what happens is the more subtle function of the moon and the sun is not just providing light and providing warmth, but also to provide order and to provide seasons and regularity by which everyone can time what it is that they need to do.
Even bees, by the way, use the sun in a very fascinating way. Do you know that bees can communicate to each other to tell each other where nectar is, and they do it by means - it's really fascinating, you'd think I was lying if this wasn't really established - but they have a dance. Bees have a dance which other bees can understand, to tell them exactly what direction stuff is and how far it is and how good it is, and they can communicate to each other with this.
There was this guy who wrote a book called [The Honey Bee 50:59], he spent his life studying bees - I read this a while back - and he has this fascinating thing. He found that in the dance the bees orient themselves with the sun. In other words, what they do is they describe where things are in relation to the position of the sun. But the problem is that the sun moves, so what they have - the bees, they'll have this correctional sense in them which corrects for the motion of the sun. So for example, they know if an hour and a half has passed so they know where the sun was an hour and a half ago, so they can still orient themselves exactly in terms of direction.
So it's fascinating the degree to which the sun and its position is crucial in terms of establishing order in creation. So you see that here in day 4. In day 4, what happens? G-d says let there be lights in the sky. What's the purpose of lights? Lehavdil bein hayom u'bein ha'lailah - to distinguish between night and day; Vehayu l'otot ul'mo'adim - to be signs and seasons; Ul'yamim v'shanim - to establish days and to establish months and to establish years. To establish a regular order for creation by means of the cycles of these lights. Does this remind you of anything in the story of Noah? Yes, 22. Chapter 8:22. What does G-d say? While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest and cold and heat and summer and winter and day and night shall not cease. So once again you have the regular establishment of seasons and seasonal variations to establish the regularity of nature cropping up after the flood, as it does again, in Genesis.
Moving on, day 5, Chapter 1, verse 20. And G-d said, let the earth swarm with life and let birds come out and repopulate the earth. What does this remind you of in Chapter 8? What's the first sign of a bird repopulating the earth in Noah? Okay, you remember what happens with the bird? There's the dove. Noah sends out the dove the first time. The first time the dove comes back with the olive leaf. But then he sends out the dove one more time and the dove doesn't come back. That's the beginning of the birds beginning to repopulate the earth even before the animals. So birds populate the earth before animals in both stories.
Then if we go back to Genesis you'll find that after birds, what comes next? Animals and man populate the earth, which again reminds you of Noah. Day 6; Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures, cattle and creepy things, and beasts of the earth and their kind, it was so. Let us make man in our image after our likeness. And G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, be fruitful and multiply and replenish the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air. Over every living thing that moves upon the earth. Chapters 1, 24 through 28. After the flood what does that remind you of? Sixteen, 17, 18, 19, right? Go out from the ark, your wife, your sons, their wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing that creeps. And what does He say? Be fruitful and multiply. So in both cases there is the exodus with the beginning of the earth filling with humanity and animal life and a command in both cases to be fruitful and multiply and to populate the earth.
I could go on, there's a couple of other examples, but this is enough to establish the basic idea. If you add it all up what do you see? What you seem to see is that - what does this imply? It implies that Chapter 8 is structured almost exactly patterned after Chapter 1. What would you make of that? I mean, what is it saying then? What is the significance of what's happening in Chapter 8?
[Response from audience member: It's a second creation.]
It's a second creation. It's literally a re-creation of the world. It is not just about now we're letting the man out of his pen and they can go into and repopulate the world. It's not about that, it's something far deeper. The earth was destroyed and now the earth is being rebuilt. Nature itself is being rebuilt. It's a whole new creation.
Now the question is why? It's literally a re-creation, now the question is why? Why did it have to be this way?
I'll tell you something really chilling by the way. This I found - a friend of mine was playing around with his computer and he found this. A while back I got this program which is a fantastic search engine through Jewish legal responsa throughout the years, and most scholars who use it, use it for legal research. But one of the functions that it has, that it also lets you do research in the Bible - in the text of the Bible. One of the things it does is the following thing that there is a system which has been passed down by tradition, it goes back as far as the Talmud. The Talmud actually doesn't ascribe much weight to it and it's a system of Gematria. What Gematria is, is that by tradition, every letter of the Hebrew alphabet is assigned an numerical value and you could add up the numerical values of words. So for example, the letter Aleph, the first letter, is 1. The letter Beit, the second letter is 2, Gimmel is three, Daled is four. It goes all the way up till 10 which is Yud, and when you get to Chaf, the next letter, so that value is - what?
[Response from audience member: 11.]
It's not going to be 11, because 11 would just be Yud and Aleph together - 10 and 1. So the next one up is going to be 20. So Chaf is 20 and Lamed is 30 and Mem is 40 and you go up until 90. Then you get to Kuf which is 100, and then you get to Reish which is going to be now 200, we're going to go up like that, and then you get to Shin which is 300 and Taf which is 400, and Taf is the end of the Alphabet. So if you use the system of Gematria you could add up the various words.
A friend of mine just did this little experiment which is quite fascinating. What happened is that the computer will calculate Gematria at an instant if you just tell it what you want it to calculate. So what my friend was he ran through the first verse in the Torah; Bereishit barah Elokim et hashomayim v'et ha'aretz - and in the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. He wanted to see if there was any other verse in the entire Bible that had the exact numerical value of the first verse; Bereishit barah Elokim et hashomayim v'et ha'aretz. So in an instance the computer will search through every verse in the Bible, and identify if there are any numerical values in the verses which exactly match - not quite in an instance, it actually took a little bit of time - but over a little bit of time it will calculate if there's any one that matches. And indeed there was one which matches exactly the numerical value. Do you know which verse it is? I'll tell you which verse it is. It is; Uba'chodesh hasheini - and in the second month; B'shiva v'esrim yom lachodesh - in the twenty-seventh day of the month; Yavshah ha'aretz - the world was finally dry.
Okay? The other verse in the Bible that is the exact numerical value of; In the beginning G-d created the heavens and the earth. As if again to solidify the idea that there was a creation and then there was a re-creation, it was literally a second creation.
Now the question is why? Why bother? Wouldn't it have just been simpler to - if the idea is people are bad so destroy people, why go through the extra trouble to literally re-create the word? I mean, so take the guy, put him on top of Mount Everest, whatever it is, it's the same thing, I mean why - it seems to violate the simple rules of economy. That there was something going on here which required a much vaster destruction than simply destroying the world, and that's what I'd like to explore with you. Where is this coming from, this much larger, ambitious project?
What I think you see in this story and what I think you see in all of these stories from Adam and Eve through Cain and Abel and through Noah is that there is a relationship between man and the earth. The earth is not some static thing which is just a place that we happen to be but the earth is very significant to us, partly because - as you said before - it's part of who are creators are. G-d says; Let us make man, and the earth is part of who we are, and our relationship with our creator, with both G-d and the earth is significant, and is not simply trivial. And I think that it's also a dynamic relationship also. It's not the case that the earth stays constant but the earth reacts, so to speak, to mankind, or there is some sort of dynamic relationship between the earth and mankind. What the earth does makes a difference for man and what man does makes a difference to the earth, so to speak. The earth is an inanimate object but to the extent that there's a relationship there are things that change in that relationship.
And again if you look at one of the constant themes in Adam and Eve and Cain and Abel and in Noah is a theme of the curse of the earth. By the way, you see it in Noah as well; how does G-d characterize the flood? At the very end when He says I'll never do this again, how does G-d characterize it? Never again will I curse the earth on account of man. You see that the entire flood is seen as nothing but a curse of the earth. And there seems to be a continuum here and you can establish the continuum in the following way. There's Adam and Eve, there's Cain and there is the flood.
What happened with Adam and Eve? As a result of Adam and Eve eating from the tree and creating this sort of imbalance between passion and intellect, whatever it was - and by the way, it was also, the way we understood it, the natural world making a, so to speak, enticing argument to man, be like us, you can just become snake-like. As a result of that - the result of that was a certain - was the following.
Well let's actually go back to the text because there's another element in this that I want to bring in. G-d says to the snake; More cursed are you than any of the animals. He then says to the woman; Harbeh arbeh itzvoneich v'heironeich - I will greatly increase the pain of your conception; B'etzev teildi banim - in pain will you give birth to children. V'el isheich teshukaseich - your desire will be to your husband, he can rule over you. He says to man, because you've listened to what Eve said and you ate from this tree as I told you not to, let the land be cursed because of you; B'itzavon tochlenah kol yemei chayecha - in toil will you eat it all the days of life. V'kotz v'dardar tatzmi'ach loch - it will just sprout thorns and thistles for you, this land; Bezei'as apecha tochal lechem - by the sweat of your brow will you eat bread; Ad shuvcha el ha'adamah ki mimenah lukachta - until you return to the land from which you were taken, because earth you are and to earth you will return.
Again, there's this emphasis here that man was - that what is so significant about man? Man was taken from the earth. He desires to have a close relationship with the earth. That relationship somehow is cursed on account of this sin and the expression of the curse is really twofold. As we've argued, (a) it's that man will have difficulty farming, (b) it's that he's exiled from Eden. The two things that mother earth provides for us are what? Are shelter and - shelter, a place to live, and sustenance. Any mother provides those two things for a child. Go back to compassion, go back to the womb, what are the two things that a womb provides for a child, it provides what?
[Response from audience member: Shelter and…]
Shelter and nourishment, those are the two things that compassion provides. Those are the two things that any maternal force, that any mother provides for a child. Mother earth, our creator, our earth, provides the same two things for us; a place to live and also sustenance - food that we get from the land. In both of those respects we become alienated from the earth, there is some curse that expresses itself in our relation to land. It becomes difficult to farm, it's not so easy anymore, plus we get exiled from our real home, from Eden, which is really where we belong.
When will we reunite with earth? Only in death - as verse 19 says; That by the sweat of your brow will you work the land. You're not going to have this close relationship with the land anymore. When will you again have it? Ad shuvcha el ha'adamah ki mimenah lukachta - only when you return to the ground from which you were taken, which is at death, then you really come back to the earth, then you reunite with the earth, but only in death.
The other, more subtle aspect, by the way, of the curses here, which we haven't yet picked up on, which I want to call your attention to now, and is something which we're going to get back to next week, is this word. G-d says to the woman; I will greatly increase your - what? Your pain in childbirth. Is the way we understand it. It's says; B'etzev teildi banim - how do you guys translate that? Verse 16; In blank will you give birth to children, with what will you give birth to children?
[Response from audience member: In pain.]
In pain will you give birth to children, suffering will you give birth to children. Well we call this labor, right? But what's interesting is that the word literally means neither pain nor suffering, the word actually means something else, and I bet very few of your translations translate it this way.
[Response from audience member: Sorrow.]
Sorrow. That's what it really means. Does anyone have sorrow?
[Response from audience member: Yeah we have sorrow, yeah.]
Yeah, that's what it really means. The word here is Etzev. What Etzev actually means is, in sorrow. Very strange. It means; I will greatly increase your sorrow in conception and your sorrow in birth. Now the reason I would gather why very few of your translations translate it this way is because most of us don't experience birth as a sorrowful event even after this curse. Maybe it's a painful event, but it's not a sorrowful event. So in what sense is birth a sorrowful event?
But interestingly this word sorrow keeps on cropping up in the curses. It appears again when we get to Adam, listen again, what does G-d say to Adam? He says; Because you've eaten from this tree; Orrurah ha'adamah ba'avurecha - verse 17 - the land is cursed on your behalf; B'itzavon tochlenah kol yemei chayecha. How do you translate that in 17? In blank will you eat from it all the days of your life.
[Response from audience member: Sorrow.]
Again, in sorrow. In sorrow will you eat from it. Now other translations you may have toil; In toil will you eat from it. In labor will you eat from it - which is what it seems to mean in context. What does it mean in sorrow will you eat from the land? That man somehow is sorrowful when he's behind the plow? What is this notion of sorrow in childbirth, sorrow in plowing the land?
We're not going to get back to this today, we'll get back to this next week, but this is an interesting issue, this theme that comes up again and again in these curses, of sorrow. Now what's fascinating is that the theme doesn't end here, it reappears in Noah. Because there's one more time in the first half of Genesis - actually there are very few times that you have sorrow at all in the Five Books of Moses, it only appears five times in the entire Five Books of Moses. But it appears once more in Noah - actually twice more in Noah. When does it appear in Noah? It appears in Noah when G-d decides to destroy the world, all of a sudden man is not sorrowful anymore, but G-d is sorrowful. The word that G-d uses is - when He decides to destroy the world; Vayitatzev el libo - that G-d felt sorrow. Fascinating. That in the curses that appear with the land man feels sorrow, expressed in two different ways, in planting and in childbirth, when we get to the flood, mankind no longer feels sorrow, mankind is wiped out, but G-d feels this same sorrow - which is again strange. G-d says; Vayitatzev el libo - He becomes sorrowed in His [heart 66:50].
It appears one other time, which is in the naming of Noah - which I'll give you maybe for homework if I get to it in one second. In the naming of Noah you'll find the word sorrow used one more time. There's a link with all of these sorrows; from the story of Adam and Eve and the story of Noah, we'll have to figure out what it is.
But just to finish the thought which I began, there's a continuum in the punishments with reference to land. The first punishments that we have express an alienation from land in the two ways that we relate to land. We relate to land; motherland, or mother earth, in terms of what it - the sustenance it gives us and the home that it gives us. We come to Cain, and as we mentioned before, the same punishments become intensified; Cain also is alienated with reference to land but in a deeper way. It becomes even more difficult for Cain to farm and he becomes exiled but he can't find anywhere in the land to live. Finally, we come to the flood and the flood is the ultimate alienation of man from land where the land becomes literally inhospitable. Completely - in other words, expels man from its midst, it's the ultimate alienation between G-d and man.
And if you look at why the destruction happens, if you read carefully the first few verses, you see an interesting clue in this interrelationship between man and land. Let's go back to the first few verses for a moment - the first few verses in Noah, Chapter 6, verse 9 - well really, Chapter 6, verse 11. I'm going to read this with Rashi's interpretation of it. Vatishacheit ha'aretz lifnei ha'Elokim - and the world became twisted, the earth became twisted before G-d. Was becoming twisted before G-d. Vatimalei ha'aretz chamas - and the earth was filled with violence, or, the earth was filled with robbery.
Now the question always is in Hebrew what does the Vav mean? In Hebrew the way you say 'and' in Hebrew is with a Vav, it's just a - it's the word Ve. It's not really a word, it's just a prefix. But Vav is very ubiquitous, very pliable, it can mean 'therefore', it can mean 'but', it's unclear. I would argue, that according to Rashi, it would be interpreted in the sense of, 'insofar as'. In other words the way you read this verse is; And the earth became twisted before G-d insofar as the world was filled with violence or with robbery. [Verse 11 69:17]. And G-d then looked upon the world, or upon the earth - verse 12 - V'hinei nishchata - and it was twisted. I.e. the process of twisting which had began was complete. It was completely twisted or completely corrupted. Why? Ki hishchit kol basar et darko al ha'aretz - because all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.
Now here we're moving a little bit away from just robbery. 'All flesh' sounds like what? Animals too. All flesh. All flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. Rashi again quoting a Midrash here seems to suggest that the verse is hinting that the corruption extended beyond man, which is that animals began to mate with animals that were not from their species. So the way of all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.
Then G-d said; The end of all flesh has come before Me because the world is filled with violence or robbery because of them; V'hineni mashchitom et ha'aretz - and I'm going to destroy them with the land. But the word for destroy by the way is also the same word for twisted or to corrupt. Literally; I will twist them off the land. What they have done is that they have twisted the land. What seems to be here is that in the sort of the symbiotic relationship between man and land, it's almost as if man at the top of the food chain so to speak, there's a been a trickle-down effect of his actions and it has affected land, or affected nature itself.
If you look at the way that - if you view - if you think about it for a moment the way Rashi understands it, the way the Midrash understands it, that Chamas is identified with robbery. If you think about robbery and mating across species in animals, is there any common denominator between those two concepts?
[Response from audience member: (Unclear 71:07)]
Loss of boundaries, right? What robbery is, is a loss of social boundaries between what's mine and what's yours. Now animals don't have property so there's no robbery in animals. But the equivalent in animals would be a loss of boundaries in mating across species. A complete loss of boundaries.
If you think about it, this is the culmination of a process which began with Adam and Eve and slowly developed further and further, which is that if you go back again to what G-d says with Cain, you have this great energy inside you, you have this great passion, you have choice, you can either rule it or you can be ruled by it. If you are ruled by it then you have no direction, you're like a car, you could go off in any way, [unclear 71:54] is crouching at the door, it's not that you're doing [unclear], it's only a matter of time before you explode in this direction, you explode in that direction. The force of passion without any guidance is ultimately a random force. It is a force that speaks for entropy in the universe, this is what entropy is about.
Entropy is that if you leave things to their own devices, eventually the system becomes more and more chaotic - and that is exactly what's happening. The end process of passion run wild is a world in which private properties become meaningless because there's simply no respect for it. Because if I feel that I need your thing, I will take your thing, there's no more boundaries. If that trickles down - if man's relationship with the world is dynamic and man affects the world, then if the top of the food chain is like that, then at the bottom of the food chain, animals are mating with one another.
What's G-d's response? Man has become twisted, man's twistedness had twisted the earth, and now I will twist them off the earth by bringing a Mabul. What is a Mabul? A Mabul is nothing but what? What does G-d do to bring the Mabul? He unleashes the water from below and the water from above, all the seasons are out and what is there? There's chaos. What is it? It's just chaos. If there's chaos in the social realm, and there's chaos in the animal realm, then the consequence of that is, I'll bring everything back to chaos.
In order to create the world I established order - as a matter of fact the operative word in creation of the world, over and over again, is what? Up and down the first chapter of the Book of Genesis, the word which appears more than any other word is; Vayavdel - and G-d distinguished. It's a process of finer and finer distinction. There was a creation, big bang, lots of energy, and then what happens next? From then on, all the stuff of creation is there. The moment after the big bang everything that's going to be in the universe is already there, nothing more is ever created, what then makes the universe after the big bang? It's distinction. It's that first all there is, is there's just quarks but then the quarks slowly boiled down to electrons and neutrons and neutrinos, and then pretty soon you get hydrogen atoms. And what happens is, you start to have differentiation. Hydrogen atoms come together with stars, star supernova, you begin to have new kinds of elements; heavy elements, gold, copper, silver, all these things. Differentiation - Havdalah - distinction. The process of creation is creating finer and finer distinctions and it's distinctions that hold the order of the universe in place.
The lack of distinction in a social realm, a lack of distinction in the animal realm, leads G-d to say, I'm going to destroy the world. How am I going to destroy it? By taking away all of the distinctions which I put into it, by again allowing chaos to ensue. So what you see, I think, in this process is again the slow loss of distinction and the end of a process which began before.
I'm out of time so hold on for just one second. We're right in the middle of this but let me give you a couple of things to think about for next week. A provisional conclusion; why did the world need to be destroyed - a provisional conclusion, but again, only a provisional conclusion, this will become, I think, much clearer next week.
One of the reasons why I think the world had to be destroyed is because if you think about what G-d's plan for the world was, it wasn't just that there should be human beings and you needed a world in which - you needed a place for human beings so you had to create a physical environment so there's a world. But basically life is about humanity and humanity doing G-d's will and whatever it is, and when humanity failed to do it they had to be destroyed - it's much deeper than that. It's that if you would have to formulate the purpose of humanity in the world, if you had to formulate the purpose of creation, it wasn't just I'm going to create humanity, it's that I'm going to create humanity in relationship with its creators. In relationship with G-d, in relationship with the earth. The story of humanity is the story of man in its relationship with G-d and its relationship to the earth.
Now maybe G-d can't be affected perhaps by man, but the earth, the other creator, can be affected in that dynamic by man. And in the destruction that comes upon the world it is not - again - just the destruction of humankind, but it's the destruction of the whole system, of the system of man relating to its other creator - land. That whole thing became awry and it needs to be destroyed and something new is put into its place. What is the nature of that something new?
When we come back next week we're going to try to answer the remaining questions which we've had. Why the boat? Why the reason for destroying the world being the same reason for the reason for never again destroying the world.
If I can, for homework, I want to give you two things to think about. Thing number 1 to think about is what is man's relationship to animals throughout this whole process? What is man's relationship to animals in the story of Adam and Eve? What's his relationship to animals after the sin? His relationship to the snake after the sin? What's Cain's relationship to animals - do we know? I think I suggested to you once before that Cain was worried that he would be killed. Some commentators suggest there was no other people in the world to kill him at that point. Others suggest that it was animals that he was afraid of being killed by. If he was afraid of being killed by animals, what does that suggest about the relationship that Cain has with animals?
What about Noah, what was the relationship of Noah to animals - especially after the flood? You have a couple of verses which are of interest. One verse says that G-d says, I will establish fear upon the animals of you. What does that imply? It implies that somehow in the flood or during the flood that animals were not fearful of man, that fear of animals needed to be reestablished after the flood. That's kind of interesting, where does that come from?
But also another very interesting thing is, can you eat animals or not? Were Adam and Eve allowed to eat animals? No. If you look at the text Adam and Eve were vegetarians. Who were the first people that could eat animals? Noah's children. G-d says after the flood that animals could be eaten. Why? What about mankind's relationship to the animal world changes in such a way that it is the end of vegetarianism? If you go back, if you have a chance, and you look at the verses at the beginning of Genesis which command vegetarianism you'll find that the verses which de-impose or take away vegetarianism, say that you can eat meat, is modeled after those verses of vegetarianism. You can see a very fascinating relationship between those verses, so it's something to look at.
The other question I want to ask you which appears to have nothing to do with anything, but it's something which I just want you to ponder for next week, is the following. This is a sort of personal question which a friend of mine asked me once, it had something to do with his own life, and I think it has something to do with this story too. So I'm just going to ask the question sort of in the air and it's something which you can think about. If somebody does something terrible to you in life and you want to move on in life and they've done something really bad, they've sort of smeared your name in the community, something really awful, which is very difficult to undo the effects of. The person never apologizes for it, and the person is someone who is close to you and very significant to you and you can't easily cut out of your life.
Is it possible to forgive the person in such a situation? Is there such a thing as forgiveness in that situation? And if so, what does that look like? What does that really mean to forgive a person in such a situation? Is such a thing really possible as a human? I'm not asking for a religious answer, I'm just asking for a human answer, what is the human answer to that question? Is forgiveness possible in such a situation? What do you need to do to forgive? Can you even - maybe it's just nonsensical to forgive a person in that situation? Or if it does make sense, what does it look like to forgive somebody who is in that situation? If you would have to write a letter to the person offering your forgiveness in that situation what would the letter say? What would the - could you write such a letter?
That's something I want you to think about for next week and we're going to discuss that next week also in the context of all these stories; Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel and the flood, we'll try and put it all together. So I'll see you next week.