NOAH AND THE GENERATION OF THE FLOOD
Rabbi Yisroel Chait
n order to appreciate the milieu of the generation of the flood and
the events that led to the destruction of civilization we must analyze the
verses in the Torah. Genesis chapter six verse eleven states "And the
Earth was corrupted before G-d and the Earth was filled with violence."
Rashi defines corruption as sexual immorality and idolatry. He defines violence
as robbery. This verse is the prelude to G-d's determination that civilization
must be destroyed because of the perpetuation of "chamas" throughout
mankind. Thus chamas robbery, sealed man's fate.
However, this final adjudication by G-d of man's fate was actually preceded
by two earlier observations and warnings. Chapter six verse two states,
"That the sons of G-d saw the daughters of man that they were fair,
and they took for themselves wives, whomsoever they chose." Man was
promiscuous and sought all types of sexual gratification without any moral
restrictions. G-d thereby gave man his first warning. Man was given 120
years to repent from his sexual corruption or G-d would destroy mankind.
In chapter six verse five, G-d makes his second observation, "And
G-d saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every
imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually."
This observation of the quantitative increase in mans nefarious conduct
led G-d to the conclusion that he will obliterate mankind from upon the
face of the earth.
An analysis of these observations and warnings from G-d, indicates a
logical progression and sequence from mans initial corruption until his
ultimate degradation to total depravity unworthy of salvation
The first breakdown of the morality of man, was his sexual promiscuity.
Man's detachment from sexual illicit relationships is the source of mans
Kedusha emanates from perisha meíarayos. Maimonides in his Mishna
Torah in the laws of kedusha has two categories. The laws of forbidden sexual
relationships and the laws of forbidden foods. Thus we see that the sanctity
of man stems from his ability to subordinate his instinctual desires. Kedusha
is the supremacy of the tzelem elokim, man's intellect over the nefesh haíbehami,
man's instinctual desires, the appetitive and the sexual. Thus the first
corruption of man was in allowing his emotions to rule his intellect.
The second step was the Quantitative increase in mans degradation. As
man's libido and energies became attached to the instinctual pleasures they
obviously became a greater source of satisfaction for man. Thus man's corruption
became prevalent throughout society. The emotions of man totally dominated
all aspects of his conduct. Hence G-d saw that the wickedness of man was
However, the final corruption which sealed mans fate, was when mans depravity
progressed to robbery. Nachmanides states that mans fate was sealed with
the sin of robbery because it is a violation of a mitzvah sichli. The prohibition
against stealing logically makes sense. As the RAMBAN says it's a commandment
which does not require a prophet to warn us against it evils. However, Nachmanides
message must be understood. Simply because a commandment does not necessitate
a prophet to warn us against its violation does not reflect upon the severity
of the prohibition. It would seem that there are greater evils which result
from violating a mitzva which is not sichli and requires a prophets warning.
On the contrary, if our conduct warrants the rebuke of a prophet it must
certainly be extremely grievous behavior. However, an analysis of Nachmanides
interpretation leads us to a better understanding of the corruption of thievery
and the reason it sealed mans destruction.
Man is different than an animal. An animals existence is purely instinctual.
His reality is subservient to his instinctual desires. An animals existence
is totally contained within the realm of the physical. An animal does not
contemplate how long it is going to live.
Man however, is a complex creature. Mans nature is perennially the source
of conflict. The instinctual desires of man are constantly in conflict with
Instinctually man desires to live forever, but reality tells him that
he is limited by the constraints of time. As a result there are essentially
only two creations that are not in a constant state of conflict. The animal
because it is totally dominated and guided by the instinctual. Also the
adam haíshalem, the harmonious man, whose entire energies are directed
to chachma. However an ordinary individuals' instinctual desires are in
conflict with, and tempered by his intellectual faculties.
The original pratfall for man was sexual turpitude. The sexual instinct
was overpowering but yet, man still had not abandoned the intellectual.
In fact man utilized his chachma in the pursuit of his desires.
However, man was doomed to extinction when chamas prevailed. Robbery
is reflective of a society that totally abandons the rules of common sense.
Man was no longer functioning in the world of reality. He was no longer
even using his mind in the pursuit of his physical pleasures. He was involved
in chamas, total self destructive behavior. This is what the RAMBAN meant
when he said that chamas sealed mans fate because it was a violation of
a mitzva sichli. Man was entirely in the grasp of his instinctual desires
to the extent that his intellectual faculties were no longer functioning.
Therefore, the warning of a prophet would not be heeded since man is functioning
solely in the realm of the physical world. His self destructive behavior
manifests the abandonment of the intellectual even as a means for the pursuit
of physical pleasures. chamas epitomizes the state of the perfection of
the nefesh haíbehami. Thus G-d determined that mans existence was
equal to his non-existence and civilization was destined to be obliterated.
It is significant to note that the state of chamas flourished and was
fostered by mans initial domination by his sexual desires. It is when man
abandons the intellectual repression of sexual promiscuity, will the instinctual
appetites of man be cultivated and ultimately dominate him. Merely because
the violations of the sexual mores are victimless infractions does not diminish
the severity of the offense. It is the breeding ground whereby a corrupt
individual's instinctual desires gain strength and overpower the intellectual
and thus subjugates the tzelem elokim to the whims of the physical. Chamas
is a natural outgrowth of such a behavioral progression and condemns mankind
to a worthless existence.
Noach however, did not fall prey to the corruption of the society. Although
he was considered righteous, CHAZAL castigate him for not attempting to
influence other people. Noach never tried to influence his fellow man to
behave in a just fashion. This is bothersome, considering the fact that
the Torah refers to Noach as a tzadik, a righteous and pure individual.
Certainly, justice would dictate that he help the plight of his fellow man.
Thus we must appreciate the appellation tzadik as utilized respecting Noach.
There are two types of righteous individuals. Abraham typifies the higher
level. This is the just individual who lives in a corrupt society and seems
to function therein. However, he is in reality living the life of a hermit.
Thus Abraham was a ger toshav. In terms of his personal ideals they were
foreign to the values of the society. He was a ger in this respect. However,
he was a toshav, a citizen of the world. He functioned externally as a productive
member of society. In fact, he attempted to influence other members of society
to adopt his values and ideals.
The other type of righteous individual can not tolerate the influences
of a corrupt society. He retreats and lives the life of seclusion always
insulating himself from external pressures. Noach was this type of personality.
CHAZAL teach us that Noach was a maíamin, he was a believer, but
yet he did not believe. He possessed the intellectual conviction to reject
society's values. However, he was cognizant of the temptations of the world
around him and thus lived a sheltered life. Noach appreciated that he was
in conflict and could not risk the dangerous exposure of facing the outside
world. He lived an existence whereby he realized he was in conflict, but
resolved the conflict in favor of the intellect. Therefore God did not blame
him for not attempting to influence others. His state of perfection prevented
him from helping others. Thus Noach was righteous and pure but yet the Torah
adds bídorosav, in his generation. His actions were not inherently
corrupt and thus he was not deserving of extinction. However, his righteousness
was commensurate to the times he lived in. He was indirectly culpable because
his state of perfection prevented him from venturing into the outside world
and aiding others. However, he still was righteous for one can not be held
responsible for not helping others live the proper life if it would risk
his own perfection. Thus Noach was a tzadik bídorosav.