By Rabbi Aron Tendler
Three hundred years before the Great Flood, in the year 1356, Noach and his
father Mesushelach began to prophesy the end. For 180 years they traveled the
known world proclaiming the demise of humankind. In 1536, one hundred and
twenty years before the Mabul, G-d commanded Noach to build the "Tayvah - Box
- Ark". 20 years later, in 1556, Noach and his wife Naamah had the 1st of
their 3 sons.
A world in which a single human life can span centuries, is a world that
believes in its own immortality and invincibility. In spite of Noach and
Mesushelach's warnings; in spite of the "actions speak louder than words" that
the Tayvah represented; society ignored the doom-sayers and "fiddled away"
while the world drowned. In the end, only two survivors from the lines of
Kayin and Shes remained. Noach, the direct descendent of Shes (3rd son of
Adam & Chava) and Naamah, his wife, the direct descendent of Kayin.
Statistically the degree of the destruction is inconceivable. In a world
rich with the pure and natural resources of the pre-diluvian era, people lived
longer and had considerably more children. It is reasonable to assume that
the world population was greater before the Mabul than at present, given
today's pollution, diseases, warfare, and shorter life span. Billions of
people, centuries of culture and civilization, wiped away in 40 days of utter
destruction! Why? How bad were they?
The Talmud in Sanhedrin says that their fated destruction was sealed
because of "Chamas - thievery". Thievery is a denial of G-d's mastery and
intent for humanity; whereas, respecting another's personal rights and
property proclaims the existence of a purposeful Creator who does things and
gives things for a reason. Your belongings are yours because G-d wanted you
to have them. By protecting personal property and rights, society introduces
G-d into every day living. If society does not protect the rights of
individuals to own and accomplish, they effectively deny G-d's reason for
doing and giving as He sees fit and thereby remove G-d from the workings of
The pre-Mabul society consciously blocked G-d's entrance into the
functioning of society by allowing lawlessness to flourish. Personal property
and rights were sport for the strong and mighty and family life was
compromised by wanton infidelity and incest. All natural boundaries were
erased. Humans mated with animals and animals mated outside of their species.
It became a world of perversion that denied the Creator's presence by
destroying His purpose in establishing species and setting boundaries. This
was the world that had to be destroyed before it could be rebuilt.
After the Mabul, the world had a second chance. Unfortunately, basic
human nature did not change and many of the negative traits remained; yet, the
world was different. As the human life span was reduced so too was his
potential to do evil. As the life span lessened, its value increased along
with its potential for good. The story of Noach, Naamah, and their three sons
is our story. The lessons of their history are the realities of today.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation,
Valley Village, CA.