Our sages question whether or not to begin the Torah with the book of Bereshit because it is so negative, so filled with violence and the failure of mankind. We see Cain killing his brother Abel, the entire earth being destroyed in a flood except for one family because the world was so filled with violence. Some of these sages decided to begin teaching Torah to their children with the book of Leviticus which taught about cleanliness and purity. They would give their children a taste of honey with the recitation of every letter. Other sages left it at Bereshit as there is so much to learn about the human condition through this book.
Our Creator decided not to make us perfect like he did with the angels; He didn’t limit our characteristics as He did with animals; he made us human according to his likeness and image, betzalmo בצלמו. The root of this word, tzel צל means shadow and demonstrates that His Presence, His Divine Spark is in all of us. We have a soul, a neshama different from the animals, with the capacity to think, to come up with ideas, to speak and work together. There are no two people who are alike. Even your children have their own minds; they are not a copy of us. Our Creator as a father has so many children each with our own individuality. The only way we can respond to Him is when we do it willingly. This is what He is asking us. He doesn’t want us to love Him by force. Religion has created the idea of a Supreme Being with whom we have to try to make points and to get on His good side or else.
When Adam and Eve failed, instead of accusing them the Creator asked them, “Where are you?” This is how the Torah begins; He asked them “where are you?” three times. After they finally responded He asked, “How do you know that you are naked?” Adam had been given the responsibility to care for the creation. What an important position – guardian and supervisor over all creation! Instead of admitting that he had failed God, that he was wrong, and then apologize, Adam blamed the woman who he had been given.
Next we read about Cain and Abel both who brought an offering. The problem was not related to what they offered; the importance lay in Cain’s intention, his attitude. Abel brought the first fruits of his animals, the best while it said that Cain brought “an offering.” It is obvious his heart was not in it. How many people go to a religious service because they want to make points with God instead of coming because they are committed in their hearts to servicing God?
Now we come to Noach in Genesis 6:9 but it is always important to read any portion in context so let’s begin by reading the preceding verses. Genesis 5: 28 When Lamech was a hundred and eighty-two years old he fathered a son.29 He gave him the name Noah because, he said, ‘Here is one who will give us, in the midst of our toil and the labouring of our hands, a consolation out of the very soil that the LORD cursed.’ 30 After the birth of Noah, Lamech lived for five hundred and ninety-five years and fathered sons and daughters.31 In all, Lamech lived for seven hundred and seventy-seven years (777); then he died.32 When Noah was five hundred years old he fathered Shem, Ham and Japheth.
Noah was the first of our ancestors who was born after the death of Adam who was still alive when Lamech was born. We need to keep things in context. Indirectly the Creator is giving us the time when the flood would come and how long it took to build the ark – at least 100 years. During that period of time, everyone laughed at Noach and his children for building the ark. Don’t feel bad when others laugh at you and at your dedication to the creator. They don’t know the Creator. If they laugh or mock you can say to yourself, thank God, I’m doing something right.
We continue with Genesis 6 1 When people began being numerous on earth, and daughters had been born to them, 2 the sons of God, looking at the women, saw how beautiful they were and married as many of them as they chose. 3 The LORD said, ‘My spirit cannot be indefinitely responsible for human beings, who are only flesh; let the time allowed each be a hundred and twenty years.’ 4 The Nephilim were on earth in those days (and even afterwards) when the sons of God resorted to the women, and had children by them. These were the heroes of days gone by, men of renown. 5 the LORD saw that human wickedness was great on earth and that human hearts contrived nothing but wicked schemes all day long. 6 The LORD regretted having made human beings on earth and was grieved at heart.7 And the LORD said, ‘I shall rid the surface of the earth of the human beings whom I created — human and animal, the creeping things and the birds of heaven — for I regret having made them.’8 But Noah won the LORD ‘s favour.
This is the portion that we miss when we start studying the parashah at verse 6. Context is so important. With time moral values had deteriorated, our sages say, in the areas of sexual debauchery, the desire for power and wealth causing the complete destruction of humanity. If we put this in today’s context, we are not far off.
Very few people take the time to analyze chapter 4:16 down, you will see the descendants of Cain. His children all have just about the exact same names as Seth, a later son to Adam and Eve. There are two terms that cause confusion in other religions — the son of God and the son of man. They interpret son of God to be divine while son of man is a human being. Our Messiah Yeshua was called by both terms. Neither have anything to do with divinity. God placed a spark of His Divinity within each of us at conception. It had to do with a choice and a role. Son of God specifically relates to people who have been chosen for a special role. The people of Israel were called bnei Elohim, sons of God. They had a role. Some of the prophets were called son of man, referring to them being a regular human being. The descendants of Cain represent the sons or the children of man and the descendants of Seth represent the children of God because they had a specific role. They were to replace Abel after his death.
The children of Seth had become corrupt. There was violence all over the world before the flood. This Hebrew word for violence is “Hamas”! It says that God was sorry that he made human beings. The Torah speaks in human language but did God truly repent for creating human life? If so He would cease to be God. It is the way of expressing that God was disappointed that even though God provided everything to man, man decided to turn his back on Him and to create their own gods. True love means being loyal and God wanted that for us. Noach was the most righteous person in his generation; he feared God and was loyal to Him. When we call man “tsaddik” it has nothing to do with being perfect. A righteous person is one who struggles with his own humanity. Our heroes in the Tanach were all human and failed. Superman is a product of the imagination of man. It is a myth which became a legend. Scripture is opposite to this. From Adam down, every human has faults. There is no one perfect; we all struggle. Yaakov was given the name Israel indicating that he would always wrestle with the Creator because our nature needs to be tested. If everything was handed to us on a silver platter, we would have no trouble serving God. What was the first thing that Noah did as soon as they settle on the land? He planted a vineyard! It showed that he loved to have a good time. It had been a long time that he had a drink but he certainly wasn’t drunkard as he has been portrayed to be. He was just a man.
Next we read about the tower of Babel. People once again didn’t want to depend upon the Creator. Why do we need God if we can do it on our own? One person said to me that he can’t believe in God because there is so much injustice in the world. Another asked why do we speak so much about God; what did He do for everyone? If there was a God, we wouldn’t suffer so much. My question to them is “what have you done to make the world a better place?”
The Torah’s perspective is not about human perfection but that we humans are fragile, constantly having to weigh our intention. There is a lot of work to do. It is not easy to be morally prudent, to walk a narrow path and we may stray at times but our God always has His arms extended waiting for us to turn back to Him. He doesn’t accuse us. What if we were to simply try to obey Him; what do we have to lose? When religion takes over, we lose that perspective with all their rules and regulations, doctrines and dogmas that they say God requires for us to be able to get close to Him. Will our Creator be impressed by how many steps forward and backward we take, by the words we say? He wants a humble heart that recognizes the human condition. It is not about being holier than thou. Our Creator is the only one who knows our heart and we cannot fool Him.
My interest is for you to grow in a personal relationship with the Creator. This will allow you to share it with others. We are not holier than anyone but grateful that in spite of who we really are, He is always with us. He brings out the best in us. This is the beautiful message of Noach. He and his family were the only ones to survive the flood on the earth. The number 7 is repeated over and over. Seven represents completion. How many people were on the ark? Eight! Eight is the number meaning brit or covenant and new beginning. The LORD gave him the sign of the rainbow – “Keshet” קשת which adds up to 800 in Gematria, a completeness of his brit, covenant. This parashah is filled with these types of hidden meanings.
Here in this community we have an example of the curse at the Tower of Babel, many languages. We have problems communicating and it has been hard to grow for that reason. We are in the process of returning to be one people with one language. Our motto is Isaiah’s saying “My house will be called a house of prayer for all nations”. It is my prayer and my desire that we keep growing closer together showing how our Creator has blessed us. We are breaking the curse of our ancestors. We are living today in the times of Noach and we need to be alert.