The Temple Institute: Temple Talk: Tishrei 27, 5772/October 25, 2011

"These are the generations of Noach"
(Genesis 6:9)

In just six days G-d did it all. He created the heavens and the earth, all the celestial beings, continents, plant life, animals, and mankind. He created within all living things the ability to reproduce, guaranteeing the continuity of creation. He did it all - perfectly. So what went wrong? How come things so quickly unravelled? By the second generation there was murder, by the third generation idolatry was emerging, and by the tenth generation man had grown so corrupted that G-d was ready to throw in the towel: "And G-d said to Noach, 'The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become full of violence because of them, and behold I am destroying them from the earth.'" (Genesis 6:13) If G-d had, indeed, thought of everything, and acted in perfect accordance with His thought, then where lies the fault?

The account of creation which opens the book of Genesis describes repeatedly and in great detail, the ability of all living things, plants, animals and man, to produce offspring, and immediately after the conclusion of the six days, Genesis plunges in an account of the first generations of man. This one begat that one, and that one begat another, and so on. And while Torah sees fit to provide us with the precise genealogy of man, its silence concerning another aspect of mankind's progression ultimately proves even more telling. With the exception of Lamech, who was the seventh generation of man, there are no words exchanged between human beings. Adam talked to G-d and Chava talked to G-d, but no words are spoken between them. Right before he murdered his brother, Torah tells us that "Cain spoke to his brother Abel (Hevel)," (ibid 4:8) but what he said is not recorded. Were his words even heard by Hevel? We will never know. While Lamech's words to his two wives were an expression of contrition and remorse, they do, in fact, constitute the first human-to-human verbal exchange in the Torah.

G-d spoke to man and man spoke to G-d. And Chava, the helpmeet of Adam, spoke with the serpent. But in the three way exchange between G-d and Adam and Chava, G-d acts as their go between. Created with the ability to reproduce and blessed with the ability to speak, mankind apparently had to learn how to communicate with one another. And without human communication real human progress toward a perfected world simply cannot happen. And without forward progress regression into moral dissolution is inevitable. And this is what happened. Man descended from one moral precipice to the next.

This week's Torah reading of parashat Noach introduces us to Noach, his wife, their three sons and their three wives. For the first time Torah presents us with a living family unit as opposed to simply a genealogical description. It was this family unit, the very basis of all social cohesion, which survived the flood. Not an individual, but a family. The era of generations embodied in their entirety by the names of individuals, of rampant individuality, has ended. G-d created man as an individual and this of course, was crucial for man's development, but for mankind to flourish, it is via human contact and social interaction.

Even as Noach represents for us the value of family, we still do not hear him communicating with anyone other than G-d. In fact, it is his apparent lack of interest, (or at least his ability to verbally express any interest), in the plight of his fellow man that troubles our sages. It would take another ten generations replete with new crises before Avraham would emerge. Avraham, who would become known as the friend of G-d, pleased G-d so precisely because of the love which Avraham possessed for his fellow man. Only with Avraham and Sara would man at last become the creation that G-d intended.

Welcome, listeners, to a brand-new world! It's a new season of TEMPLE TALK and a new cycle of Torah readings... and starting with Parashat Bereshit last week, it's a brand-new world as well. The reading of the Torah's description of creation means that Hashem has begun to create the world all over again. But wait a minute, that was last week! This week, before we've even had a moment to reflect on the greatness of creation, we're already up to Parashat Noach, and G-d's dissatisfaction with man and the world's destruction through the Great Flood. This cycle of man's failure sounds familiar...are we reliving it even as we speak? Here Yitzchak Reuven and Rabbi Richman sit so patiently, waiting to find out what price we have to pay to get out of going through all these things twice. It's not about G-d, though... it's about man, and our obligation to justify our creation by filling the world with light, not darkness. Is the light of one Jewish life equal to the darkness of a thousand monsters? Stop the world a moment, get off, and listen to this week's TEMPLE TALK, as our hosts reflect on the ancient yet new themes of creation, destruction, and the Jewish problem.

Complete Show