We brought the flood upon ourselves!

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The Bible Says What?

We brought the flood upon ourselves!

Rabbi Yuval Keren serves takes a controversial topic from the Torah and looks at a progressive response

Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)
Torah scroll (Photo by Tanner Mardis on Unsplash)

The Eternal said: “I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created…” (Genesis 6:5-7)

There is little doubt that the epic tale of Noah and his Ark is one of the most approachable stories in the Torah. This is especially true for children. The animals march two by two, and Noah and his family take care of them until the flood subsides.

There are so many toys and activities for Noah’s Ark – puppets, puzzles, children’s books, balloons and more – that my online search returned more than 4,000 results. Yet the Biblical narrative is far from being a cute children’s story. Every living person and creature, bar those on the Ark, is drowned. Why?

The entire generation of Noah seems to be corrupt, but we are left to guess the nature of its corruption.

Some commentators connect it to the previous section in the Torah. There we read that b’nei ha-elohim (the sons of gods) “took [human] wives from among those that pleased them”.

The implication here is that human sin was connected to sexual immorality. Perhaps at that generation they started worshipping idols. Yet many of the classic commentators blame their sins not on their relation with God, but on bein adam la-chavero (hurting one another). The Midrash tells us the people’s verdict was not sealed until they started stealing. So the source of all trouble for the generation of the flood was their excessive pursuing of material benefits at the expense of others.

We live in a world in where there is more and more pursuit of the material and individual at the expense of the communal and spiritual. We spend more time shopping, watching TV and looking at our phones. We spend less time talking to each other. Worst of all, we pollute the air, sea and land with our machines and chemicals. By doing so, we cause climate change and as a result bring ‘the flood’ upon ourselves.

Rabbi Yuval Keren serves Southgate Progressive Synagogue

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