Congregation Etz Hayim at Hollis Hills Bayside

The consolidated communities of Hollis Hills Bayside Jewish Center and Marathon Jewish Community Center

Shabbat Noah 5775

On this third consecutive day of rain, and given this week’s Torah portion, Noah, I’m getting a bit anxious. The weather has led me to this question: What was so bad about the human race that God was so disappointed in and enraged by it as to bring the devastating flood?

The Bible says dor hamabul, the generation of the flood, was evil, but the rabbis gave color to the definition of evil. Look at these two midrashim to see how our tradition defines a valuable society. Hint: it’s a continuation of my “I love Israel” mantra from Rosh Hashanah. First, read the midrashim; second, come to shul on Shabbat morning to see where I’m going with these!

Midrash 1: Rabbi Yitzhak said: The people of the generation of the flood needed to plant only once to raise enough food for 40 years, could walk from one end of the world to the other in no time, and while walking could easily uproot the cedars of Lebanon. As for the bites of lions or leopards, it was regarded by the people as no more dangerous than a flea’s prick in the flesh. Besides, the constantly enjoyed the kind of beautiful weather that prevails from Pesah to Shavuot. (Bereshit Rabbah 34:8) 

Midrash 2: When a woman gave birth during the day, she would say to her newborn infant: Go and fetch me a flint, and I will cut your umbilical cord. When she gave birth during the night, she would say to her infant: Go and kindle a lamp for me, and I will cut your cord. (Bereshit Rabbah 36:1)

What do you think the rabbis were trying to say about dor hamabul and about societies in general?

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov,

 

 

Rabbi David Wise