The extra free time and easy living that began when Noah was born led to the evil and corrupt society that caused God to destroy the world later in Noah’s life.
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32) and in it we read the famous story of Noah and the flood. We are told in last week’s Torah portion that Noah’s parents named him Noah because “This one will comfort us (“Noah” means to “comfort” or “rest”) from our toil and from the anguish of our hands, from the soil that God has cursed [following the sin of the forbidden fruit].”
Although Adam was punished with having to eat bread “by the sweat of his brow” and having to produce his food from a “cursed” ground, Noah’s parents were hoping that somehow the birth of their son would remove or minimize the curse. What was it about Noah’s birth that made his parents think that their son was the “messiah” who would be the source of the lessening of the curse?
The Midrash (rabbinic literature) explains that when Adam was cursed following the sin of the forbidden fruit, he asked God: Until when will the curse and the accompanying hardships remain in effect? God told him that they will be in effect until someone is born circumcised. God’s response was passed down from father to son. Noah, we are told, was just that baby…he was born circumcised. Hence, Noah’s parents thought that this was the sign that the curse will end or at least be lightened.
The Midrash further states that until Noah was born, thorns would get in the way of all produce: wheat, barley, etc. making harvesting difficult and challenging. After Noah’s birth, however, the land produced whatever it was intended to produce. There were no more thorns. When they planted wheat, they harvested wheat; when they planted barley, they harvested barley.
Furthermore, we are told that Noah invented farming equipment such as the plow and the hoe. Until then people worked the ground with their bare hands! Things did indeed get easier with the arrival of Noah.
But here’s the problem. Once life got easier, people had more free time on their hands. The extra free time and easy living that began when Noah was born led to the evil and corrupt society that caused God to destroy the world later in Noah’s life. It seems that when people have to work hard, they tend to keep out of trouble. But when things are easy, the “evil inclination” takes over. Indeed, the more advanced technology and conveniences, the more corrupt the world seems to get. Sadly, much of the immorality in the world today is reminiscent of the pre-flood state of affairs.
This is an important lesson for us. We must make good use of our time. We must not get lazy or too comfortable. As our sages say, “idleness leads to sin.” Just because things get easier, let us not lose our sense of ethics and morality. Just the opposite: The more we get, the more we should thank the One above because He is the one who gives us the intelligence to create all the conveniences we enjoy. We should use this to further our connection to God and observance and not distance ourselves from Him, heaven forbid.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below: