Larchmont Temple Chevra Torah

Questioning faith in the parsha


KOSHI: What does the world’s corruption teach us about the world’s dispersion? How do/can words destroy and save our lives?

October 19, 2010: Cheshvan 1 5771
Featured modern Author: Dara Horn 

CH6  V.11   The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness.

RASHI“VaTiSHaCHeT”—That is the language of sexual immorality… “ChaMaS,” the word means robbery, though in other forms, it is simply injustice.

SARNA…The universal corruption is further defined as “chamas.”  This term parallels

“no justice” in Job 19:7 and is elsewhere the synonym of falsehood, deceit and bloodshed.

IBN EZRA“lifnei HaElohim”—That is, they transgressed brazenly like a servant who defiantly sins in the presence of his master and is not afraid.  Chamas is taking by force, in this case, wives.

HERTZ… “Chamas”—Ruthless outrage of the rights of the weak by the strong.

WOMEN’s COMMENTARY…In the Babylonian flood stories, the gods are angry at humankind because people have become a nuisance, disturbing the peace.  Genesis, instead, makes unchecked human violence the reason for God’s drastic action of wiping out all living creatures—returning the world to primeval chaos. 

V.12/13 God saw how corrupt the earth had become—for all flesh had corrupted its way on earth, and God said to Noah:      I’ve decided to put an end to all flesh…

SFORNO“v’Hinei NiSH’ChaTah”—And behold it was destroyed…On its own, even without Divine punishment, it was on the way to destruction.  Through the corruption of immoral ways which damages [corrupts] one’s progeny, and violent robbery [Chamas] which corrupts the social order, it was already destroyed.

KaK’TAV  v’HaKABBALAH“Darko al Ha-Aretz”  The word “AL” in this instance means “on account of,” as in Gen 21:12, “Do not grieve on account of the lad…”  In other words, the abundance of the earth was a major contributing factor in man’s corruption.  This is why the earth was included in punishment, and after the deluge it never again yielded as it had previously.

RADAK“And God said to Noah”—This means that God revealed His plans and advised Noah of the 120 year repentance period that has come and gone without man changing his ways.  Instead, men have become all the more corrupt!

HIRSCH“Keytz Kol Basar—an end to all flesh…”  The Keytz—the end was implicit in man’s behavior.  Had God not intervened, even the spark of decency in Noah would have been extinguished…Still, as God reveals His plan, instead of begging for mercy on the world’s behalf, Noah is unmoved…

CH11  V.1-2            Everyone on earth had the same language and the same words. As they migrated from the east, they came upon a valley in the land of Shinar and settled there.

RASHI“One Language”—That is, the language with which the world was created.

TALMUD…They all spoke the 70 tongues—thus each person could understand the words of the other. [Yerushalmi, Megilah 1:9]

RASHI“Devarim Achadim–unified words”—That is, they came with one plan of action, saying, ‘God has no right to select for Himself alone the Higher realms.  We will ascend to the firmament and do battle…’  [MIDRASH RABBAH]

TANCHUMADevarim Achadim—They spoke sharp words—chadim, that could cut a person in two.

MIDRASH RABBAH “Devarim Achadimveiled deeds,” While the deeds of the generation of the flood were widely known, while the sins of the generation of dispersion were hidden.

V.3-4            They said to one another, “Come, let us bake bricks…And they said, “Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, to make a name for ourselves, lest we be scattered all over the earth.

IBN EZRA… This tower, visible from afar, would “make a name” as a rallying point for all peoples.

HIRSCH…They did not call “B’Shem Adonai” but rather “Na’aseh lanu Shem—Let us serve our own name…”  In their arrogant stress on accomplishment, their desires became an end in themselves.


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