Three hundred years before the Great Flood, in the year 1356, Noach and his father Mesushelach began to prophesy the end. For 180 years they traveled the known world proclaiming the demise of humankind. In 1536, one hundred and twenty years before the Mabul, G-d commanded Noach to build the “Tayvah – Box – Ark”. 20 years later, in 1556, Noach and his wife Naamah had the 1st of their 3 sons.
A world in which a single human life can span centuries, is a world that believes in its own immortality and invincibility. In spite of Noach and Mesushelach’s warnings; in spite of the “actions speak louder than words” that the Tayvah represented; society ignored the doom-sayers and “fiddled away” while the world drowned. In the end, only two survivors from the lines of Kayin and Shes remained. Noach, the direct descendent of Shes (3rd son of Adam & Chava) and Naamah, his wife, the direct descendent of Kayin.
Statistically the degree of the destruction is inconceivable. In a world rich with the pure and natural resources of the pre-diluvian era, people lived longer and had considerably more children. It is reasonable to assume that the world population was greater before the Mabul than at present, given today’s pollution, diseases, warfare, and shorter life span. Billions of people, centuries of culture and civilization, wiped away in 40 days of utter destruction! Why? How bad were they?
The Talmud in Sanhedrin says that their fated destruction was sealed because of “Chamas – thievery”. Thievery is a denial of G-d’s mastery and intent for humanity; whereas, respecting another’s personal rights and property proclaims the existence of a purposeful Creator who does things and gives things for a reason. Your belongings are yours because G-d wanted you to have them. By protecting personal property and rights, society introduces G-d into every day living. If society does not protect the rights of individuals to own and accomplish, they effectively deny G-d’s reason for doing and giving as He sees fit and thereby remove G-d from the workings of society.
The pre-Mabul society consciously blocked G-d’s entrance into the functioning of society by allowing lawlessness to flourish. Personal property and rights were sport for the strong and mighty and family life was compromised by wanton infidelity and incest. All natural boundaries were erased. Humans mated with animals and animals mated outside of their species. It became a world of perversion that denied the Creator’s presence by destroying His purpose in establishing species and setting boundaries. This was the world that had to be destroyed before it could be rebuilt.
After the Mabul, the world had a second chance. Unfortunately, basic human nature did not change and many of the negative traits remained; yet, the world was different. As the human life span was reduced so too was his potential to do evil. As the life span lessened, its value increased along with its potential for good. The story of Noach, Naamah, and their three sons is our story. The lessons of their history are the realities of today.
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Aron Tendler and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author is Rabbi of Shaarey Zedek Congregation, Valley Village, CA.