Commentary for Bereishit

9 Oct

This week’s parshah traces history from the very beginning of creation until the time of Noah. We read about creation, about Adam and Eve’s lives in the Garden of Eden and the events that result in them being kicked out of the Garden of Eden and punished by God. We read about their children, Cain and Abel, and about their descendants all the way down to the time of Noah. Although it is not mentioned in the text until chapter six, humanity has been becoming increasingly rotten this whole time, and God finally gets fed up with them and decides to wipe them out.

 

When Noah is born, the Torah explains to us the reason he was given his name, which means “comfort:” “And he named him Noah, saying, ‘this one will provide us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the very soil which the Lord cursed (Gen. 5:29).’” The curse in question was God’s punishment for Adam for eating from the Tree of knowledge, which was that mankind would have to work the land in order to get food, as opposed to inside the Garden of Eden where food and vegetation grew on their own. The belief at the time was that the curse would last only as long as Adam was alive, and Noah was the first child born after Adam’s death.

 

It speaks volumes about the mindset of those generations that they would automatically blame any problems they were having with their crops on the long-ago actions of someone else rather than even consider that they themselves might be at fault. As God tells the Israelites later on many times, if we do what is good in the eyes of God we will be rewarded with a good harvest, but if we don’t, God will hold back the rains and there will be famine. Even after Noah was born the people continued to do wrong, never once considering that any hardships they suffered could possibly have been their own fault, until the day when God brought a great flood and wiped them all out.

 

Those who don’t learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We should all take heed of the lesson that the people in our parshah never learned. We should never write anything off as being entirely someone else’s fault without first carefully and honestly examining the issue to determine if we have helped cause the problem and how we can fix it.

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