Rabbi Dr Zvi Aviner
NOAH AND BLOODSHED-3/
Identifying with Abel
Few words about credibility
As we continue to follow in our class the text of the Book of Genesis,
which leads us through Adam’s Six Commandments one by one,
we feel as if Moses wrote his book having us on his mind.
And by saying ‘us,’ I mean it laterally, our generation,
since we are the first generation ever capable of verifying
his words by our science. All we need is to sit down with a pencil,
watch the History Channels’ report on the History of Earth,
and verify Day by Day how well the story of Genesis matches
our scientific knowledge.
No human in Moses’s time, or ANYTIME in known history,
could write such a credible story by himself.
Hence when Moses tells us about Cain and Abel, and about
Noah and his Flood, we have to believe his words.
In fact, there is a whole section in the world’s history,
between 10,000 and 3,000 BC, that has evaded our research,
leaving us only few monumental structures like the
Egyptian pyramids, the Sphinx, and some structures in modern Turkey.
Let’s start with the end
The section of the Book that deals with BLOODSHED, Adam’s 3rd Commandment,
starts with the first murder – Cain and Abel – and ends with Noah’s Flood,
the Rainbow Covenant and the BLOODSHED Law given to Noah in details.
I would like to begin our class with the end, with Noah and his tribulations
soon after the Flood.
Contemplating in the Ark
The Midrash tells us that during the Flood, Noah had enough time to ponder
about what had happened, and prey a lot. (In Hebrew, the word for Ark, teiva,
stands also for word, prayer.)
We can’t tell exactly the content of his thoughts, but we can certainly tell
that those thoughts caused him to despair, to become worried about
the future of his children – so much, that he refused to go out when the Flood was over.
Of course, he knew well the reasons for the Flood.
The Torah describes, in details, the Heavenly Court session before the Flood,
deciding the fate of humanity on one side, and the fate of Noah and is family
on the other side
The Heavenly Court in Session prior to the Flood
Here is the copy of the text in Genesis describing the session:
“And YHVH saw that the evilness of Adam was great on Earth, and
That all the impulses of his heart are evil all day long, and YHVH
Regretted that He had made Adam on Earth, and was
Saddened to His Heart, and YHVH said,
I will wipe out Adam whom I had
Made from the face of the
Earth, both Man and
Cattle to creeping
Things and the
Bird of the air,
For I regret
“And NOAH found face in the eyes of YHVH
These are the generations of NOAH
NOAH was a complete, righteous man in his generations
with ELoHiM did NOAH walk, NOAH begot three sons
Shem ham and Yafet
And the Earth corrupted
before ELoKiM, And ELoKiM saw
, the Earth and behold it was corrupt
for all flesh filled with hamas, ad corrupted
its way On Earth. And ELoKiM Said to NOAH
The end of All flesh has come before me, for the Earth
is filled with their hamas, and I shall destroy them with Earth
and I, MYSELF, shall bring the Flood on Earth to destroy all flesh
in which is breath of life from under the Heavens and everything that is
on Earth shall die
Study carefully this Torah’s presentation of the Heavenly Court
because you’d hardly see it again in any other section of the Torah
in such details and clarity.
Here are two symmetric Wings of the Court,
the Wing of YHVH – carrying Her name 4 times (in blue)
the Wing of ELKM – carrying His name 4 times,
each Wing bracing Noah’ wing at the center.
Each wing expresses its Attribute perspectives,
YHVH speaks first on Mankind, then on Noah,
ELKM speaks first of Noah then on Mankind.
Together, they support Noah at the center, each Wing from its side.
The content of each Attribute’s speech is different.
YHVH is concerned about the human heart – that it is filled with ‘evil thoughts’ all day long,
ELKM is concerned about the generation’s sins, their breaking the laws.
“The world corrupted before ELKM” – committed IDOLATRY and ADULTERY,
“The Earth filled with hammas” – mixture of BLOODSHED and THEFT (Rashi)
And both Attributes support Noah at the center:
“Noah found face in YHVH eyes”
“Noah was a righteous person, with ELKM did Noah walk.”
The session ends with “An I, myself “- presenting the final decision of the “I,” the
Noah pondered about what?
During the Flood, Noah pondered about the cause of his generation’s failure.
How was it that such pious generations, like Adam and Eve’s first three generation,
degenerated so badly to transgress all the Commandments?
And particularly, why did all the pious peoples end up with hammas,
A deadly combination of MURDER and STEALING?
Was it an inherent fault in the human race?
Could it be stopped before the Flood?
Could it be prevented from returning?
Noah refused to exit
Thus, the text tells us, that although the water level has already subsided,
the raven has already flown back and forth, the dove has already returned
to the Ark with an olive leaf in her mouth, showing to Noah that the
vegetations had returned, yet Noah and his nascent family stayed inside the Ark.
“Why didn’t he run out?” The Midrash wanders, “had it been me, I would have
immediately escaped the Ark!” Says one rabbi.
Some explain, that Noah, a righteous man who “walked with ELKM”,
waited patiently for ELKM to tell him to go out. ELKM, after all,
had told him to enter the Ark, and ELKM should permits him to exit the Ark.
Indeed, the verse says that ELKM the JUDGE stepped in
and told Noah: “Go out of the Ark!” (Genesis 8:15)
but the word “told him” Implies that this is was not a simple order
but rather a rebuke, in harsh tone. Noah should exit despite his will.
Hence something more drastic was brewing in Noah’s heart.
What bothered Noah? We see it in the rest of ELKM’s words:
“Noah! Go out, you and your wife, your sones and their wives with you…” (8: 16)
ELKM meant – go out and procreate, build civilization again!”
Hence, all that pondering about the past, during the Flood,
Had brought Noah to refuse to exit and start building civilization again.
Says the Midrash: indeed, why should he agree to bring children
Into another curse, another Flood?
(Many of the Holocaust survivors in our generation have felt the same –
They came out of the death camp so despaired from Mankind, that
they hesitated, even refused, to start a new family)
Noah exited, still refusing
Noah, who had always “walked with ELKM,” did exit with his family,
Only that they were still adamant about their refusal to procreate, as it says:
“And they exited – Noah and his sons, his wife and the wives of his son,”(8: 19)
meaning that they exited by gender, male apart and females apart,
still refusing to comply with ELKM’s order. What a change in Noah!
From Mt. Ararat to Mt. Moriah
To see what exactly was on Noah’s mind, let’s see what he did next.
And we see that he and his nascent family went by foot -to Mount Moriah.
Why that pace? We’ll soon see.
The Midrash elaborates on that particular journey.
For several days the family went on foot from Mt. Ararat to Mount Moriah.
This by itself sets up a message – a connection between Noahides on Mt Ararat and Israel on Mount Moriah. (Perhaps this road would become a pilgrimage road from Ararat to Jerusalem)
For several days they sadly passed through empty villages and towns
whose homes stood intact yet whose owners missing.
Noah’s altar after Cain and Abel
When they reached Mount Moriah, Noah showed his three sons
the remnants of the stone altar that Cain and Abel had built
ten generations earlier. Noah took those stones and used them to
build his own altar – a square o sones filled with dirt, with a ram on the southern side.
That shape would become the prototype for all the Altars built by Moses, by King Solomon
and by Ezrah. And the prayer he offered there would become the prototype of all prayers.
Now we can understand what was on his mind – he went to Mt Moriah because
he feared that BLOODSHED would return
After all, he was a new Adam, and his wife Naama was a new Eve,
and he feared that his children would soon turn to be new Cains and new Ables.
Standing by the altar, Noah told his sons: Build here a city of peace, Jeru – Salem,
that can either be a cause of massive BLOODHSED, like Cain and Abel,
or a place where BLOODSHED would end, and peace would reign over the world.
Would his offering be accepted?
Then, the Torah says, Noah took samples from all kosher animals
and brought them up on the altar to be offered as a burnt- offering.
This would be the first such offering ever.
What is special about burnt-offering? Unlike a “gift offering” of Cain and Abel,
here the owner remains silent, unloading his heart with no words.
No need for confession or prayer to accompany the offering.
It is hoped that the smoke coming out of the offering
would carry up the frustrations and the tribulations of the owner.
Thus Noah, silently and resolute, raised his knife high over the sacrifice,
ready to offer it. His wife, Naama, observed all that from the side with horror.
Had not she, with Noah and their sons, taken care of these animals with so much
love, during the Flood? How could he, her husband, turn away his love
and slaughter those very animals?
And beside: how could he hope to stop bloodshed by killing animals?
Yet, Noah was adamant. Holding the knife high, he recalled the scene
that had what had happened exactly on that very spot, on Mt. Moriah,
so many years ago – the scene of Cain and Abel bringing their offering.
Cain, the arrogant priest of the family
Cain, as Noah was told by his mentors, had ascended proudly towards his altar,
carrying on his shoulders his best crop vegetation as a GIFT OFFERING to YHVH.
How magnificent he looked! Had not his mother Eve appointed him to –
“Purchase the connection between Man and YHVH?”
By his gift, Cain was sure, he would fulfill his mother’s wish.
Yet his mother failed in one aspect: She did not mention ELKM,
as if He was not that important to Her. How fatally would that neglect be!
The modest Abel
On his side stood his brother Abel. The rabbis said that this wasn’t his true name,
and that Abel in Hebrew means “a passing breath” or “vanity,” implying that
he would not live long, and that he would pass away leaving no child after him.
The name also indicates that he was a modest person, that he did not take
himself seriously. Yet, he was kind and loving, arguing with no one.
The Torah says on Abel that “he too was born after Cain,” that his mother
didn’t think much about him, and that “he too brought his offering,”
following his great brother Cain.
The pretentious Cain brought fruits, barging to despise BLOODSHED, even of an animal,
while the non-pretentious Abel bought a lamb.
Each one brought up his best, hopping to “purchase Man with YHVH.”
Whose smoke went up?
Lo and behold, despite all expectations, YHVH accepted Abel’s offering
and “to the offering of Cain she did not lean.” (4:4)
Meaning that the smoke ascended from Abel’s altar straight to the Heavens,
while the smoke coming out of Cain’s offering kept hovering over the Mountain,
spreading much stench.
What a shame, what a humiliation to the arrogant Cain!
His face fell down, and his anger brewed up in his heart.
Noah also recalled, that before the murder, YHVH sensed what was brewing
In Cain’s heart, telling him: “Cain, sin crouches at the door of your heart!”
Cain ignored that warning. Instead, he kept inflaming his own anger by
spreading lies about Abel, that he stole his place, that Abel is vanity, nothing,
not worthy of living.
The scene of the first murder
Noah also recalled how the first murder had taken place on that very spot on Mt. Moriah.
One day, as the two brothers spent their time playing on “the Field” – Mt. Moriah,
Cain stood up and chocked his unsuspecting brother by his own hands.
Abel blood then seeped into the base of the Altar and was swallowed by
the Abyss of Mount Moriah, to exit again on the southern valley
which would be cursed forever as “the place that absorbed Abel Blood.” (Genesis 4: 12)
Identifying with Abel
Still holding the knife high over his burnt offering, Noah thought to himself:
I Noah, identify with the victim, Abel. If Cain failed to connect Man with YHVH,
let me pick up the task by following Abel, offering animals to YHVH rather than vegetations.
He then hit the offering by his knife. He also unloaded silently his frustrations
And worries about the future of Mankind, of his own descendants.
All those frustrations, accumulated in his heart for so many months
during the Flood, were supposed to ascend up to Heavens, like Abel’s smoke.
And he wondered in his heart: could anything be done to stop my children
from killing each other? Can I prevent another deterioration of Mankind
which would end with another Flood?
Did his offering been accepted?
As Noah was bending down on the altar with a silent prayer,
he noticed something bad had happened – that the smoke coming out
of his altar did no ascend up. Instead, the wind brought in dark, heavy clouds
that hung over Mount Moriah and held the smoke on the Altar.
It chocked everyone present,
What a disappointment to Noah! He had offered Abel’s way,
Yet he was rejected Cain’s way. Deflated, despaired, he set by the altar contemplating,
Thinking about his descendants and Mankind.
Was there any way to stop another BLOODSHED and another Flood?
Is humanity is doomed?