Rabbi Dr. Zvi Aviner
Ó copyrights 2022
THEFT-1/Noahide Prayer Shawl
1 Ten Generations apart
In our first cycle of classes, we’ve covered
the 10 generations between Adam and Noah.
We started with Genesis Chapter One, learning
about the creation of the world, creation of Adam,
then we learned about the notion of sin
presented by the story of the Garden of Eden, in Chapters 2-3,
then we talked about Noah’s generation, their sins,
Noah’s Flood and the Rainbow Covenant.
Now, in the second cycle of our classes, we’ll cover
the next 10 generations between Noah and Abraham,
learning what was so special about Abraham,
and what is the meaning the Circumcision Commandment.
Let’s recall that, officially, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob,
were officially Bnei Noah, like all other Children of Noah,
and whatever we say about them
may still apply to all Noahides, even today.
The Notion of Israel as a special brand of Noahides,
a nation of priests, meaning teachers serving all Mankind,
was set up by Moses at Sinai, in the Book of Exodus.
Let’s also recall that
In Chapter One, Adam is born to withstand the challenge of IDOLATRY.
Then, in the stories of Eden, in Genesis Chapters 2-4,
Adam and his wife are formed to withstand, besides IDOLATRY
also the challenge of a new Commandment: ADULTERY.
As it says in Eden:
“Therefore, man leaves his father and mother,
cleaves to his wife and become one.”
This miraculous verse, we’ve said,
Introduces both Marriage and the prohibition of ADULTERY.
Then, in Genesis Chapters 4-10, starting with Cain and Abel
and ending with Noah’s Flood, we see Mankind
stumbling badly over BLOODSHED,
besides IDOLATRY and ADULTERY.
In fact, the Rainbow Covenant spells out for us the
Entire body of BLOODSHED Laws in details.
It also introduces a new Noahide Law, the Seventh,
that forbids Noahides to consume blood and limbs torn
from a living creature in cruelty.
It also commands us to be sensitive to animal suffering
Especially when we use them as our meals.
Now, as the Torah moves from Noah’s generation and BLOODSHED,
to Abraham and his struggles, we’ll see that
they all revolve around Noah’s next, Fourth Commandment, THEF,
Yes, of course, THEFT and stealing called Hamas
was committed by Noah’s generations.
We remember the ferocious, murderous gangues
of Tubal Cain, Noah’s brother in Laws,
the so called “Children of ELHM” who, as the verse says,
stole and raped women under the watching sun with no shame.
But their heinous crimes in Noah’s times
were done on individual level, by braking into innocent people’s home
or by mugging and killing in the streets, by small bands of criminals/
whereas after the Flood, as the Torah moves from Noah towards Abraham,
the new crimes became larger in scale, committed by invading armies,
by Empires that grabbed territories and subjected their people to Slavery.
And here we’ve arrived at an important point.
As we watch the succession of Noah’s Commandments
In the Book of Genesis, we realize their differences as they evolve.
IDOLATRY is actually aimed at an individual person.
It can be committed by a single person, like Adam.
ADULTERY in contrast requires at least a married couple,
Besides a third party, the perpetrator. Like the Serpent.
BLOODSHED in contrast, requires at least a nucleus family,
like two brothers, Cain and Abel.
THEFT requires even a larger group, having the notion of OWNERSHIP.
A Larger THEFT, like ABDUCTION and Slavery,
Requires larger forces, like armies and Empires.
Hence the Book of Genesis takes us through the historical
growth – “social evolution” – of Mankind, from the nuclear family
to tribes and then to countries and Empires, as in Abraham’s time.
So let’s begin our reading
about the first generation after the Flood:
2: The New Era After the Flood
“And the Sons of Noah that went out of the Ark
were Shem and Ham and Yeffet,
and Ham was the father of Canaan.
These were the three sons of Noah,
and of them was the whole Earth overspread…” (Genesis 9: 18-19.)
Then the Torah presents the Seventy Nations of Noah’s descendants
“The whole Earth was one language
and a common purpose….” (Genesis 11:1)
After the Rainbow Covenant revelation, Noah agreed to procreate.
His children began settling Earth and re-building civilization.
They had one faith – Noah’s faith; one language – the Hebrew,
and a common purpose – prosperity and peace.
They spread all over Earth; grabbing territories and possessing them
by cultivation. Ownership was established by cultivation.
Ownership was also established by raising crops, selling it
and trading it. One could establish ownership of items
by making them, then by trading them.
The passion of the day evolved around trading, so much,
that the most respected person in society was a trader -.
a Canaanite in Hebrew.
Thus, no wonder that Noah’s most beloved grandson
was named Canaan, the Trader.
He was also a talented poet,
very efficient in his Hebrew.
3: Noah’s Befall
With the new society of the Seventy Noahide Nations,
living all in peace, speaking one tongue and seeking prosperity,
came also a new holiness to the world.
A new Angelic Choir was established in Heavens,
comprised of Seventy Angels, each Nation presented by an Angle.
As the prophet Isaiah says, the Angelic Choir chants
every morning at dawn:
“Holy, Holy, Holy, the World is full of His Glory.”
In fact, each Angle chants one glory,
three in a raw form a group that
chants “three holies” in harmony.
They start their day in the far east, nine hours east of Jerusalem,
and as the day progresses new nations wake up and join the Choir.
We’ll talk more about the Choir later in the context of Jacob
wrestling Esau’s Angle, changing his name to Israe
But along with the new holiness,
Came to the world its opposite- profanity,
Shown by Noah himself.
Here is the story.
After the Flood, Noah had enormous success
as a farmer and a producer of excellent wine.
This was accompanied by Noah’s degradation.
The verse describes it in 7 steps
1.“And Noah, the Man of the Ground,
2. “Began, (what?)
3. “And he planted a vineyard,
4. “And he drank of the wine,
5. “And he was drunk,
6. “And he rolled over, naked,
7. “Within HER tent…” (whose tent?)
(Genesis 9: 20-22)
Noah was a successful farmer.
He was the first to convert metal weapons to metal ploughs,
making the life of the famer easier.
Then he “began,” what? – the verse does not elaborate.
It could mean that he ‘began’ – was the first to produce excellent wine.
He is called “The Man of the Ground”
because he became a proud OWNER OF THE GROUND
by cultivating it.
The Rabbis, however, noted that “began,” in Hebrew hu-chal
Can als be read as “profaned,”
that he desecrated G-d’s name by his misbehavior.
The verse tells us how.
One day, Noah became so drunk –
perhaps to escape bad memories of the past,
that he rolled naked on the ground,
his face buried in the ground.
The Torah also says that he was inside “her tent,”
meaning his wife, Naama’s tent,
unable to perform his marital obligation with her.
By this, rolling naked on the ground,
his face buried in the ground, his back facing up,
he profaned G-d’s name in the eyes of his children.
Indeed, the verse continues:
“And Ham, the father of Canaan,
saw the nakedness of his father
and he told this to his two brothers outside…” (Genesis 9: 22)
The verse does not say it explicitly,
but because Noah later cursed Ham’s son, Canaan,
it seems that it was Canaan who saw him first,
yet he did nothing about it.
Moreover, the Midrash says that Canaan committed
a Sodomite Sexual Act on his drunken grandfather,
increasing his degradation and humiliation.
Then, it says:
And Shem and Yeffet took a garment,
laid it upon both their shoulders,
And they walked backwards,
and covered their father’s nakedness
their faces were turned away,
and they saw not their father’s nakedness.
Shame of nakedness, is an enigma,
even in the eyes of modern scholars,
since it is not found in the animal kingdom,
not even in chimpanzees.
How is it, scholar wonder, that Homo Sapience came to posses
such a weird feeling of being ashamed of nakedness?
But, as we’ve learned, the Torah tells us how
Shame of nakedness came to Mankind.
The Torah says that immediately
after eating the forbidden fruit in Eden,
“their eyes opened” and they saw their nakedness
and were ashamed of it.
Prior to eating the fruit, Adam and his wife
walked naked, like the Serpent,
and like the Serpent, they were unashamed of it.
Beasts of the field, after all, walk naked unashamed.
Hence prior to the eating, the humans and the serpent
were at the same spiritual level.
Prior to the eating, they were aware of ELHM, the creator of nature,
like the Serpent was, and there is nothing shameful about nakedness
In ELHM’s eyes.
But once they had eaten from the fruit and gained awareness of Good and Evil,
which are perspectives in YHVH’s eyes,
they immediately covered their nakedness in shame,
since nakedness stands as the opposite of holiness in the eyes of YHVH.
Here in the story, Ham and Yeffet were aware of YHVH and Her Holiness,
and they knew that they should honor their father and mother,
hence they took a long garment, went backwards,
and covered Noah’s nakedness,
Their awareness comes from awareness of YHVH,
for when Noah woke up and learned what had happened to him,
Cursed is Canaan,
a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers,
Blessed be YHVH, the ELoKiM (G-d) of Shem,
and let Canaan be his slave!
May ELKM beautify Yeffet,
let him dwell in the Tents of Shem,
and let Canaan be a slave to him…” (9: 26-29)
The Talmud says as a reward, Shem received the honor
of wearing a long prayer shawl that covers his body
from head to toe, to be worn while he stands before YHVH in prayer.
This garment is the base for the custom of Israel
to wear a long talit, in prayer.
It carries fringes to remind us of the 613
Commandments given in Sinai.
But as Noah said, let Yeffet dwell in the tents of Shem,
meaning that all the Children of Noah today should wear a prayer shawl
that covers their bodies from head to toe
while standing in prayer.
What is the content of the daily prayers of the Children of Noah?
That part is also hinted here in the story of the Seventy Nations of Noah, .
As we’ll learn next class.