Midreshet Amit


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Power, Invention and Lasting Improvement

By: Abi Sauber

Last week we went back to the very beginning and read Parshat Beresheet and Adam appears as a major player. In this week’s parsha, Parshat Noach, we can all agree that Noach plays the leading role. As the first two main characters in the book of Breisheet there is much to compare and contrast. In her book, “ New Studies in Beresheet”, Nechama Leibowitz highlights that God commanded both Adam and Noach ’to be fruitful and multiply’. It’s in what God tells them individually afterward that their two roles begin to contrast. Adam is commanded to ‘subdue the land.’ Nechama Leibowitz explains this as conquering the land by way of technology; agriculture, building cities and erecting towers. Adam was a vegetarian. He was told to assert dominance over nature subtly. Noach, on the other hand, was much more intimidating. God gave Noach permission to slaughter animals so that he can eat the meat. Rav Kook explains this permission was given to prevent man from slaughtering his own kind. There was such bloodlust and desire for power. Something else that obviously links these two men is God’s curse. Adam committed the first sin and was cursed to have to work the land. Ten generations later, Noach is born into a farming society. Lemech, Noach’s father, made a declaration when Noach was born. He said that, ‘this one will provide for us relief from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the very soil which God placed under a curse.’ Rashi says that Lemech saw in prophetic vision that Noach will be the inventor of the plow. Noach’s plow was pleasant to the people of his time, but not to God. Only a few pesukim later it says, ‘God regretted having made humankind.’


Rabbi David Fohrman noted the similarity of language in the two pesukim. Both Lemech and God use words with the root of ‘Noach’. Lemech used ‘Noach’ to mean comfort. God used ‘Noach’ to mean regret. Rabbi Fohrman takes it further to explain that the people of Noach’s time were comforted by the plow because it eased their laborious farm work. Before the plow, people were sad while they worked. They knew their situation could be better, but they did not have the means. Their sadness was a reminder of the curse and the sin Adam had committed. It reminded them of their distance from God and led them to desire to reconnect with Him. The plow took away their sadness and removed that desire. God regretted allowing Noach to invent the plow.


All of this caused me to conclude that mankind is always seeking more. The problem is that we go looking in the wrong places. People desire for their situation to be better. But, what appears to be better and desirable is frequently not. Advancement isn’t always equal to improvement. Before seminary many girls think that they’ll make all their changes in sem. Once the situation they’re in is different, they will be different. That isn’t how it works though. The only way to truly improve is to desire to reconnect with God and work on closing the distance one small step at a time.


Shabbat Shalom.