NOACH (Genesis, 6:9-11:32) — “Sweat the Big Stuff…and it’s ALL Big Stuff!”

Do you want to know what makes G-d angry?  I mean REALLY angry?  I mean angry enough to destroy Creation and start again with Noah’s family and a boat full of animals?

The answer is…very little!!!

The world was corrupt before G-d, and the world was filled with “Chamas” (which I will, for now, leave untranslated).  G-d saw the world, and behold, it was corrupt, because all flesh had corrupted its ways on Earth.  (Genesis, 6:11-12)

There were two issues bothering G-d.  One was “corruption,” which the Talmud (Sanhedrin, 57a) defines as sexual indiscretions and idolatry.  The other was “Chamas.”  Which was worse?  Let’s look at the next verse, and see which of these two problems was the straw that broke the camel’s back:

G-d said to Noah, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, because the Earth is filled with CHAMAS.  I am going to obliterate them from the Earth.”

The bottom line was Chamas.  The world was filled with adultery, incest, and every sexual perversion possible.  People were bowing down to trees and calling them “God.”  But G-d would not have destroyed the world for that.  What really bothered Him was the Chamas.

What is ChamasMidrash Rabbah tells us that Chamas is theft.  But it is a very insidious form of theft.  Chamas refers to the theft of an insignificant amount.  People would surround a vegetable stand, and each person would grab a few beans, an amount too small for a court to get involved.  (Would your local supermarket prosecute a “shoplifter” who sampled one grape in the fruit bin?)  Before you knew it, the man’s business was destroyed, and he had nowhere to turn for justice!

Those of us of the Jewish Faith have 613 Mitzvahs to fulfill.  The rest of the world has seven.  One of those seven Mitzvahs is the obligation to establish a court system to enforce the other six!  The sin of Chamas was the act of circumventing the system to avoid judicial jurisdiction.

Normally we would tend to think that an embezzler of a million dollars is overwhelmingly worse than someone who steals a penny.  And of course, he is.  But in a subtler sense, the theft of the penny is much more damaging.  When you take a tiny amount, you don’t even realize that you’re doing something wrong!

A little white lie here, a little padded insurance claim there.  A paper clip or a postage stamp from the office.  A little insult, a little gossip; no blood drawn, no harm done.  A “victimless” crime, right?  Not a big deal, right?

Wrong.  When we take liberties with other people’s money and other people’s honor, the quantity is irrelevant.  They say that there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant.”  There is also no such thing as “a little bit evil.”  G-d destroyed the world because people looked for ways to avoid defining stealing as stealing.

Food for thought for all of us; especially our friends in the “legal” profession.

Have a great Shabbos.

Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz

To leave a comment about this article, or to read other readers’ comments on this article, scroll down past the archive links.

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 Nimro-bama” (2009) 

…Society was uncomfortable with Abram’s “Inconvenient Truths.”  He said things that challenged their beliefs.  He contradicted Nimrod’s plans of absolute sovereignty.  He dared to accuse the “Great Leader” of being, well, merely mortal.  Therefore, he had to be silenced.

Last November, the people of America  displayed the “Audacity of Hope” and voted for “Change.”  As the bumper stickers ask, “How’s that ‘Hopesy-Changey’ workin’ out for you?” … 

Read more.

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“Murdering the Murderer?” (2008) 

“Two wrongs don’t make a right!  If it is wrong to kill, it is wrong to kill!  When we execute murderers we become no better than they are!”

So goes the argument of the anti-capital punishment crowd.  When we kill a killer we become killers ourselves.

There seems to be a certain amount of merit to that argument, except for one little detail.  G-d disagrees:

“He who spills the blood of man shall have his own blood spilled by man, for G-d made man in His own image.”  (Genesis, 9:6)

G-d made this statement to Noah and his children shortly after He wiped out almost every man, woman, and child from the face of the earth.  Although every human being is created in G-d’s image, G-d had no problem eliminating all but the eight members of the Noah Family.

Why not?…

Read more.

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“A Tale of Two Cities” (2007)

… G-d has limited patience with wicked people. Nineveh  was slated for destruction.  The prophet Jonah was sent to Nineveh  to warn them of their imminent doom.  They got the message.  They repented their evil ways and were spared.

As a result of their actions, the (belatedly) righteous citizens of Nineveh  serve as an annual Yom Kippur role model to teach us what we can accomplish by returning to G-d.

Now let us look at another Biblical city.  We will read in a few weeks about Eliezer’s journey to the city of Nachor…In Nachor he finds murderous, wicked people.  … “Laban, son of NACHOR”, (Genesis, 29:5) is one of the symbols of the enemies of Israel.  He is also identified with Balaam, who did everything in his power to curse and destroy Israel.

There you have it.  Two cities. Nineveh, which teaches us how to return to G-d and become better people, and Nachor, a city that teaches us treachery and unrepentant evil.

We, can, perhaps, see the roots of these cities’ differences in this week’s Torah Portion…

Read more.

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 “How to be an Orthodox Jewish Gentile” (2006)

Is it possible for a Gentile to practice Torah Judaism?  Isn’t that an oxymoron?  Not at all.  Actually, it is very much possible for a Gentile to practice Torah Judaism.  In fact, every member of the human race is obligated to do so.

We do not believe that every person is obligated to follow the 613 Commandments of the Torah.  There is nothing wrong with Gentiles eating pork chops or driving on the Sabbath.  They are, however, required by Torah Law to obey 7 key Commandments, known as the Seven Noahide Laws.  (“Noahide” = Children of Noah.)

What are they required to do?  Well, they could start off by disbanding the New Jersey Supreme Court!…

Read more.

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“No Pot of Gold…” (2005)

It’s beautiful; it’s a sign of ugliness. When you see it, you recite a prayer of thanks; when you see it, you’re not supposed to show it to anyone.  It is a sign of hope; it is a sign of frustration.  It is a sign of divine compassion; it is a sign of divine wrath.

Somewhere, over the rainbow, SomeOne is remembering a promise.  Somewhere, under the rainbow, someone has broken a promise…

Read more.

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 “Yerachmiel’s Ark” (2004) …

… As I lay on the grass in a not-very-rabbinic muddy suit contemplating my predicament, I started laughing.  Noah’s lion strikes again!…

Read more.

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 “Quoth the Raven . . .” (2003)

I hate ‘em!

My garbage pail gets knocked over by the wind, and before you know it, these big black, ugly birds are ripping open the trash bags, spreading the wealth all over my driveway!

Noah hated ‘em too…

Noah didn’t like the raven.  It was a cruel and selfish bird.  In fact, Noah didn’t mind endangering that miserable creature by sending it out of the Ark.  He didn’t understand what value there was in even allowing the raven back into the Ark.  He saw the raven as an unnecessary member of the animal kingdom. It was cruel to its own children.  It was inedible.  It could not be used as a sacrifice. AND, it was despicable…

Read more.

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 “You Can’t Climb a Grapevine” (2002)

… When Noah sobered up, he realized how his son and grandson had dishonored him, and cursed them. Noah blessed Shem and Japheth for their respect and sensitivity.

How did Noah, this great man, who is called “a man of righteousness,” descend so quickly to become “a man of the earth?” How did the savior of mankind so quickly find himself in a drunken stupor, subject to the scorn of his own son and grandson? …

Read more.

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 “Sweat the Big Stuff…and it’s ALL Big Stuff!” (2001)

… there is no such thing as “a little bit pregnant” …

Read more.

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 “A Pig by Any Other Name…” (2000)

… there are two types of laundry — clean laundry and dirty laundry. Would you reclassify these two categories as “clean laundry” and “laundry that isn’t clean?!” …

Read more.

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This is the weekly message at http://torahtalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2011 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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This is the weekly message at  TorahTalk.org. Copyright © 2000-2012 by Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz.  May be reprinted. Please include copyright information.

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Rabbi Yerachmiel Seplowitz is a Mohel (Brisrabbi.com) and chaplain in  Monsey, New York. For information about scheduling a Bris or a lecture, or just to say hello, call (800) 83MOHEL.

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Published in: on October 18, 2001 at 9:56 am  Leave a Comment  

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