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"Nor Shall I Again Destroy Again All Living Things"

  • Harav Yehuda Amital
The Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash

Student Summaries of Sichot of the Roshei Yeshiva
Yeshivat Har Etzion

Parashat NOACH




"Nor Shall I Again Destroy All Living Things"


Adapted by Shaul Barth

Translated by Kaeren Fish



            In our parasha, following the Flood, God says: "I shall no more curse the earth because of man, for the inclination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor shall I again destroy all living things, as I have done" (Bereishit 8:21). Why does God reveal this reason only after the Flood? The inclination of man's heart was evil even before the Flood; why, then, was there a Flood in the first place?


            Before addressing this question, let us first look at another problem in our parasha: why was man permitted to eat meat only after the Flood? We will be able to answer this question if we first understand what change the Flood brought about in man. After Noach and his family spent the duration of the Flood inside the Ark, together with the animals, sharing a common fate, Noach was under the impression that now – following humanity's sin and punishment – he shared the same status as the animals. Therefore, after emerging from the Ark, he was in perpetual fear, for he was starkly aware of his minority status: there were hundreds of pairs of animals, but only a small number of people in the world. He lived in fear that any beast could devour him.


            Since Noach believed, after the Flood, that he had lost his superior status in relation to the animals, God had to renew this superiority by means of a promise that "the fear and terror of you shall be upon all the creatures of the earth, and upon all the birds of the sky." In addition, man was now permitted to eat meat. This served to restore the situation in which man knew that he ruled nature, that he was the center of Creation. Only after man regained this perception could he know and understand that since he is the center of Creation, his actions have the power to uplift all of nature (if he does good) or to destroy it (if he sins).


            God restored man to his central role in the world, which brought responsibility along with privilege.  Yet God knew that the inclination of man's heart can be evil, and this could lead to man's destruction instead of to man's development to reach his fullest potential.  So as to allow this development, God promised not to destroy humanity again.  However, according to the Ramban, God kept this promise to Himself (at least until Moshe wrote it in the Torah).  Only thus would man take his behavior seriously, since he thought that evil conduct could again bring about the destruction of the world.  At the same time, God would allow the world time to develop, despite man's misdeeds, so that man would ultimately rise to the challenge of repairing the world and perfecting himself.



[This sicha was delivered on leil Shabbat parashat Noach 5762 (2001).]