Friday October 21, 2023 – ה׳ חֶשְׁוָן תשפ”ד
וַתִּשָּׁחֵ֥ת הָאָ֖רֶץ לִפְנֵ֣י הָֽאֱלֹהִ֑ים וַתִּמָּלֵ֥א הָאָ֖רֶץ חָמָֽס׃ (בראשית ו:יא)
“The earth became corrupt before God; the earth was filled with lawlessness.”
It is surely more than a coincidence that this week we encounter in Torah the story of Noach, set in a world that was “filled with ‘Hamas’“ (literally translated as lawlessness or corruption). It was such a world that God decided to destroy and start over – sparing only Noach and his family and a selection of fauna, designed to repopulate the earth.
God decided that there was only one action that would be fitting to deal with the horror that was this “Hamas”-filled earth – to obliterate it in the all-encompassing flood.
But what was God’s end game? Did the All-Knowing Omniscient One have a plan for how to repopulate the earth and reset the future of humanity on a course of moral righteousness? And what are we to think about the lawless multitudes lost in the flood?
Throughout the ages, people have wrestled with how to understand this collective punishment.
Very rarely do we hear God demonstrate any sense of remorse or regret. However, three chapters later in Genesis, we learn of God’s promise to never again destroy the earth:
וַהֲקִמֹתִ֤י אֶת־בְּרִיתִי֙ אִתְּכֶ֔ם וְלֹֽא־יִכָּרֵ֧ת כׇּל־בָּשָׂ֛ר ע֖וֹד מִמֵּ֣י הַמַּבּ֑וּל וְלֹֽא־יִהְיֶ֥ה ע֛וֹד מַבּ֖וּל לְשַׁחֵ֥ת הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (בראשית ט:יא)
“I will maintain My covenant with you: never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth.” (Genesis 9:11)
There is a reason why God’s promise not to bring on another deluge is repeated in the same verse as the promise to maintain the covenant. It is meant to underline that, even if the human race would again be guilty of this kind of lawless conduct, God would still uphold the covenant. This can be regarded as an indication that perhaps God’s rash decision to wipe the slate clean was both a gross overreaction and that it failed to achieve its intended objective of ridding the world of “Hamas.”
Today we are also tasked with ridding the world of a different sort of Hamas.
Hamas has not only brutally murdered 1,400 Israelis – Jews, Muslims, migrant workers, women, children, babies, the elderly, and whole families together, but they have also kidnapped over 200 Israelis and others and are holding 1.8 million Palestinians hostage under their rule of terror in Gaza.
We don’t have a record of the kind of lawless behavior that went on in the antediluvian days, but, in our time, as each day goes by since Hamas’ horrific massacre of our people, we are uncovering in vivid and revolting detail the brutality and savagery with which Hamas butchered our people. The lawless, inhumane behavior of Hamas is evident — setting people on fire, stabbing, and then shooting them, raping women, and the callous hard-heartedness of taking the lives of young children.
No context, no utterances of “well, you have to understand…” could ever justify this horror.
Why, after almost two weeks of war, are people having a hard time condemning what should be obvious to the civilized world? The fact that Jewish groups such as Jewish Voices for Peace and If Not Now were protesting at the Capitol building in Washington D.C. in staunch opposition to Israel’s response in Gaza is concerning. While I also do not want innocent Palestinian children to be killed, the world needs to understand the scale of what just happened.
Thankfully, the leaders of the United States, as well as Germany and Great Britain who have also sent their Premiers, have not been swayed by these shallow protestors who are morally blind to the indiscriminate murder and unspeakable atrocities committed against their fellow Jews. President Biden, Secretary of State Blinken, Secretary of Defense Austin, as well as bipartisan Congressional leadership, have all visited Israel this week (itself unprecedented) and said all the things that Israelis and Jews around the world needed to hear.
What the far-left-wing protestors need to understand is that Hamas would kill them too if given the opportunity. While they are trying to do what they regard as “justice” (as flawed as their definition of it is) and feel like they are fighting for the good (a distortion of goodness according to Jewish values), it feels almost too obvious to have to state this, but Hamas is the evil that needs to be uprooted and destroyed – not Israel. Hamas slaughtered a Palestinian-Israeli ambulance driver and a Palestinian bus driver from East Jerusalem. Hamas’ true colors have been revealed with painful clarity for anyone who chooses to open their eyes and see. Once Israel’s guard was down, these terrorists didn’t act in protest of the occupation or in response to housing evacuations in East Jerusalem. Rather, they brought down a torrent of death and destruction that really can only be compared to the Einzatgruppen, the Nazi “mobile killing squads” during the Holocaust.
As Haviv Rettig Gur wrote in the Times of Israel, “The October 7 massacre wasn’t an outlier in Hamas’s long history of brutality; it was its apotheosis. It was what Hamas would do if it could. On that dark Saturday, it suddenly found that it could, and so it did.”
A tragedy is about to unfold in Gaza made worse by the long learning curve it will take for Hamas to grasp the depth of Israeli resolve. Hamas has robbed Israel of any other interest but the destruction of Hamas. In the Israeli mind, any brutality Hamas can commit it will commit. And so, it cannot be allowed to ever commit any act ever again.
In a deeply meaningful visit to Israel on Wednesday, President Biden put it succinctly and masterfully: “Justice must be done.”. “But I caution that, while you feel that rage, don’t be consumed by it. After 9/11, we were enraged in the United States. While we sought justice and got justice, we also made mistakes.”
The lesson of God’s promise after the flood is simple: Total destruction will not root out evil, but evil must be rooted out and destroyed nonetheless. Those who cannot see that and who continue to offer “context” and focus their attention on Israel as the aggressor need to be confronted for their willful moral blindness.
We need to walk an impossibly fine line here. As Yehuda Kurtzer explains:
“Israel then faces two challenges — to wage an ethical war, and to win it — then we, its supporters, have two responsibilities: to support Israel’s fighting of this war, and to use our voices responsibly in insisting that it fight it ethically.”
That is the lesson of the flood and of God’s promise. God’s promise to never again destroy the earth only places greater responsibility on humanity – created in God’s image – to act to root out evil and speak out strongly against those who do not.
וְאַ֨ךְ אֶת־דִּמְכֶ֤ם לְנַפְשֹֽׁתֵיכֶם֙ אֶדְרֹ֔שׁ מִיַּ֥ד כׇּל־חַיָּ֖ה אֶדְרְשֶׁ֑נּוּ וּמִיַּ֣ד הָֽאָדָ֗ם מִיַּד֙ אִ֣ישׁ אָחִ֔יו אֶדְרֹ֖שׁ אֶת־נֶ֥פֶשׁ הָֽאָדָֽם׃
“But for your own life-blood, I will require a reckoning: I will require it of every beast; of humankind, too, will I require a reckoning for human life, of everyone for each other!”
שֹׁפֵךְ֙ דַּ֣ם הָֽאָדָ֔ם בָּֽאָדָ֖ם דָּמ֣וֹ יִשָּׁפֵ֑ךְ כִּ֚י בְּצֶ֣לֶם אֱלֹהִ֔ים עָשָׂ֖ה אֶת־הָאָדָֽם׃
“Whoever sheds human blood,
By human [hands] shall that one’s blood be shed;
For in the image of God was humankind made.” (Genesis 9:5-66)