Torah Thoughts for Today
Monday, January 19, 2004
#2 Sibling Rivalry Gone Mad: Noah and his Sons
Sibling Rivalry Gone Mad: Noah and his Sons.
(Relating to the weekly Torah portion of Noach. Genesis, Chapter 6, verse 9 – Chapter 11, verse 32. Dedicated to my parents. English text and commentary at http://bible.ort.org/books/pentd2.asp?ACTION=displaypage&BOOK=1&CHAPTER=6 )
Sibling rivalry is nothing new!
But how far will a sibling go to stop another from being born?
Very far, according to this week’s Torah portion of Noah!
Here’s the scoop:
When Noah and his three sons and their spouses eventually survive the great Flood and make it out into the world, something terrible happens to Noah:
He gets drunk! He gets raped! He gets castrated!
(I am not making any of this up)(*1)
Drunk?! Raped?! Castrated?! And who does this to him?
The answer is that he brought it upon himself and one of his sons did it to him!
A real life Biblical “Friday the Thirteenth” with the psycho-maniac being his own wicked son.
Why? How? When? Who?
Of all the dumb things to do, having seen the whole world wiped out for its sins, why would Noah want to get drunk in the first place and make himself vulnerable to being molested violently by anyone, as sadly so often happens in these kind of circumstances following a drinking binge?
Well, there are some esoteric commentaries that say that Noah actually brought with him a rare vine that had once grown in the Garden of Eden way before the Flood.
How he obtained it is a mystery:
“Rabbi Yehuda and RabbiYosse differed as to the origin of this vine. One said it came from the Garden of Eden and Noah now planted it here. The other said that it had been on the Earth before the flood and Noah had plucked it and now replanted it…” (*2)
The mystery is deepened because the old commentaries say that Noah was not just planting vines, and getting high on the end product, like growing weed and getting “high”. No, it was much deeper than that.
Noah was actually delving into the mysteries of Creation itself.
He became his own “Kabala” investigator…
He may have felt that the after the great Flood, the world was starting from fresh. The world was a new “Creation” after the great Flood that had wiped everyone else off the face of the Earth.
What was it that God wanted out of Creating and then Re-Creating the world all over again?
Well, for one, Noah and his sons received a familiar blessing from God:
“God blessed Noah and his children. He said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the Earth…” (Gen.9, v .1) The same expression is used with regards to Adam and Eve: “ God blessed them…Be fertile and become many. Fill the land and conquer it…”(Gen.1, v .28).
That being so, he was extremely curious as to how the first inhabitants of the Earth according to the Torah, in Genesis, Adam and Eve, blew their entire mission by getting themselves kicked out of the Garden of Eden with some serious curses hanging over them.
It seems that Noah stumbled on something really big. He happened to have arrived at a point of knowledge that revealed some deep esoteric mysterious aspect relating to “eating” from the forbidden “Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil”. It had a carnal aspect: the seduction of Eve by the Serpent; the subsequent “induction” of Adam; and the fall-out when they became aware of their nakedness and became aware of their sexual organs; procreating; and their vulnerabilities as humans:
“Rabbi Simon said: When Noah began to probe into the sin of Adam, not for purposes of practicing it, he pressed grapes in order to make researches into that vineyard (the Garden of Eden). But when he reached that point he became ‘drunken and uncovered’ (as it says in Genesis), (meaning) he lost his mental balance (‘drunken’) and ‘uncovered’ the breach of the world which had been closed up until then.”(*3)
In other words, Noah got in over his head, and this “drunkenness” was actually not only “blowing his mind” with stuff that was too heavy for any normal person to handle, but also made him vulnerable to a sexual “predator”, (his own son Ham), just as Eve and Adam had ruined themselves following the exploits of the “primal predator”: the evil and cunning Serpent who seduces Eve from her innocence. With unknown negative consequences to follow.
What was Noah’s personal craving for this subject altogether you may ask?
You see, he wanted to have another baby. He wanted a young son to serve him in his old age. Probably, hopefully, to fulfill some other great divine duty that would come about.
He already had three sons, Shem, Ham, and Yafet but they were already grown, and had their own lives…. Or did they?
The rotten apple in this story is Ham. He was a rule breaker. There was supposed to be no sex and procreation in the Ark when it was shut and put afloat by the deadly rising waters.
Ham had his own ideas. He had sex with his wife in the ark. He was endowed with the Serpent’s twisted anti-social sexual pathology.
And when he got wind that his father wanted to procreate so that a fourth sibling would be born into the Noah family, he pounced on Noah’s “drunken” mental condition with the “opportunity” it gave him. Thus Noah’s “drunken dreams” become their own monstrous self-fulfilled nightmare. To the wicked delight of his own son Canaan, Ham either cruelly co-joined, sodomized, with his father causing enough damage to prevent Noah from having another kid, and even, as some maintain, he went so far as to “castrate” his own father so that no other “heir apparent” should appear (*4):
“Ham said to his brothers: Adam had only two sons, yet one killed the other; and Noah has three sons and yet wants four!”
One commentator says that it was actually Ham’s son Canaan who achieved the castration of Noah through the use of witchcraft and that Ham in his wickedness saw this and did not protest and was actually happy to tell his other brothers what had happened. (*5)
The “moral”, or “morals”, of this entire unhappy episode are many.
Firstly we see that the Torah and its rabbinical commentators beat Sigmund Freud and the psychoanalysts by thousands of years. The Flood itself took place in the Hebrew year 1658 from then time of Creation. That makes it 2103 B.C.E. (four thousand one hundred and three years ago). (*6) There is an entire “hidden dimension” within a person. Call it the “psyche”, or “soul”, or “spirit”, “id, ego, super-ego”, “dark side”, “evil”, “conscience”, or “guilt”, “nature” or “nurture”… whichever it may be, the Torah, as ever, paints a portrait of complex and conflicted men.
The “longing to have a child” and the “arousal of Romantic love” are intertwined with both sublime Godly angelic halos, at the very same time when dark, divisive, dangerous lusts, fantasies, “oedipal” forces drive a person towards “forbidden” love, to incest and sexual jealousies as “discovered” by the Freudians. And known far too well to the devotees of Sorcery, Sadism and Satanism. A world inhabited by demons that drive the demented to go “over the edge” for the sake of experiencing a maniacal hedonistic “final truth” of orgiastic torture, where offspring could seek to castrate, and dis-empower their parents, and where sibling rivalry knows no limits when it comes to stopping a normal baby from being born…And just how careful we should be to avoid situations that seem like great opportunities for a great intoxicating love, but may actually lead to sorrow.
For their acts of modestly covering up their father’s “nakedness”, Shem and Yafet receive wonderful blessings. Spiritual glory for Shem, he will be the ancestor of the “Semites”, and the greatest among them the Jews. Yafet will gain beauty and aesthetics culminating in the glory of ancient Greece. And as for Ham, a life of degradation and bondage, and cruel Canaanites as his seed…but as they say…nothing turns out exactly as you want it to, and the historical ins and outs stemming from these three siblings has many ups and down and twists and turns… down to our own times…Such is life.
Have a wonderful and peaceful Shabbat Shalom!
(*1) See Rashi commentary on Genesis Ch.9, Vs. 22, citing Tractate Sanhedrin in the Talmud, and Medrash Rabbah.
(*2) Zohar [73a-73b] in English edition Soncino Press Vol. I, p. 248, on Genesis Ch.9, vs. 20-21.
(*4) Medrash Rabbah Chapter XXXVI, Vs.5. in Soncino Press Vol. I, p.291, on Genesis Ch.9, vs. 22.
(*5) SIPORNO, in the name of “Brusi Hakaldee”, commentary Genesis Ch 9, vs.22.
(*6) The living Torah, Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan, Plate2. From Adam to Moses, p.23.