Parashas Noach

This week’s parashah describes how Hashem destroyed the world through a flood due to man’s wickedness, sparing only the righteous Noach and his family. Hashem tells Noach (Bereishis 6:13): “The end of flesh has come before Me, for the earth has become filled with villainy on their account, and I hereby am going to wipe them off the earth.” The Midrash expounds (Bereishis Rabbah 31:4-5):
It is written (Iyov 35:9): “Among the multitude of victims, they raised a shriek; among the strong-armed legions of oppressors, they cried out.” Both the victims and the oppressors were screaming, for they were attacking each other. The oppressors attacked through robbery, while the victims attacked through abusive words. Ultimately their sentence was sealed – because they were mired in thievery, they were wiped off the earth.
“The end (keitz) of all flesh has come before Me.” The time had come for them to be cut down (l’hikatzeitz); the time had come for them to be destroyed; the indictment against them had come forth. Why were they treated so severely? “For the earth has become filled with villainy on their account.”
In regard to the first part of this Midrash, we can easily see, given the repetition in the verse from Iyov, what led our Sages to intepret the verse as saying that both the victims and the oppressors were screaming. Yet there remains a difficulty, for the Midrash seems to suggest that everyone, victims as well as oppressors, was equally culpable for their behavior. Moreover, the second part of the Midrash is puzzling. What led the Sages to interpret keitz as an allusion to l’hikatzeitz? And what indictment is the Midrash speaking about?
The Maggid answers as follows. The reasons behind the laws of interpersonal relations are generally very clear. Still, a person’s evil inclination can cloud his perception, leading him to wrong someone else without recognizing the evil nature of his act. But if he himself, at a later time, suffers the same wrong, he will see keenly how vile such conduct is. And if, shortly afterward, he commits this wrong again, his guilt is magnified sevenfold, for he has already thought intensely about this type of conduct and registered it as vile.
The Gemara teaches that, while the people of the generation of the flood committed many abominations, it was the sin of theft that sealed their fate (Sanhedrin 108a). Hashem told Noach: “The earth has become filled with villainy.” Theft was rampant – so much so that each person alternated between being a theft victim and a thief. The Midrash, in quoting the verse from Iyov, portrays this state of affairs. When the verse speaks of “multitudes of victims” and “legions of oppressors,” it is describing a situation of rampant oppression. Moreover, the verse indicates that the same people who raised a shriek were those who cried out – the victims turned around and oppressed those who had previously oppressed them. Thus, indeed, everyone was equally culpable. And when the Midrash speaks of the indictment against the generation of the flood, it means the indictment the people issued against themselves.
Thus, Hashem had no need to carry out any process of judgment to decide what sentence to mete out to them, for the people had already passed judgment on themselves. Hashem hinted to Noach that the outcome was inevitable when He said to him that “the end (keitz) of all flesh has come before Me.” As the Midrash says, the time had come for them to be cut down (l’hikatzeitz) – without any “deliberation.” The word keitz has the connotation of katzeh, meaning a limit. There was no need for any “deliberation” over the conduct of the generation of the flood, for the matter had reached the end of the line.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Noach:

    […] going to wipe them off the earth (הנני משחיתם את הארץ).” In a previous parashah piece, we presented one of the Maggid’s comments on this verse. Here we present another. In the […]

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