Sacred Texts  Judaism  Index  Previous  Next 

p. 246


Said Rabbi Jose: "It is written, 'And the Lord said I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth! (Gen. vi., 7); also, 'My thoughts are not your thoughts and my ways are not your ways saith the Lord' (Is. lv., 8). When anyone seeks to wreak his vengeance upon another, he keeps silent and lets not a word escape his lips lest his enemy learning his intention takes steps to guard and protect himself. The Holy One acts not so, when sending forth his judgments upon the world, but warns it again and again of their coming. He has no fear of being baffled by those whom he is about to chastise, and no one can hide from him nor escapes his decrees. He made known through Noah the judgments58a-58b he was about to execute upon the antediluvians, but they took no heed and therefore sudden destruction came upon them and they perished from off the face of the earth. Of Noah it is said, 'And he called his name Noah (rest, comfort) saying, this same shall comfort us concerning our work and the toil of our hands, because of the ground which the Lord had cursed' (Gen. v., 29). How was it that his father could give utterance to these words? The explanation is that when the ground had been cursed, Adam said to the Holy One: Ruler and Lord of the universe, how long shall the earth remain cursed?' Said the Holy One: 'Until one be born like unto thyself bearing the sign of the covenant.' In hope and expectation mankind lived on till the birth of Noah, in the anticipation of benefits and blessing they would enjoy during his lifetime. Before the appearance of this patriarch, they were unversed in the science of agriculture and the use of the plough and harrow. Everything was done by hand labor. When Noah attained to manhood, he invented implements for tilling the ground and making it fertile; and so, in the words of Lamech, his father, he became a comforter, a helper unto men, in his work and the toil of their hands, whereby the curse was taken from off the ground, for as at first when sown it brought forth thistle, now it produced corn in abundance, therefore he became known as and called the husbandman."Gen 9:20

Said Rabbi Jehuda: "He was called thus for the same reason that the husband of Naomi was called Elimelech (Ruth i., 3). Of Noah it is written also that he was zaddich, just, because by the sacrifices offered up by him, he freed the earth from its curse, concerning which we read that 'the Lord smelled a sweet

p. 247

savour' (Gen. viii., 21); or in other words, was pleased with them and said, 'I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake.' Such are the reasons why Noah was so called.

Continuing his remarks, Rabbi Jehuda said: "It is written, 'Come and see the works of the Lord who doeth wonders on the58b earth." (Is. xl., 8.) The words see (hazon) here has the same signification as in the words, 'The Lord has revealed unto me, hazouth qashah, a remarkable prophecy or vision' (Is. xxi., 2), from which we learn this fact, that prophecy is revelation from the Holy One on high to mankind, and also that the word shamuth is usually translated, wonders or marvelous things such as desolation, and yet here it should be read shemoth (names), teaching us that it is God who inspires the naming of everyone's name that corresponds to and is expressive of his or her life and character. Another interpretation is that the word shamoth in the above verse from the Psalms, signifies really 'destructions' for if the world has been created by the divine attribute termed Jehovah it would have been indestructible, but as it is, the work of Alhim (justice) is liable to dissolution and abolishment. It is written, 'Come and see the works of Alhim, that are subject to destructions (shamoth) on the earth.'"Ps. 46:9

Said Rabbi Hiya: "I cannot agree to this interpretation, seeing that Jehovah and Alhim are alike sacred and names of the Divine Being, and therefore I think in common with several students that shemoth signifies holy names, as by the combination of the divine names, marvellous and wondrous things are done on earth."

Said Rabbi Isaac: "These different interpretations with that of Rabbi Jehuda are all excellent, for if the world was created by the name of 'rakhma,' that is by Jehovah, it is indestructible, if by severity or Alhim, then is everything in it liable to perish; if there were no punishment for evil and wrongdoing, the world and society could not continue to exist. At his birth Noah was named by a term expressive of solace, or comfort, with the idea that he was to be a source of help and consolation to his progenitors and descendants, to the world above and the world below, to this world and the world to come. This was not however the case with respect to his relations with the Divine Being, for on reversing the letters of his name, Noah became Khen, meaning grace, and so it is written, 'But Noah found grace in the sight of the Lord.' (Gen. VI. 8.) The name of Judah's eldest son Er, when reversed becomes Ra (evil) and is an anagram

p. 248

expressive of his natural character, therefore scripture describes58b-59a him as 'wicked before the Lord.'Gen. 38:7 When Noah came into the world and grew up to manhood, beholding the perverse lives of men sinning against the holy One, he retreated from amongst them and devoted himself to the worship of his Lord, and thus escaped from the general pollution. If it be asked what was the subject of his studies whilst in retreat? It was the Book of Adam that had been handed down till at last it came into the possession of Henoch; and from it Noah learned how essential and necessary it was to offer sacrifices unto his Lord. From this book he also learned that the world had been created by Hochma, (the sephiroth wisdom) and that it was owing to sacrifices it still existed; for without them or were they not made, neither angels above nor man below would be able to exist.

Next: Chapter XLI.