Parshat Noach 5772: “Chamas” and Compromised Principles, Perceived “Larger Cheshbonot”

by Moshe Burt

There is a Midrash Says at the end of Parsha Breish’t (pages 78-80) which is prelude to No’ach and the Mabul. It speaks about Hashem, as it were, Bemoaning His Making of man. The Melachim say to Hashem that they would do far better than man and would sanctify Hashem’s Name. So they came down and were more evil than man.

The Midrash Says notes that these Melachim were referred to in Torah as “the sons of judges”, “the lofty ones” for “they took for themselves wives from whomever they chose.” And so Gilui Aroyot (coveting illicit intimacies) became the “right of passage” expected by the “lofty ones” — the powers to be of the era such that this evil became institutionalized,what they wanted expecting and institutionalizing this usurpation. Therefore, common man, ever more victimized, sunk further and further into evil.

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in Torah Tapestries on Parsha No’ach (pages 11-13) notes 2 meanings of the word “chamas”: corruption and robbery while discussing an opening posuk of our Parsha (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 6, posuk 13) to explain how man can slide further and further into evil:

“Hashem said to No’ach, The end of all flesh is coming before Me, because the earth has become filled with corruption from before them, and behold I am destroying them with the earth.”

Hashem tells No’ach that because the world is filled with chamas (corruption), a flood will come to wipe out mankind. It is hard to fathom how an entire generation could have lived in Hashem’s pristine world and defiled it with such abandon.

Rebbetzin Smiles goes on to render Rashi’s understanding of “chamas”:

Gezel: robbery.

Robbery is an anti-social and dishonest act. No one can live for long in a society where one’s belongings are not safe, knowing that they can vanish if one turns his back. But does the sin of robbery warrant such a severe punishment…. the destruction of the world?

Rebbetzin Smiles also cites the Slonimer Rebbe who explains:

No’ach’s generation embraced corruption. Corrupt behavior cannot be contained or limited; it always spreads. The act of stealing personal property was only the beginning of the downfall for the people of No’ach’s time. Normally, stealing is accepted as a wrongful act. However, the more they stole, the more it became accepted. Eventually stealing became the norm and the intrinsic concepts of right and wrong were overturned. When civilization flirts with immorality, intolerable behavior is suddenly tolerated.

So it was in the time of No’ach. When stealing became acceptable, Hashem knew that the seams of the world were on their way to coming apart. He therefore had to destroy the world and start again.

So it seems to this author that Rebbeitzin Smiles’ rendering of “chamas” applies as well when man begins compromising his principles, even when having in mind a greater and more lofty cheshbon of self-perceived Kiddush Shem Shemayim, he proceeds down a sliding road of compromised principles in conforming to immoral societal “authority rules and requirements.” When he bows to peer group pressures so as to perceive one’s self as being highly regarded by others, he is inevitably dragged further and further down the road of compromised principles and morality — each time with the compromise becoming greater and the impact on his society becoming ever more crucial.

Each time, however lofty and L’Shem Shemayim the self-perceived larger cheshbon seems, at some point down that road of compromised principles, the reality evolves that the entirety of these compromises has NOT been and is NOT Al Kiddush Shem Shemayim despite one’s own perception of a larger cheshbon of acting L’Shem Shemayim. This is as true, countless times over, regarding national leadership groups purporting “connection” with Gedolim or with groups projecting that they hold of the highest purposes, as well as for local communal leaderships and for individuals within the Kehal. Leadership entities cannot continue to campaign to the people wearing one set of stripes and then change stripes once they attain governance.

And, having in mind Hashem’s dismay and great disappointment with the state of man in No’ach’s generation, what must He think regarding the state of our darachim in our generations?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, and the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos! Chodesh Tov!

Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.