Parshat Noach 5775: “Chamas” and How Man’s Principles can be Compromised to the Point of Non-Existence

Shalom Friends;

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Noach 5775: “Chamas” and How Man’s Principles can be Compromised to the Point of Non-Existence

by Moshe Burt

Rabbi Mordechai Katz, in his sefer “L’ilmod U’Lamed” (page 19) outlines man’s generational evolution of moral decline:

There was a span of ten generations between the life of Adam and that of No’ach. Unfortunately, each new generation ‘s acts represented a moral decline from those of the previous one. Mankind seemed to become morally worse and worse. Yet, Hashem refrained from punishing them. He waited, hoping that man would use their Free Will to repent from their wicked ways. Hashem hoped that they would possibly follow the example of the few righteous men and change their ways. However, these few righteous men alone proved unable to stem the tide, and the populace remained cruel and sinful. …One such Tzadik (righteous person) [was] named Chanoch about whom Torah records “And Chanoch walked in the ways of Hashem.” Yet, … a little further in the Chumash, we find that Hashem found it necessary to end Chanoch’s life before his time. Hashem was afraid that Chanoch might somehow find himself falling under the negative influence of his wicked generation. In this way, Chanoch was able to die as an unblemished Tzaddik and would receive his reward in the World to Come.

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles, in Torah Tapestries on Parsha No’ach (pages 11-13) relates this moral decline through the loshen “chamas” and notes the two 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 Rebbetzin Smiles’ rendering of “chamas” applies as well when man begins compromising his principles, even when either having, or claiming to have in mind a greater and more lofty cheshbon of self-perceived Kiddush Shem Shemayim by his compromise. But, in actuality, he proceeds down a sliding road of compromised principles by conforming to immoral societal “authority rules and requirements.” When one 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 (in the name of Heaven) 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 having a larger cheshbon, i.e. perceiving one’s self as “protecting the populace integrity of Israel as a Jewish state,” or as acting L’Shem Shemayim. This seems true of compromised principles, countless times over, regarding national leadership groups purporting “connection” with Gedolim, or with groups projecting that they hold of the highest purposes, i.e. Jewish dominion and sovereignty over All of Eretz Yisrael, as well as for local communal leaderships and for individuals within the Kehal. National leadership entities cannot continue to campaign to the people wearing one set of stripes and then change stripes, i.e. “vote right and get left,” expulsions of Jews from Jewish Land, “land-swaps“, or “two-state solutions “, etc. once they attain governance.

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 brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other 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, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!
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.