What is the lesson of the Great Flood? We read this week that the world became so corrupt and evil that the only way forward was to start over. G-d sent the flood because “the earth had corrupted itself before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence.” [6:11]
Why was this necessary? Certainly G-d could have orchestrated history in such a way that this was never necessary, that the descendents of Adam would be as righteous as the descendents of Noach, such that, for all the evil in the world, that level of destruction would never have been required. Since no one before Noach and his children remains in the world today, why was this necessary? And why did we need to know about it?
I think when we reflect upon this, one of the more obvious lessons to be derived is simply that evil does exist. The Torah is opposing moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute Good or absolute Evil, just differing “truths” for each person. Of course, there is something inherently contradictory in postulating that the supreme truth is that there is no absolute truth, but such are the conundrums of theoretical philosophy. I say theoretical, because once we interact with the real world, even moral relativists believe that certain things are “absolutely” wrong and must be treated as such. But nonetheless, despite the lack of logic in the theory or its application, moral relativism, or at least the idea that we can set our own values, has had traction throughout history and especially in recent centuries.
The Torah tells us that there is indeed such a thing as an absolute evil, and requires us to oppose it. But even in the opposition, we must follow the good. The ends do not justify the means. The idea of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is not an amorphous concept of making the world better simply in our own view, but unifying the world as a place where Good is paramount.
Your article touches on one if the most perplexing questions we have… If Hashem is all loving and all powerful, why does there have to be SO MUCH suffering in the world?
The atheist, of course, would solve the problem by simply stating there is no deity. For those of us who are religious, the question, I believe, is not so easily answered.
Living with – even embracing – life’s mysteries and ambiguities is a very difficult thing to do. As Jews, we should somehow be more used to asking interesting questions, than actually getting answers always, but it seems many of us are not satisfied unless we get a quick answer to deep problems.
One thing I am always reminded of when studying Torah is that it is actually OK not to have answers to everything, and in some ways it’s very healthy to meditate on ambiguity and seeming contradictions without needing to understand things completely (or even half-understand).
In other words, it is sometimes best just to say, ‘well, it could be this or could be that explanation, but in the end… I DON’T KNOW.’
Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all and just be in awe.
when does one realize “the truth is going wrong”? Or the nature by which “The Laws” are understood in a more profound manner?
‘The ends do not justify the means’, the question is:
What if the allies hadn’t used ‘armies might’ – G-d forbid -, against the Nazis & Facists, to defeat the absolute evilness deed ever, ‘the Shoa’?
I am sure you have heard this before but the idea that all things are gifts from God is an answer that suffices. In most things that we encounter nothing is all good and nothing is all bad.. Relying on anything being all good or all bad is beneficial under some circumstances. Unfortunately relying on anything being all good or all bad becomes disquieting when challenged. Awe is appropriate.
The Torah is opposing moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute Good or absolute Evil, just differing “truths” for each person. Of course, there is something inherently contradictory in postulating that the supreme truth is that there is no absolute truth, but such are the conundrums of theoretical philosophy.
Good vs Evil. At first glance they appear to oppose each other as adversaries. If we recognize the laws of physics: that all things tend toward equilibrium. Good and Evil seem to balance out but in fact it is the evil that is the imbalance. If we define evil as a destructive force then evil is the tendency toward nonexistence or the void; thus pure evil does not exist and gives even the most wretched creatures the possibility of hope they will turn back to the heavenly father instead of wander after their own lusts. Truth is absolute within itself. If something is not true it is a lie and cannot be the truth. Truth is truth. Even a little variation makes something untrue. An honest person who speaks from the heart is a truthful and righteous person. That person does not live in falseness and is a child of the heavenly father. The path the child walks is the path provided by the heavenly father. That path is destiny and it is who we are. We find ourselves though honesty and allowing the Holy Spirit to guide us. It is said that all the answers lie within and thus dwells the human spirit as well as the Holy Spirit.
I read that the flood occurred to destroy the giants and that one of them survived by clinging on to the bottom of the ark. They were in the earth in those days and after. They exist today?
Re the flood – It may be that another lesson, and one of the first of necessity to be learned by mankind, is that evil or “wrong doing” cannot and will not escape punishment. Given a just God, can we conclude that all mankind at the time of the flood, with the exception of Noah (a righteous man) and his family, had been overcome by forces of evil? Once having given this lesson to all ensuing mankind (and marked in remembrance by a bow in the sky), it would never be necessary to make this point again, at least in such an all encompassing manner as in the flood.
Re evil in the world – if the scripture is true that “time and chance happens to all men” and that mankind has the ability of choice (“behold this day I set before you life and death, therefore choose life”) any/all men will have the opportunity to encounter and suffer evil during his lifetime, whether it be by the uninvited ravages of nature or by action of the man who “chooses death”, e.g., chooses to be an agent of evil.
God being allKnowing and Seeing, understands we are little children struggling to find our way. Just as we parents realize our little ones are learning, S/He knows we must take chances to perfect life on this wondrous Garden of God.
Thank you for all your mentoring.