Something went terribly wrong.

The beautiful, pristine world we read about in the beginning of Genesis had turned corrupt. G‑d decided to hit reset and begin anew. In the second portion of the Torah, the portion of Noah, we read about the Great Flood and about how G‑d falls in love with the earth once more and makes a covenant to never destroy it again.

Why? WhatWhat changed? changed? What caused G‑d to decide to never again destroy the earth?

As Noah and his children stepped out of the ark, they experienced what Adam and Eve experienced when they first opened their eyes: a new world. There is a striking parallel between Adam and Eve, and Noah and his wife: as Noah emerged from the ark, G‑d said to him, “Be fruitful and multiply,” just as he said those very same words to Adam and Eve as soon as they were created.

Why was the commandment to Adam and Eve not sufficient? Why did it have to be reiterated to Noah?

A careful comparison of the verses will reveal the mystery of the difference in the nature of the earth brought about by the flood.

When G‑d created Adam and Eve, the verse tells us: “And G‑d blessed them, and G‑d said to them, ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it . . .’”1

After the flood, we read: “And G‑d blessed Noah and his sons, and He said to them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.’”2

The crucial difference between the words G‑d spoke to Adam and Eve and the words he spoke to Noah is that while both Adam and Noah were told to “be fruitful and multiply” and “fill the earth,” Adam alone was told to “conquer” the earth.

“Filling the earth” means more than merely increasing and spreading the human population. To “fill the earth” means to imbue the earth with holiness and spirituality, to direct all its resources and creatures toward a divine purpose, to infuse all corners of the earth with goodness and kindness, with G‑dliness and meaning. Filling the earth with a spiritual energy is something only humanity can achieve.

At the beginningCreation turned corrupt of creation, man was commanded to “conquer the earth.” Conquest implies that the earth itself, the materialistic perspective, resisted the holy and the spiritual. Man was called upon to superimpose his appreciation of the Divine upon the creation and to force it to live in harmony with its Creator. Ultimately, however, man was unsuccessful. Creation turned corrupt and G‑d brought the mighty waters of the flood upon the earth.

Yet the waters of the flood also possessed a purifying property. When the water receded and Noah emerged from the ark, he stepped into a purified world. This time, G‑d commanded humanity to "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.” This time there was no mention of conquest. Because, after the flood, the earth needed not to be forced but rather to be educated, not to be broken but rather redirected. After the flood waters covered the earth, the earth was no longer an enemy that, in extreme circumstances, needed to be destroyed. Now, post flood, the earth itself intuitively yearns for meaning. The earth itself longs to reunite with its Creator.

Our task is to reveal the innate goodness within the world.3