The Flood

6:9 The following are the descendants of Noah. Inasmuch as Noah alone was destined to perpetuate the lineage of the human race that began with Adam, the Torah begins a new history of humanity from him.1 But before enumerating his offspring, the Torah first describes his righteousness, in order to explain why God singled him out to be spared from the impending flood and to demonstrate that our true "offspring" are our good deeds:

Even though his life spanned many corrupt generations,2 Noah was a righteous man; he remained faultless despite the corruptive influence of his generations. Nonetheless, he did not possess sufficient moral fortitude to remain righteous on his own. Rather, in order to remain righteous, Noah walked with God, that is, he had to keep his mind constantly focused on Him. Thus, on an absolute scale, he would not have been considered exceptionally righteous; he was faultless only relative to the corruption of his generations.

10 Noah was the father of three sons: Shem, who would play the most pivotal role in the ensuing history of humanity; Ham, the youngest; and Japheth, the oldest.3

11 As recounted above, by the year 1536, the world had become corrupt before God, with idolatry and licentiousness rampant,4 and in addition, the land was filled with robbery.

12 God saw the world, and it was corrupt, for all flesh—even the animals—had perverted its way on the earth by engaging in cross-species relations.

13 In that year, God said to Noah, "I have decided to put an end to all flesh, for several reasons: Firstly, many of them are guilty of idolatry and licentiousness, and this type of indiscriminate behavior incurs the corrective response of indiscriminate destruction. Nonetheless, these two transgressions by themselves would not be enough to seal their fate; it is because the world is filled with robbery due to them that I shall obliterate them from the earth. True, many of them are below the age of 100 and thus cannot be held legally culpable,5 but society has degenerated to the point where there is no longer any hope that they will turn out righteous at a later stage.6 Even though I am not going to destroy the world in its entirety, I will wipe out the top layer of earth—as deep as can be reached by a plow—to express how their malevolent behavior almost made Me regret having created the world in the first place.7

14 Of all the ways at My disposal to spare you from this destruction, I want you to make yourself an enormous ark. Perhaps when everyone sees what you are doing and asks you about it, the news of the impending flood will inspire them to repent. You are to build it out in the open, and I want you to build it yourself, without any help from your sons or anyone else; this way it will take you a long time to build, giving your contemporaries ample time to consider repenting.8 Make the ark out of cypress wood, for the word for 'cypress' (gofer) is related to the word for 'sulphur' (gofrit), and the floodwater will be sulfurous,9 a fact that might further encourage the people to repent. You shall make the ark with compartments for each type10 of animal, and you shall caulk it inside and outside with pitch. It will be necessary to caulk it both inside and out because the floodwater will hit it forcefully.

15 This is how you shall make it: The length of the ark shall be 300 cubits (144 meters, or 471 feet), its width 50 cubits (24 meters, or 77 feet), and its height 30 cubits (14.4 meters, or 47 feet).

16 Even though you will naturally build the ark with numerous windows and stock it with enough lamps to provide light, I want it to be especially well-lit.11 You shall therefore make an additional skylight and use a luminous stone for additional light in the ark. Taper the roof so that its tip is one cubit wide, so the water will run off it. Place the entrance to the ark in its side, so the water won't seep in from above. You shall make it with a lower deck for garbage, a second deck for the animals, and a third deck for the people.

Figure 6: The Ark

17 And as for Me, I am ready to agree with those angels who opposed the creation of humanity.12 I am about to bring the Flood of water upon the earth, to destroy from under the heavens all flesh that has in it a breath of life. The water will cause total disorder and disarray, and everything will rot. The surface of the earth will remain submerged underwater for one full year.13 Everything on earth shall perish.

18 But I shall establish My covenant with you: I promise you that the food that you bring with you into the ark will not rot during the entire time that you are in it, and that the people will not kill you when they find out what you are doing. You and your family shall enter the ark, but men and women are to live in separate quarters: you will be together with your sons, and your wife will be with your sons' wives. It is not appropriate to engage in marital relations while the earth is being destroyed. The animals will likewise not be allowed to mate in the ark.14

19 Of all incorporeal living beings—the demons, 15 and of all flesh, you shall bring a minimum 16 of two of each species into the ark to keep alive with you; they shall be male and female.

20 From each species of bird, from each species of livestock, and from each species of creature that crawls on the ground, two of each kind will come to you on their own to be kept alive; you will not have to trap or gather them. Nonetheless, the ark will allow only the animals that did not crossbreed to enter; you are to escort these animals to their designated compartments.

21 And as for you, take for yourself some of every kind of edible food and gather it in for yourself, so that it shall be for you and for them to eat."

22 Noah did everything that God commanded him to do regarding the construction of the ark exactly. Even though he built it alone, he managed, remarkably, to finish it within the allotted 120 years. 17 The people, however, did not repent when they found out why Noah was building the ark. Instead, they vowed that if he would try to enter it once it was finished, they would destroy the ark and kill him.18 In part, this was due to the fact that the spiritual makeup of the antediluvian world was not very conducive to self-refinement and repentance.19

Second Reading 7:1 So, on the 10th of Marcheshvan 1656, God said to Noah, "Come into the ark, you and your entire household, for it is you that I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation." Although the Torah records earlier20 that Noah was both righteous and faultless, God only praises Noah for his righteousness, for it is not appropriate to enumerate all a person's merits when addressing him directly.

2 God continued, "Since you are acquainted with the teachings of the Torah, you know precisely which animals are ritually pure—i.e., those which will eventually be permissible to the Jewish people as food—and those which are not. You shall take for yourself seven pairs of every kind of ritually pure animal, each pair consisting of a male and its mate, but take only two of the animals that are not ritually pure, a male and its mate. You are to take an additional number of ritually pure animals because only these are to be permitted to be offered as sacrifices.21

3 You shall also take seven pairs of the ritually pure birds of the heavens, each pair consisting of a male and its mate, in order to keep its seed alive over the entire face of the earth.

4 For today, your only surviving ancestor, Methuselah, died. In another seven days, after the customary seven-day period of mourning for him is over, I will bring rain on the earth. The rain will last for forty days and forty nights, corresponding to the forty days it takes for an embryo to be considered a human being, because the wicked people of the earth caused Me to fashion their illegitimate offspring. With this flood, I will obliterate every being that I have made from the face of the earth."

5 Noah did all that God had commanded him regarding settling the animals in the ark and stocking it with provisions, but he himself tarried at the entrance, because he didn't fully believe that God would actually go ahead and implement His plan.22

6 Noah was in his six hundredth year when the Flood occurred and water covered the earth.

7 When it started to rain, Noah, together with his sons, his wife, and his sons' wives, came into the ark, fleeing from the waters of the Flood.

8 In contrast, all the animals had already entered the ark before it began to rain: Of the ritually pure animals, and of the animals that are not ritually pure, of the birds, and of all the creatures that crawl on the ground,

9 one pair of the ritually impure and seven pairs of the ritually pure, male and female, they had come on their own to Noah into the ark, as God had said when He commanded Noah to enter the ark.

10 After the seven days of mourning for Methuselah passed, the waters of the Flood came upon on the earth. During the ensuing forty days, the sun, the moon, the planets, and the stars did not shine, and it was therefore completely dark.23

11 The flood began in the six hundredth year of Noah's life—1656—in the second month, Marcheshvan, on the seventeenth of the month. Because of the gravity of the people's misdeeds, ordinary rain did not suffice to cleanse the earth. Rather, on that day, all the wellsprings of the great abyss burst open and the floodgates of the heavens were opened.

12 Nonetheless, initially, ordinary rain fell upon the earth, to give the people a final chance to repent. Had they repented, the rain would have continued to fall in a normal, beneficial fashion. However, when they failed to take advantage of this opportunity to repent, it became a deluge. Although God released the entire amount of water that would descend during this flood from the heavenly storehouses of water all at once, He made it fall evenly over a period of forty days and forty nights.24

13 Because of the people's threats,25 God protected Noah by summoning lions and bears that prevented the people from harming him or damaging the ark.26 Thus Noah entered the ark in the very midst of that day, the 17th of Marcheshvan, with Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, and Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them. Noah took some vine branches and fig-tree shoots along with him.27

14 And with them, every kind of beast, every kind of livestock, every kind of creature that crawls on the ground, and every kind of flying creature—every bird and every winged creature, even locusts.

15 Of all flesh that had in it a breath of life, they came to Noah into the ark, in pairs.

16 Those who came were male and female; of all flesh they came, as God had commanded him, and God sealed the entrance behind him.

The animals that came to the ark behaved peacefully, even on their way to the ark. Even the wild beasts harmed neither the other animals nor Noah during their stay in the ark.28

Third Reading 17 The Flood was upon the earth for forty full days, until the night of the 28th of Kislev. The waters increased and lifted the ark, and it rose above the ground.

18 The waters surged and increased greatly over the earth, and the ark drifted on the surface of the water, eleven cubits of its height remaining submerged under the surface of the water.

Figure 7: The Ark in the Water

19 The waters surged exceedingly high over the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered.

20 The mountains were covered, and the waters surged fifteen cubits above Mount Ararat, the highest of them in the region.

21 All flesh that moved upon the earth perished: including the birds, the livestock, the beasts, and every crawling creature that swarmed on the earth, as well as all humanity.

22 Every being that had the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils, every being that was on dry land, died. The fish, however, remained alive.

23 God obliterated every being that had been on the face of the earth—from man, to livestock, to reptiles, to the birds of the heavens. They were obliterated from the earth; Noah and those who were with him in the ark survived and were greatly pained by their isolation. The descendants of the giants Shamchazai and Azael,29 however, survived the floodwaters,30 and eventually settled around Hebron.31

The floodwaters swept all the corpses of those who perished to the lowlands of Babylonia.32

24 The waters surged over the earth for an additional 150 days after the rainfall stopped, and did not subside throughout this entire period—from the 28th of Kislev until the 29th of Iyar.

The task of caring for the animals was extremely strenuous, and Noah often groaned or even spit blood from sheer exhaustion. Once, he was late in delivering the lions' meal, and one of them struck him. (This incident was the only exception to the animals' otherwise peaceful behavior in the ark. God made this happen once in order to show Noah that He holds righteous people such as Noah to a very high standard of behavior and that He punishes their slightest misdeeds in this world in order for them to have a clean slate in the afterlife.33) Noah and his family therefore prayed to God to relieve their suffering in the ark.

8:1 On account of Noah's prayers, God ceased treating the world, as He had done until then, with His attribute of strict justice, and instead began allowing His attribute of mercy to dominate. He thus remembered Noah. He also remembered that all the beasts and livestock with him in the ark had not engaged in crossbreeding, neither before entering the ark nor during their stay within it. God caused His spirit of consolation and rest to apply to what was happening on earth, and the waters began to subside.

2 When it stopped raining on the 28th of Kislev, most of the wellsprings of the abyss were sealed, but some of them were left open to serve as hot springs. In contrast, all the floodgates of heaven were sealed. Thus the rain from the heavens was held back.

3 At the end of 150 days from the 28th of Kislev, i.e., beginning on the 1st of Sivan, the waters slowly but steadily receded from upon the earth and the waters diminished. The water level dropped one-fourth of a cubit per day, so that

4 after sixteen days, that is, on the seventeenth day of the month of Sivan, which was the seventh month counting from when the rain stopped falling, in Kislev, the ark came to rest on the Mountains of Ararat (see Figure 8). Since the water reached to a height of fifteen cubits above the mountaintop34 and the bottom of the ark was submerged eleven cubits below water level,35 the water level only had to drop four cubits to allow the ark to rest on the peak of Mount Ararat.

5 The waters continued to diminish at this rate for another forty-four days, i.e., until the first day of Menachem Av, the tenth month counting from when the rain stopped falling, in Kislev. In the course of these forty-four days, the water level dropped an additional eleven cubits. Thus, in the tenth month, on the first of the month, the height of the water had receded a total of fifteen cubits, and the highest mountain peaks became visible.

6 Once the ark firmly settled on the mountaintop, the water began to recede much faster. Forty days after the highest mountaintops became visible, i.e., on the 10th of Elul, Noah opened the window he had made in the ark.

7 On the next day, the 11th of Elul, he sent out the raven to see if the water had receded completely. He assumed that the raven would not return if it would find a place to rest. But because the raven was afraid that Noah would harm its mate, when it went out, it circled to and fro around the ark until the water dried up from the surface of the earth. (Because the raven did not fulfill its mission, God miraculously prolonged its life and sent it to fulfill a similar mission during the lifetime of the prophet Elijah.36)

8 Seven days later, on the 18th of Elul, Noah sent out the dove to see if the water had subsided from the surface of the earth. Here again, he knew that the dove, like the raven before it, would not return if it would find a place to land.

9 But the dove could not find any place to rest its feet, and it returned to him, to the ark, for there was still water over the entire surface of the earth. He stretched out his hand and took it, and brought it to himself into the ark.

10 He waited another seven days, until the 25th of Elul, and once again sent the dove out from the ark.

11 The dove came back to him toward evening, and behold, it had plucked an olive leaf with its beak. Olive trees are particularly hardy, so it makes sense that some had survived the flood. On the other hand, the flood had surely destroyed any foliage that might have been on these trees. The leaf that the dove had brought back looked fresh (and not like an old leaf that had been floating on the water for a year), and the appearance of the stem showed clearly that the dove had plucked it off the tree. These clues indicated that the water had subsided long enough ago to allow sufficient time for such a leaf to grow. Thus, even if the dove had plucked the leaf off a tree on a mountaintop, it would still mean that enough time had elapsed for the rest of the earth to dry up considerably.37 Noah then knew that the water had subsided from the earth and it was time to prepare to disembark. By choosing to pluck an olive leaf, the dove intimated that it would rather receive food as bitter as olives directly from God than more palatable food from the hand of a human.

12 He waited yet another seven days, until the 2nd of Tishrei, and sent out the dove, and this time it never again returned to him.

13 In the year 1657, which was the six-hundred-and-first year of Noah's life, on the first day of Tishrei, the first month, the waters had drained off the earth. Noah removed the covering of the ark and looked, and saw that the earth's surface was drying, although it was still too damp to live on.

14 By the twenty-seventh day of Marcheshvan, the second month, the earth was completely dry. This was exactly one solar year (365 days) since the rain had first begun to fall, on the 17th of Marcheshvan. The Flood purified the world of its spiritual defilement and coarseness. For the first time,38 the world became receptive to the process of self-initiated refinement. From this point on, it would be relatively easy to ascend the ladder of spiritual self-refinement and repent for misdeeds.39

Leaving the Ark

Fourth Reading 15 Neither Noah nor the animals wanted to leave the ark, for they knew that once they did, the animals would revert to their naturally aggressive behavior. Their peaceful coexistence was a taste of the heightened spiritual state of the messianic future.40 Therefore,41 God spoke to Noah, saying,

16 "Leave the ark, despite the spiritual descent you will undergo by doing so. Furthermore, you may now resume marital relations: you may live together with your wife, and your sons may live together with your son's wives.

17 All living creatures from all flesh—birds, livestock, and all the reptiles that crawl upon the ground—tell them to leave with you, and if they prefer to stay in the ark, take them out forcibly. Outside the ark, they will be allowed42 to teem on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth."

18 Noah went out, but he did not resume marital relations. He continued to live together with his sons, and his wife continued to live with his sons' wives. Noah was reluctant to have more children, for he was afraid that history might repeat itself: humanity might again sin and bring upon itself another flood. What was the purpose of repopulating the world if it might ultimately be destroyed?43

19 All the beasts, all the reptiles, all the birds, all the creatures that crawl upon the ground came out of the ark by families. They reaffirmed their commitment44 not to engage in crossbreeding.

20 Noah correctly intuited that God had commanded him to take an additional number of ritually pure animals to offer them as sacrifices when he left the ark. So he built an altar to God. He took some of every species of ritually pure livestock and of every kind of ritually pure bird, and he offered them up as ascent-offerings on the altar. An ascent-offering is one in which the meat of the animal is entirely consumed by fire on an altar.45

21 God figuratively smelled the appeasing fragrance, and God said to Himself, "I hereby swear that I will never again curse the soil because of humanity, for the inclination of a person's heart is challenged by his evil inclination from his earliest youth, i.e., from birth. Never again will I strike down all life as I have done.

22 As long as the earth lasts, none of the seasons—seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winternor day and night, will ever cease."46

Figure 9: The Seasons

9:1 God blessed Noah and his sons and said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth. I promise you that you will be fertile.47 As for your fear about having more children, I tell you now that I have promised not to destroy the world again.

2 Furthermore, neither do you need to be concerned that your offspring's lives will be endangered. As it was before the degeneration of humanity prior to the flood, 48 there shall be a fear and dread of you upon all the beasts of the earth and upon all the birds of the sky, in all that will crawl on the land and in all the fish of the sea. They will no longer try to devour you when you are alive. Rather, they have been placed in your hand:

3 Every moving creature that lives shall be yours to eat; like plant vegetation, I have now given you everything. Until now, I forbade humanity from killing animals for food, because I was afraid that, given this power over life and death, people would delude themselves into thinking that they had godlike dominion over the world.49 But because humanity has become weaker and needs to eat meat to subsist, I am allowing these health considerations to override this former prohibition.50 Also, because the spiritual makeup of the world is now more conducive to self-refinement, there is less danger of you becoming coarsened by eating meat.51

4 But nevertheless, you may not eat the flesh of a still-living creature, nor its blood.

5 Although I have allowed you to kill animals, nevertheless, do not think that I have given you absolute power over life and death, not even your own. In fact, you may not even cause yourselves to bleed unnecessarily;52 if you do, I will settle the account of the blood you shed by punishing you. If you take your own lives by committing suicide—even without shedding blood, as, for example, by strangulation—I will punish you in the afterlife.

Human life is so precious that, now that I have again forbidden the animals to kill you, I will settle the account from the hand of every wild beast that kills one of you, by killing it in turn.53

Neither may you kill other people. I will empower the courts to punish anyone who commits a witnessed act of murder: intentional murder is to be punishable by death and unintentional manslaughter is to be punishable by exile. I will settle the account for human life Myself whenever the courts cannot, both from someone who commits an intentional but unwitnessed murder and from someone who commits unintentional manslaughter—i.e., who is on as good terms with his victim as he is with his own brother but kills him accidentally. I will arrange for the accidental manslayer to accidentally kill the murderer in the presence of witnesses; thus the murderer will receive his death penalty and the court will sentence the manslayer to exile to atone for his carelessness. If, however, the unwitnessed manslayer goes into exile voluntarily, I will arrange for the murderer to be killed in another fashion.

6 In contrast, whoever intentionally sheds human blood, was warned not to do so, and was witnessed doing so, his blood shall be shed by the human court, for God made man in the image of God. The murderer is guilty of diminishing the image of God on earth and has thus forfeited his right to live.

7 And as for you, I now command you: be fruitful and multiply, proliferate upon the earth, and make it populous. If you or your descendants refrain from procreating, I will consider it tantamount to committing murder."

In addition to what God explicitly commanded them, Noah's children undertook to show honor to their parents and forswore licentiousness, understanding that these principles are the foundation of the just society that had been undermined by the generations preceding the Flood.54

Fifth Reading 8 Nonetheless, Noah was still hesitant to procreate, so God spoke to Noah and to his sons with him again, saying,

9 "I hereby fortify My promise. I am establishing My covenant to seal My promise with you and with your offspring after you,

10 with every living creature that is with you—the birds, the livestock, and all the harmless beasts of the earth who live with you—with all crawling creatures who left the ark, and with every living being on earth that is harmful to human beings.

11 Furthermore, I will confirm My covenant with you by giving you a sign that I am bound by it, and thus you can rest assured that never again will any flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood. Never again will there be a flood that will destroy the earth or any part of it."

12 God said, "This is the sign that I am providing for the covenant between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all generations that require it (i.e., the sign, in case they themselves not be sufficiently righteous):

13 I have placed My rainbow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the world. As part of the overall refinement of reality effected by the Flood, the atmosphere will now be sufficiently purified to refract and reflect sunlight and thereby produce rainbows. The rainbow therefore testifies to the fact that the world is now sufficiently refined to afford the possibility of repentance. Since it is always possible for humanity to repent, it will never again be necessary to wipe out the world.55

14 Thus, when the behavior of any society in any locale degenerates to the point that I regret having created its inhabitants, and I bring clouds over the earth to indicate that they deserve that I bring a flood upon them, just as I did with your generation, the rainbow will appear among the clouds,

15 and I will recall My covenant that exists between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that never again shall the waters become a flood to destroy any flesh. However, when no part of society is behaving that immorally, it will not be necessary for me to cause a rainbow to appear.56

16 In accordance with the transformation of My attribute of judgment into My attribute of mercy that began when you prayed to Me in the ark,57 I will now extend the covenant I just established between us and apply it to My attribute of judgment, as well: Even when your conduct is wanting, and logically My attribute of judgment should raise an accusation against you, the rainbow will be in the clouds, and I will see it to recall the eternal covenant I am now making between God's attribute of judgment and every living creature among all flesh that is upon the earth, and I will not even allow My attribute of judgment to prosecute you."58

17 God said to Noah, showing him a rainbow, "Behold the sign of the covenant that I have established between Me and all flesh that is upon the earth."

Noah's Prophecy

Sixth Reading 18 Having been promised by God that his progeny would not be wiped out, Noah resumed marital relations with his wife, as did his sons with their wives. The sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth; they each had a number of children. Ham was the father of four sons, the youngest of which was Canaan. Ham was incensed that his father, Noah, was trying to have more children. He assumed that Cain had killed his brother, Abel, because he wanted the whole world for himself. Since Noah was the new beginning of the human race, Ham considered himself already deprived enough by having to share the world with two other brothers, and should not be required to share it with any additional brothers.59

19 These three were the sons of Noah, and from them the whole world branched out.

20 Noah was the master of the soil,60 and understood the importance of grain as the mainstay of civilized life. Nonetheless, when he came out of the ark, instead of first planting a grain crop, he degraded himself by planting a vineyard, to produce wine for purposes of enjoyment. He had brought vine branches along with him into the ark.61

21 He drank some of the wine and became drunk, and uncovered himself inside his tent.

22 Ham's youngest son, Canaan, saw his grandfather exposed. He ran to tell his father. Ham, the father of Canaan, came and entered Noah's tent and saw his father's nakedness. He realized that this was his chance to prevent his father from having more children. He first had relations with him and then castrated him, and then told it to his two brothers outside.

23 Shem, enlisting Japheth's help, took a garment and placed it on the shoulders of them both. They then walked into the tent backwards and covered their father's nakedness. Even when they approached him and had to turn their bodies around, they did so while facing away from him, so that they did not ever see their father's nakedness.

24 Noah awoke from his wine and realized what his youngest, immature, and degenerate son had done to him.

25 He said, "Cursed be Canaan! Because of you, Ham, I will never have a fourth son to tend to me, and I no longer want you to tend to me. Therefore, since my eldest sons will now have this responsibility, I decree that your fourth son shall be a slave's slave—a slave to his father's brothers, Shem and Japheth, who must now serve me alone!"

26 He then said, "Blessed be God, the God who will favor Shem by giving his descendants the Promised Land! Canaan's descendants shall be their slaves and pay them tribute!

27 May God expand Japheth materially, but may He dwell in the tents of the descendants of Shem. (One fulfillment of this prophecy occurred with regard to the two Temples in Jerusalem: The first Temple, built by Solomon, a descendant of Shem, was endowed with a far greater measure62 of Divine revelation than was the second Temple, which was built by Cyrus the Persian, a descendant of Japheth.63) And let Canaan's descendants be slaves to the descendants of Shem even when the latter will dwell in countries other than their own!"

In addition to Noah's explicit prophecies, there were additional repercussions to each son's behavior in this incident. Shem, for having cloaked his father, earned the privilege that his descendants (the Jewish people) would wear the ritual prayer blanket (talit).64 Japheth, for having assisted his brother Shem in covering their father, earned the privilege that his eschatological descendant (Gog) would be buried in the Land of Israel.65 Ham, for having capitalized on his father's exposure, earned the degrading embarrassment that his descendants would be carried off naked into captivity.66

The Seventy Nations

28 Having concluded the narrative of Noah, the Torah now details the genealogy of his descendants.

Noah lived 350 years after the Flood, which occurred in the 600th year of his life.

29 All the days of Noah thus came to 950 years, and he died.

10:1 The following are the descendants of Noah's sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth, who fathered children after the Flood. The generations after the Flood learned the main lesson of the Flood—that wanton abuse of the limits God imposes on human procreative activity brings wanton destruction, as does robbery—and they therefore undertook to refrain from committing these sins. However, they did continue to worship idols; the vast majority of the nations listed here were idolaters.

In accordance with God's instructions that his descendants fill the world,67 Noah divided up the known world, assigning a specific geographical region to each of his seventy descendants. In accordance, again, with God's original intention, he assigned the Land of Israel to the descendants of Shem.68

2 The sons of Japheth were Gomer, Magog, Madai, Yavan, Tuval, Meshech, and Tiras, who later became known as Persia.

3 The sons of Gomer were Ashkenaz, Rifat, and Togarmah.

4 The sons of Yavan were Elishah, Tarshish, the Kittites, and the Dodanites.

5 From these, the island-nations, their clans, and their nations branched out, each with its language, into their lands.

6 The sons of Ham were Kush, Egypt, Put, and Canaan.

7 The sons of Kush were Seva, Chavilah, Savtah, Ra'amah, and Savtecha. The sons of Ra'amah were Sheva and Dedan.

8 Kush was the father of Nimrod ["Let us rebel"], the first man in the world powerful enough to rally the masses to rebel against God, as will be described below.69

9 He was a mighty hunter, "trapping" people by convincing them to join his rebellion against God, and he flaunted his rebellious intentions before God Himself. Hence, the saying, "He is like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before God" is applied to anyone who intentionally seeks to provoke God's anger.

10 His kingdom began with Babylon, and with Erech, Akad, and Kalneh, in the land of Shinar.

11 But when its inhabitants began to follow Nimrod, Assyria70 and his family left that land and built Nineveh, Rechovot-Ir and Kalach,

12 as well as Resen, between Nineveh and Kalach; Nineveh is the great city, the capital of Assyria.

13 Egypt fathered the Ludites, the Anamites, the Lehavites ("Flames," so known because of their fiery faces), the Naftuchites,

14 the Patrusites and the Kasluchites—who engaged in wife-swapping and produced the Philistines, who thus descended from them both—and the Kaftorites.

15 Canaan was the father of Sidon, his firstborn, and Het,

16 as well as the Jebusites, the Amorites, the Girgashites,

17 the Hivites, the Arkites, the Sinites,

18 the Arvadites, the Zemarites, and the Hamathites. From these, the families of the Canaanites later spread out further.

19 The Canaanite borders extended from Sidon toward Gerar until Gaza, and toward Sodom, Gomorrah, Admah, and Tzevoyim, until Lasha.

20 These are the descendants of Ham, according to their clans and languages, by their lands and nations.

21 Children were also born to Shem. He was the ancestor of all those who lived on the other, eastern side of the Euphrates, and the brother of Japheth, the eldest son of Noah and the only other son who honored him.

22 The sons of Shem were Elam, Assyria, Arpachshad, Lud, and Aram.

23 The sons of Aram were Utz, Chul, Geter, and Mash.

24 Arpachshad was the father of Shelach, and Shelach was the father of Ever.

25 Two sons were born to Ever. The name of the first was Peleg, because his father prophesied that in the final days of his life, the world would be divided [niflegah], as will be described below.71 The name of his brother was Yoktan ("the Small One," so named because of his humility).

26 Yoktan was the father of Almodad, Shelef, Chatzarmavet ("the Court of Death," which besides being his given name was also the name of his city72), Yerach,

27 Hadoram, Uzal, Diklah,

28 Oval, Avimael, Sheva,

29 Ophir, Chavilah, and Yovav; all these were the sons of Yoktan, who merited fathering all these numerous extended families because of his humility.

30 Their dwelling place extended from Mesha towards Sephar, the eastern mountain.

31 These are the descendants of Shem, according to their clans and languages, by their lands and their nations.

32 These mentioned above were the families of Noah's sons, in their order of birth, by their nations, and from them the nations eventually dispersed over the earth after the Flood.

Figure 10: The Seventy Nations

The Tower of Babel

Seventh Reading 11:1 Deliberately ignoring God's instructions to Noah that they disperse and populate the world, Noah's descendants chose to live together in the mountainous region around Mount Ararat. Acutely aware that God had brought on the Flood because of the world's antisocial behavior, they reasoned that the best way to garner God's favor and beneficence was to show Him that they could live together in unity.73 The whole population of the world was united, speaking one language, but they were also united in a common, ill-advised cause, led by Nimrod. Nimrod74 convinced them that God was being presumptuous by relegating humanity to the earth while reserving heaven for Himself alone; it was therefore necessary to show God that they were challenging this arrogance by building a tower that would reach upward into heaven, His domain. Furthermore, he convinced them that the Flood was simply a natural, periodic occurrence that would repeat itself every 1656 years, and for this reason, too, they should build a tower that would reach into the clouds, so they could take measures to control the rainfall, if necessary.75 They therefore had to look for a place where they could all congregate and build such a tower.

2 When they migrated from the mountains in the east in search of such a place, they found a valley in the land of Shinar large enough for these purposes and they settled there (see Figure 11).

3 But there were no stones in this valley with which to build, so they said to one another, "Come, let us mold bricks and fire them." The bricks they made were as hard as stone,76 and the clay served them for mortar with which to plaster the walls.

4 They said, "Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower whose top shall reach into the sky. Let us make ourselves a name, so that we will not be scattered by God all over the face of the earth and thereby lose the merit that earns us His beneficence." It was at this point that the Assyrians separated themselves from Nimrod and migrated to the north.77

5 In the year 1996, God descended to see the city and the tower that the sons of man had built. Although He knew what they were doing, He wished to demonstrate that a judge should never pass sentence before thoroughly examining the case.

6 God said, "They possess all the advantages and conveniences of being a single people, all having one language—and this is what they have begun to do?! So now, should they not be prevented from doing that which they planned to do?"

7 In order to demonstrate how a person should always humbly seek the counsel of others before deciding upon a course of action—even if they are of lesser status78—He consulted with His heavenly court, saying, "Come, let us descend and confuse their speech there, so that one person will not understand another's speech. This will make them quarrel with one another and break up into separate groups, the very thing they feared would happen to them. Although they have declared war on Me, and thus, theologically, their sin is greater than the sins of the generation of the Flood, I will not destroy them, because at least they were united and acted peacefully towards one another. In contrast, the people of the Flood were contentious and robbed from one another. I value peace among My creatures even more than I value the respect they owe Me."

8 The heavenly court agreed. Except for Shem and his family, they all suddenly forgot how to speak their original language, Hebrew, and each clan began speaking its own language. Not being able to communicate with each other, they dispersed. In this way, God scattered them from that place all over the face of the earth, and they stopped building the city. The descendants of Japheth and Ham migrated westward, leaving the descendants of Shem in the regions east of the Euphrates River.79

9 It was therefore named Babel, because this was the place where God confused (balal) the whole world's language. From there God dispersed them over all the face of the earth and revoked their privilege of entering the afterlife, as well.

The Line of Shem

10 Having concluded recounting how the seventy descendants of Noah became separate nations, the Torah continues its chronicle of the lineage of Shem.80 It will be noticed in this chronicle that the human lifespan became increasingly shorter after the Flood.81 This is because after the Flood, God no longer sustained the world without regard to human merit, as He had done before the Flood. Rather, God henceforward made humanity's success in self-refinement the central factor in eliciting Divine beneficence. Although this ensured that God would never again wipe out the world,82 it attenuated the intensity of the flow of Divine life force, resulting in shorter life-expectancy.83

Figure 12: The Shortening of Life Expectancy

The following are the descendants of Shem: Shem was 100 years old when he fathered his third son, Arpachshad, in the year 1658, two years after the Flood began.

11 Shem lived 500 years after he fathered Arpachshad, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 2158, at the age of 600.

12 Arpachshad was 35 years old when he fathered a son, Shelach, in the year 1693.

13 Arpachshad lived 403 years after Shelach was born, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 2096, at the age of 438.

14 Shelach was 30 years old when he fathered a son, Ever, in the year 1723.

15 Shelach lived 403 years after he fathered Ever, and he fathered other sons and daughters before died in the year 2126, at the of 433.

16 Ever was 34 years old when he fathered a son, Peleg, in the year 1757.

17 Ever lived 430 years after he fathered Peleg, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 2187, at the age of 464. After the dispersion, Shem saw that humanity was again drifting away from God's original instructions to humanity. He therefore founded, together with his great-grandson Ever, an academy whose purpose it was to preserve the corpus these teachings—which God would later give formally as the Torah—and teach them to whomever was interested enough to seek them out. Together with the God's teachings, this academy also preserved the knowledge of the world's original language, Hebrew. This language was kept secret, since Shem and Ever understood from the incident of the Tower of Babel that God felt that the general population was no longer worthy of using it. Shem settled in the city of Salem (which would later be renamed Jerusalem).84

18 Peleg was 30 years old when he fathered a son, Reu, in the year 1787.

19 Peleg lived 209 years after he fathered Reu, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 1996—the year of the dispersion85—at the age of 239.

20 Reu was 32 years old when he had a son, Serug, in the year 1819.

21 Reu lived 207 years after he fathered Serug, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 2026, at the age of 239.

22 Serug was 30 years old when he fathered a son, Nachor, in the year 1849.

23 Serug lived 200 years after he fathered Nachor, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 2049, at the age of 230.

24 Nachor was 29 years old when he fathered a son, Terach, in the year 1878.

25 Nachor lived 119 years after he fathered Terach, and he fathered other sons and daughters before he died in the year 1997, at the age of 148.

26 Terach was 70 years old when, in the year 1948, he fathered a son, whom he named Abram ("the Prince of Aram"). His eldest son was Nachor, named after his father, and his next eldest son was Haran. Abram was born from one wife and Nachor and Haran from another.

27 The narrative now focuses on the history of Terach's family. The following are the descendants of Terach: Terach was the father of Abram, Nachor, and Haran, and Haran was the father of Lot and of two daughters, Sarai and Milkah.

28 Abram grew up during the period after Nimrod and his followers had already migrated to the Plain of Shinar. Although raised as an idolater, Abram already perceived the folly of idol worship in his early childhood. When he purposely broke his father's idols, the latter brought him to Nimrod, who threw him into a fiery furnace. God miraculously saved Abram, and he emerged from the furnace unscathed. Abram's older brother, Haran, decided that he would side with whoever would win this confrontation. Upon seeing that Abram emerged unharmed, Haran declared himself to be on his side, whereupon Nimrod then cast him, too, into the furnace, and he died there. Thus, Haran died during the lifetime of his father, Terach, in the land of his birth, and, in fact, he died because his father, Terach, took Abram to Nimrod. The news of this incident became so widespread that Nimrod became known as Amrafel ("He who said, 'Fall [into the furnace!]'")86 and the city where it occurred became known as Ur ("the fire") of the Kasdites.87 Another meaning of the word Ur is "valley," since it was the capital of Nimrod's kingdom in the Valley of Shinar.

29 Abram and Nachor married. The name of Abram's wife was Sarai, and the name of Nachor's wife was Milkah, the daughter of Haran, who was the father of Milkah and her sister Sarai, who was also known as Yiskah, meaning "[far]-looking," since she was gifted with Divine inspiration and could foretell the future; "[good]-looking," since everyone enjoyed gazing at her beauty; and "royal dignity," parallel to her other name, Sarai, which means "my princess." Abram and Nachor, the two brothers, thus both married their nieces, two sisters—the daughters of their brother, Haran (see Figure 13).

30 Sarai was barren; she had no child. And according to Abraham's astrological calculations, he would never have any children through her.88

31 The incident of the fiery furnace89 convinced Terach to himself espouse monotheism.90 But because he did not want to acknowledge his repentance publicly,91 he instead decided to move to a place where he would not be a public figure, thus avoiding the need to participate in public idol worship. Terach took his son Abram; his grandson Lot, the son of Haran; and his daughter-in-law Sarai, the wife of his son Abram. Terach and Abram left Ur of the Kasdites with Lot and Sarai, heading toward Canaan. They left Nachor and Milkah behind in Ur. On the other hand, Terach knew that moving all the way to Canaan would entail espousing monotheism publicly, and he was not ready to do this. So they came as far as the city of Charan in Aram, and settled there (see Figure 14). While in Charan, Abram and Sarai began to spread monotheism and gradually gathered around them a following of new believers.92 Their activities quelled God's anger, which had been increasingly intensifying with the spread of idolatry after the Flood.93

In the year 2018, when Abram was 70 years old, he visited Canaan briefly.94 As will be described below,95 God appeared to him while he was there and promised to give him Canaan and to make him the progenitor of the chosen people. Abram then returned to Charan. Since his father, Terach, had not wanted to accompany him to Canaan, Abram had to return to Charan to continue to care for him, for until God instructed him explicitly to leave, he was still legally bound to observe the commandment of parental respect.96

By this time, Abram had learned of God's original instructions to humanity that were preserved by Shem and Ever.97 He had begun to observe these teachings, which God would later give to his descendants as the Torah. Nonetheless, he did not circumcise himself, because this would have violated God's explicit commandment not to shed human blood;98 his voluntary assumption of the Torah's commandments did not have the legal power to override an explicit directive.99

32 All of Terach's days came to 205 years, and Terach died in Charan in the year 2083. But because he was outwardly an idolater, he was considered figuratively "dead" even while he was alive, for the wicked are considered dead even in their lifetimes, whereas the righteous are considered alive even after their death.100