About 4100 years ago "the windows of heaven opened and rain poured on earth for forty days and forty nights. ... all the high mountains were covered [with water] ... every life on earth, from man to animal to insect to bird were wiped off the earth.  Only Noah and those with him in the ark remained" (see Genesis 7).
 What was the reason for such a devastation ?  "And God saw that the wickedness of man on earth is abundant, and all the desires of his heart are evil all the day.  And God regretted that he had created man" (see Genesis 6:5-13).  The basic assumption here is that man knew the difference between right and wrong, and between permissible and prohibited actions (see Genesis 2:16-17, 3:7-10, 9:21-23).  There was a societal code of ethics, but man, controlled by temptations and desires, broke it.
 That code of ethics, called in the Talmud (Sanhedrin 56:1) "the seven laws of the Children of Noah", includes a commandment to hold a just court system and also prohibitions of murder ; theft ; "inappropriate sexual relationship" ; eating a limb torn from a live animal ; "blessing" the name of God ; and idolatry.  There are indications in the Torah that these laws were universal, long before Judaism.  For example, Cain was punished for murdering his sibling Abel, but only after he received a fair hearing from God, in which Cain tried to "mislead" the Court in his testimony (Genesis 4:8-10).  The statements about the evils of the generation of the flood, follow descriptions of men taking for themselves "women from all that they chose" (Genesis 6:2-4), in contradiction with the ideal man and wife bond (Genesis 2:24).  Indeed, right and wrong were well defined and known.  The Jewish Torah and mitzvot, given hundreds of years later, went farther than just defining morality;  they define holiness in human conduct.
 As we start the new year reading again from the Book of Genesis, it is time for us to remember that the Torah starts with creation -- universal creation.  Noah was a righteous man who lived by a Divine code of ethics and was chosen to survive the flood.  He was not Jewish.  All of humanity descends from his family, the family of the righteous, created in Godís image.

-- Judah Ari-Gur


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