Noah: G-d's Failed Policies?

During this election season, the candidates and parties hotly dispute the wisdom of leadership policies.  Judaism has a long tradition of challenging even Divine policies, both contemplated and implemented (the Book of Job being the preeminent example), though always stopping short of rejecting or dismissing G-d. How then might we judge G-d’s most dramatic and violent policy: wiping out virtually all life on earth?

G-d was upfront about His reason:

The Lord saw how great was man‘s wickedness on earth, and how every plan devised by his mind was nothing but evil all the time.  And the Lord regretted that He had made man on earth, and His heart was saddened.  The Lord said, “I will blot out from the earth the men whom I created – men together with beasts, creeping things, and birds of the sky; for I regret that I made them.”   (Genesis 5-8, JPS Translation)  

With this admission, G-d conceded that His original human design had been fatally flawed. (That alone might well have cost Him reelection as Sovereign of Sovereigns had Heaven been a democracy!)  His attempted fix was to destroy all life, saving only the few Ark occupants.  Did this new policy succeed in eradicating wickedness on earth?  Thousands of years later, we clearly see that it did not.  Policy failure #2!  Who could “win” on that record?  But it gets even worse.

As soon as Noah emerged from the Ark and made a burnt offering, G-d repeated: “the devisings of man’s mind are evil from his youth….”  (Gen. 9:20-21).  Since G-d knew this immediately after the flood, either. 

1.     G-d had known before the flood that it would not achieve His stated objective.  If so, He “misspoke” in stating his rationale and the flood was actually wanton global destruction with no purpose other than acting-out Divine Regret, or

2.     G-d realized during the forty-days and forty-nights that the flood would not succeed.

Either way, the flood was further flawed and failed policy.  

At that point, the only potentially effective action to eradicate evil would have been to wipe out the few survivors and start completely over with Human 2.0, a creature whose mind would not constantly devise evil. But instead, G-d resolved: “Never again will I doom the earth because of man.” (Gen. 9:21)  This ensured that human wickedness would continue.  Eventually, the new (and still on-going) policy became Torah and Mitzvot.  Indeed, the Talmud tell us that G-d created the evil inclination and Torah as its antidote (Kiddushin 30b).

Perhaps the lesson we are left with is this: we humans can’t leave it to any “leadership” to do good.  G-d didn’t (couldn’t? wouldn’t?) make us good, and yet we know that this is how we are supposed to act.  So, it’s up to us to implement His new and apparently final strategy.

As expressed by Dennis Prager and Joseph Teluskhin:

“… Judaism [does not believe] man to be inherently evil, but since man is naturally selfish, not altruistic, it is easier to do evil than to do good. We must be taught goodness and discipline ourselves to do what is good.  Man needs corrective in order to channel his id or productive powers creatively, for good rather than evil.  …  Since people are not basically good, goodness must be both defined and legislated.  Hence, Judaism’s preoccupation with law.  The purpose of Jewish law is to produce good, and ultimately holy, people.  A serious Jew takes Jewish law seriously.  It is, along with ethical monotheism, the Jewish people’s greatest achievement, and its observance is the only insurance of Jewish survival.”  The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, 100, 203. 

Shabbat shalom!

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A bird that you set free may be caught again, but a word that escapes your lips will not return.
Jewish Proverb