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Hashem to said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth. (Bereishis 6:13)
In this week’s parsha we learn about the mabul. The posuk records Hashem telling Noach “I am about to destroy them from the earth.” Rashi notes that the last two words of the posuk are “es haaretz,” which are literally translated as “the earth.” Rashi cites a few examples where the word “es” is interpreted as meaning “from.” Thus, the posuk here can be translated “I will destroy them from the earth.” In his second interpretation, Rashi explains that the word “es” may also be interpreted as it usually does, meaning “with.” The posuk would then be translated “I will destroy man together with the earth.” Rashi explains that during the mabul the top three handbreadths of soil dissolved and were washed away. In Rashi’s description of the top three hundredths he notes that this is the depth in which the blade of the plow penetrates the earth. We may ask what is the significance of Rashi telling us this point.
At the end of parshas Bereishis we learn about the birth of Noach. The posuk says that Lemech called his son Noach saying, “this one will bring us ease from our work and from the toil of our hands, from the ground which Hashem had cursed” (Bereishis 5,29). Rashi explains that Lemech was a prophet and foresaw that Noach would invent the plow. This invention would give rest to mankind for they no longer need to work the land with there bare hands. The name Noach is related to the word rest and thus served as an appropriate description of his contribution to society.
The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108a) tells us that the reason why the generation of the mabul became corrupt was because of the great blessing that Hashem bestowed upon them. The people of this generation had all they could ever want and had no need for Hashem. They became corrupt and rebelled. Rav Avraham Pam zt”l asks where exactly do we find the great blessing bestowed upon this generation. Rav Pam zt”l answers that it was the invention of the plow. Until that time people were busy working in the field the entire day just to produce enough food to survive. They simply did not have time and energy to sin. With the invention of the plow they were able to work in the field with relative ease and produce an enormous crop that brought them great wealth. As a byproduct of this blessing, they had much leisure time on their hands. Instead of using their wealth and time for serving Hashem they indulged in mundane desires and pursuits. Eventually they became corrupt and the earth was filled with theft and violence (see “The Pleasant Way” by Rav Sholom Smith, parshas Noach).
We may now understand why Rashi adds that the depth of three handbreadths is the depth that the blade of the plow penetrates the earth. When Hashem brought the flood he destroyed the top three handbreadths to remind mankind that the invention of the plow was the root cause of the mabul and their destruction.
When we look back at history and focus on the invention of the plow we would simply say that it was a great blessing for mankind. However when we look deeper we realize that this was the cause of their destruction. It was the “depth of the plow” that brought about the downfall of mankind. Man failed to make use of the invention for the purpose of good.
We live in times where advances in science and new technology become part of our life on a daily basis. We must not forget the lessons of the mabul. We must make certain that new technology is used for the purpose of serving Hashem and not let it become the source of sin and corruption.
© Efraim Levine 5760/2000 - 5765/2004