Parasha with Passion – Weekly Torah Reading Cycle – Week #2
In last week’s Parashah, we renewed the cycle of our weekly study of the Word of God. So here we are again, back at the beginning of all creation. Some would ask, do we ever grow weary of reading the Bible year after year? I would say that the word of God is “ever-living.” If we are listening, God will speak to us with a fresh new perspective.
In this week’s Parashah, only six chapters and ten generations passed between Parashat Bereishit and Parashat Noach, yet faith had all but diminished from the earth. Sin brings about the very undoing of man and opens the door for destructive forces to corrupt society. Father God was so displeased with the condition of mankind that he sent a flood to destroy evil from the face of the earth. (Genesis 7)
However, God spared Noah and his family from destruction and Noah and his three sons (Shem, Ham, and Japheth) emerge from the ark to begin a new era in history. Nevertheless, in a short period of time, fallen man proves once again that we are bent towards rebellion.
After the Flood Sin Still Remains A Problem
Unfortunately, the judgment of the flood did not remedy the problem of sin nor did it change the hearts of men. In Parashat Noach, we read of a particular sin that occurred immediately after the flood.
In (Genesis 9), Noah planted a vineyard, drank a little bit too much wine, and fell asleep in his tent drunk and naked. Drinking too much wine to the point of drunkenness was truly a lapse of moral judgement on Noah’s part. However, it is not a sin to be naked in one’s own home.
Next, the Bible tells us that Ham the father of Canaan saw Noah’s nakedness and “told his two brothers” (Shem and Japheth). In response, Shem and Japheth took a cloak, and walked backwards into the tent so that they would not see their father’s nakedness and “covered him.”
So What Exactly Was Ham’s Sin?
Hmmm… Theologians have various opinions on what Ham’s sin actually was. There have been many attempts to explain what occurred in (Genesis 9:20-27). The Bible is silent on the detailed events concerning this matter. However, what we do know is that Noah lived for 350 years after the flood and this incident is the last recorded event in the life of Noah.
One possibility of Ham’s sin, is that after seeing his father naked, he ran and told Shem and Japheth exposing Noah’s nakedness. I emphasize the word naked because we are not sure if more to the story is implied. However, what we do know is that Ham violated Noah’s privacy by not covering his father, as his brothers would later do out of respect and honor.
If my interpretation has any validity, what was the problem with Ham telling his brothers that he saw their father naked? In my opinion, God is not pleased when we reveal and repeat the failures of others. This is called lashon hara, i.e. gossip.
Shem and Japheth refused to look on their father’s nakedness. Rather than joining in on Ham’s gossip concerning their father’s mistake, Shem and Japheth reverently covered Noah’s nakedness and refused to look upon their father’s condition with judgement.
Why is lashon hara so dangerous? Gossip, slander, ridicule, and all evil speech becomes dangerous because our words bring an indictment against the very power of God that is able to redeem, restore, and work righteousness in a person’s life. Therefore, we can say that to speak negatively about other believer’s is to speak against God Himself.
As I mature, I have learned that my strong opinions and my two cents are best left on the threshing floor.
So Why Was Canaan Cursed?
Many scholars would agree that Ham is the father of people of color. Ham had four sons, Cush, Mizraim, Phut, and Canaan. As a person of color, what a relief it is to know that Noah did not pronounce judgement on all of Ham’s descendants. It is important to note that we all inherited a fallen world from Adam. It is through Yeshua that we all must find redemption.
Many scholars agree that the descendants of Cush originate from the Sub-Sahara region of Africa. This is where we get the word Cushite, which means dark-skinned people. Many scholars would also agree that Mizraim is synonymous with Egypt; in addition Phut’s descendants also originate from neighboring countries in North Africa.
In (Genesis 9:24-25), after Noah awoke from his sleep, and learned what Ham had done, he pronounced a curse on Canaan, Ham’s youngest son. Why should Canaan be punished for the sins of his father? Perhaps Noah’s words can be interpreted as prophetic rather than punitive. In essence, Noah prophesied, “like father, like son.” Like Ham, Canaan and his descendants (the Canaanites) would also be guilty of displaying lewd and lawless behavior.
(1 Peter 4:8)
“Above all, keep your love for one another constant, for “love covers a multitude of sins.”
If my interpretation of this Parashah carries any validity, how can we avoid Ham’s sin of lashon hara? The Bible tells us to love one another. Love covers a multitude of sins.
As a community, we desire the best for one another. We want to see one another come into fruition of all that God has for us. Yet, if by chance one of us falls, God forbid that we behave like Ham who revealed and repeated his father’s weakness. Instead, I pray that we walk after the manner of Shem and Japheth who took the careful steps to cover their father and redeem him.
In my morning devotions, one of my favorite prayers to daven is the Amidah. This week let us consider the words of the Amidah. “Adonai s’fatai tiftach ufi yagid t’hilatecha….” “My Lord, open my lips, and my mouth shall declare Your praise….”
Let us allow the Ruach Ha’kodesh to always filter our thoughts, so that our words bring fruit and praise continually before Adonai.
Torah: Genesis 6:9 – 11:32
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
Next Torah Portion: Lecha-Lecha