Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Bereishis 2: Chanoch

5:18-24 discusses the life of Chanoch, one of the most mysterious personages of the Torah, as unlike his ancestors and descendents mentioned in the surrounding verses, who are all born, have children, and die, death is not mentioned by Chanoch, but rather the verse states "...and he was no more, for God took him" (some, including Targum Yonasan ben Uziel, attribute to Chanoch an extraordinary fate of being taken to heaven alive and becoming the angel Metatron - R' Chaim haQoton has a very interesting post on this issue - but Rashi and Ibn Ezra say that the strange terminology is just a reference to his dying a normal death before his time). His section is also distinct in that the Torah testifies (twice) that he "walked with God". This being the case, it is interesting that Rashi judges Chanoch negatively, explaining that God took him before his time because of his predisposition to return to his wicked ways.

The term that the passuk uses to refer to Chanoch's righteousness, es haElokim, with God, is also used by No'ach (6:9). In this verse, Rashi also quotes a negative source, contrasting the terminology used by No'ach and by Avraham ("asher his'halachti l'fanav", whom I walked before), to say that, while Avraham had was great enough to stand before God on his own with no special support, No'ach required God's special assistance; he had to walk with God, supported by Him. Perhaps once No'ach's mission had been accomplished during the flood, this special help was withdrawn, and thus No'ach stumbled into grave humiliation. Here, too, Chanoch may only have been righteous because of God's special help, bestowed for reasons unclear, and when these reasons no longer applied, rather than leaving Chanoch to fend for himself, God took him while he was still on his high level (perhaps the same was not done for No'ach because he still had a role to play in rebuilding the destroyed world, or because he lacked certain special merits possessed by Chanoch.

Alternatively, we are not told about Chanoch's righteousness until 65 years into his life, after the birth of Metushelach, who is known in divrei Chazal to have been a tzaddik, to the extent that the flood was delayed 7 days because of his mourning period. This being the case, perhaps Chanoch only began to "walk with God" once he had a role model, his righteous son, to lead him in this direction - the first instance of kiruv, so to speak. However, despite the fact that Metushelach lived a very long life, perhaps the time still arrived that, due to whatever reason, Metushelach no longer was able to have such a positive influence on his father, and thus God decided that it was better to take Chanoch young rather than leave him to backslide in the absence of his righteous son's influence.

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At 10/17/2006 2:50 PM, Blogger Reb Chaim HaQoton said...

Thanks for the link.


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