Definition of Chamas

By Divine providence, we are going to read the parsha of Noah at a time the Jewish people are engaged in a war against the evil terrorist group Hamas. The word Chamas is mentioned in this week’s parsha in describing the evil of the generation of the flood, which wiped them off the map. We may apply the past destruction of humanity because of its evil behavior to the modern-day Hamas. May they be obliterated from the earth!

What does the word Chamas mean?

According to Rashi and others it refers specifically to the crime of theft.

The Midrash and other sources translate the word Chamas also as cruelty, murder, depraved morality.

The members of the terrorist group Hamas have providentially chosen that name without realizing how well it describes who they are; a G-dless, bloodthirsty. Cruel and deceptive nation!

Living with the Times

The Alter Rebbe once remarked that a Jew must live with the times, which was interpreted to mean that we must live with the timely reading of the Torah; to learn lessons from the parsha of each week. Since we are required to apply the weekly Torah reading to our own lives, we must search for a positive lesson that will help us put what is presently happening to the Jewish people in perspective and thereby also provide us with the means to bring about our victory and salvation.

The Torah states the following:

“Now the earth had become corrupt before G-d; and the earth had become filled with robbery. And G-d saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. G-d 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.’”

When the Torah refers to their corruption, Rashi explains, it relates to their idolatrous practices and their sexual immorality. Yet, the Torah makes it clear that they were being punished because of their sin of robbery. Isn’t idolatry and sexual immorality (such as incest and adultery) a more egregious crime than robbery? Why then does the Torah state that they were being punished because of robbery?

Rashi, anticipated this question and states, quoting the Talmud:

“The decree was sealed exclusively for their sin of theft.”

Rashi seems to be saying that although they were guilty of far more serious transgressions, their fate was only sealed when they engaged in robbery.

This raises an obvious question: Why did G-d consider theft to be a more serious offense that deserved destruction. By the Torah’s own standards, idolatry and incest are far more egregious sins than thievery, yet, the decree for their destruction was sealed for the sin of theft exclusively. Why?

Unity: A Redeeming Force

Commentators explain that had they treated each other with respect and would not steal from one another, G-d would have spared them because of the power of unity and peace. However, because they didn’t treat each other with respect, they were not salvageable. Unity would have been their redeeming virtue and would have saved them. It would have been their shield from punishment. Lacking that armor, they were punished for all their many sins.

The lesson for our time is obvious. The Jewish nation’s greatest weakness is their disunity. When we are divided, we are vulnerable. Even the enemy which perpetrated the unspeakable massacres admitted that they took advantage of the disunity of the Israeli population. And conversely, our greatest strength is our unity.

Thank G-d, after receiving such a horrible and devastating blow on Simchas Torah, which is a Holiday of unity, the Jewish nation is now more united than it has been in decades. Not since the Six Day War have Jews been so unified. Let’s hope and pray that it remains this way and gets even stronger. We should not have to experience tragedy to realize our inherent unity.

We therefore beseech G-d to look down at His People and see how, despite our many legitimate differences, we are one, and bring us total victory, with the imminent coming of Moshiach and the Final Redemption.

Unity on All Levels

One may raise another question:

Granted that robbery is the antithesis of unity, but it is not the only manifestation of disunity. In fact, murder is a far more egregious sin and negation of unity than robbery. Why was their fate sealed exclusively for robbery?

Commentators explain that there is a general principle when dealing with G-d’s punishment for sin. Before G-d inflicts punishment on a sinner’s body, He first inflicts punishment on the sinner’s money. So, the question now is: why did G-d punish them by destroying them? Shouldn’t G-d have first denied them their wealth and only then, if they didn’t repent, move to the more harsh punishment of destruction?

The answer is that G-d couldn’t take away their possessions because they were all stolen. Nobody legitimately owned anything; everyone stole from everyone else. G-d therefore had no other recourse but to inflict punishment on their bodies.

The lesson here is that not only should our unity manifest itself with love for our fellow Jew’s lives when they are threatened; we must also express our unity with respect to the more mundane aspects of our lives; even extending to our fellow’s property.

When there is an existential crisis as there is today, it reveals our most essential Jewish identity, concerning which we are all one. The Moshiach spark is activated, and we feel as one. The challenge for us is to make that unity spread to all layers of our lives, extending even to the most external and ordinary aspects of our being, such as our money and property. That is a sign that our unity is complete for it has permeated every part of us. It is an indication that the spark of Moshiach that lies at the core of our being has permeated us totally.

Preparation for the Building of the Bais Hamikdash

We must believe that the tragic events of these last two weeks are the final test we were subjected to before the Final Redemption.

Many also believe that the genocidal Hamas is an incarnation of the vile Biblical nation Amalek, the destruction of which is mandated by the Torah. Furthermore, the Talmud states that the destruction of Amalek is a prerequisite to the building of the Bais Hamikdash-the Holy Temple.

May this be the final step before Moshiach revealing himself and spearheading the building of the third and Final Bais Hamikdash, which will usher in a Hamas-less world of ultimate peace and holiness!   

Rabbi Heschel Greenberg

Published in Parsha

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