Weinstein and the ‘Sons of God’: A story as old as man

Why does God send the flood? What sin is so great as to arouse Divine regret at creating the world leading ultimately to its total annihilation?

It is the result of a story that tragically never grows old. The irony that last week’s Parsha contains a haunting narrative that depicts the ‘sons of God’ taking (forcefully) the daughters of Adam because they ‘looked good’ should not be lost on us. Humanity has learnt little since its inception. We still struggle with the ‘God complex’ inside ourselves. In positions of power we still take advantage of those inferior to us to fulfil our base desires or simply because we can. Nietzsche warned us is the nineteenth century that in killing off God men would seek to become Gods themselves, but the Bible already alerted us to this centuries earlier. The entire Genesis narrative is a sustained lesson in the dangers of being created in the image of God. It is a warning to us of what happens when we forget to channel our human qualities, both good and bad, responsibly. Created in the image of God and from the dust of the earth, we are called upon to be both innovative and reticent, assertive and subservient, audacious and obedient, creative and submissive and to find the right balance between them all. More often than not we miss the mark and fail to retain the balance between them all. The consequences, as we see through the Genesis narratives and as witnessed throughout human history, can be devastating.

In the first two chapters of Bereshit we read about the creation of Man. The infamous discrepancies between the two chapters were known to ancient commentators but have been illuminated more recently by biblical critics and in religious circles through Rav Soloveitchik’s Lonely Man of Faith. In one account Man is created in the image of God, woman is created with him and the world is delivered to man ready and waiting for him to take residence. In the second he is created from the dust of earth, woman is created from him but the world is created around him, he must wait and watch only assuming ownership once the process is complete. In the first account he must occupy and conquer the world. In the second he must guard and protect it, naming the animals, searching for an Ezer ke’negdo – a soul mate/helper. R. Soloveitchik claims that every person is composed of both Adam 1 and Adam 2. Adam 1 is the creator, innovator, the one who seeks dominion over the world, who asks the how questions and seeks answers to his questions, created in the image of God he nurtures the Godliness within him elevating him above other species and sometimes as a consequence above others. For him there are no questions without answers, there is no mystery or uncertainty. Adam 2 is the contemplative philosopher who approaches the word with wonder and marvels at its splendour. He asks the why questions seeking union and connection as opposed to answers and certainty. Created from the dust of earth he frequently buries himself in the suffocating blanket of existential loneliness desperately seeking some kind of redemption from his singular existence, he sacrifices himself, sometimes even becoming the victim of exploitation, in order to find solace in the arms of the ‘other’ be it God or man. According to Rav Soloveitchik, we are all destined to oscillate between these two types, finding a home in neither redemption constantly eludes us.

I want to humbly suggest another feature of Adam 1 that is distinctly evident in the ‘Millennials’ Generation (or generation Y -those born from approximately mid 80’s to 2000’s) – a mistaken sense of entitlement. Adam 2 must wait for the world to be created, by doing so he learns the art of patience. He must name the animals, thus acquiring the skill of empathy compassion and identification, he must guard and protect thus nurturing the capacity for endurance and process. He is more typical of ‘Generation X’ (those born from the 1960’s to the 1980’s) who learnt from their parents, the post war generation, lessons of endurance and patience, work and community and the secrets of sustainability. Adam 1 conversely is born into an instant society, the world is at his fingertips, he waits for no one, the world is ready to be conquered. Woman is created with him thus he bears no sacrifices in his search for a partner. He is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Like the ‘Millennials’ he harbours a sense of self-entitlement and narcissistic tendencies believing the world revolves around him and he has the right to possess it. Untampered by the humility and uncertainty of Adam 2, Adam 1 knows his questions will have answers and his action will be rewarded, the danger of course being that he takes the world for granted.

There is an enigmatic text that features after creation but before the flood reads as follows:

And it came to pass, when Men (literally the man: Ha’adam) began to multiply on the face of the earth, and daughters were born to them, that the sons of God (Bnei Elohim) saw the daughters of men (literally: Benot ha’adam) that they were fair (literally: good, tovot); and they took (vayikach) them wives from whomever they chose. (Genesis 6:1-2)

There are many questions which the commentators grapple with. Who are these ‘sons of God’? where do they come from? who are the daughters of Adam and why does it culminate in the shortening of human life to 120?

Following the development of the ideas thus far, I would like to suggest that this story is a continuation of the creation narrative and that of Kayin and Hevel. Once again, we have a group of people who see themselves as the ‘sons of God’. They possess power and responsibility to populate the earth; God has called upon them to carry his name. Instead they abuse their power, they fail to oscillate between hubris and humility, instead taking the Adam 1 characteristics to their dangerous limits. Imagining the world is theirs alone, they conquer it and everything in it, including those who should be their ‘ezer kenegdo’ (woman). Instead of appreciating the ‘beauty’ they desire to possess it.

The resulting consequence is indicative of the malaise. Inherent in an Adam1 personae is an assumption of mortality. The transience and uncertainty allied to Adam 2 cannot be found in Adam 1. The Bnei Elohim, presume they will live forever. Mortality harbours arrogance which ultimately leads to exploitation and violence. A remedy to this is to create an environment of uncertainty; cutting short their lives serves to remind them of their mortality and that, like Adam 2, they are but dust of the earth. So God says ‘your lives shall now be of hundred and twenty years’, a reminder that humans are not God and never will be. In their quest to become ‘like God knowing good and bad’ Adam and Eve eat from the tree of knowledge; the result – they become mortal, death becomes intrinsic to their existence. Death reminds us that we are limited, that our time is short, that immortality is attained through the legacy of our actions rather than loftiness of our stature. Harvey Weinstein and Hollywood learnt this over the last week, but it is no secret, the opening narratives of genesis has taught it to us for thousands of years. It should come as no surprise that the corollary to this story is God’s decision to destroy the world. Exploitation leads to violence and violence leads to destruction and it all begins when man believes he can act like God.

The above is a abridged version. The full article can be seen at: https://contemplatingtorah.wordpress.com/2017/10/17/from-genesis-to-hollywood-the-sons-of-god-and-the-abuse-of-power-parshat-noach/

About the Author
Tanya White is an educator who teaches Tanach and Jewish Philosophy in Israel and abroad. She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Jewish Thought. She writes a weekly blog on the Parsha combining Jewish thought and current affairs at www.contemplatingtorah.wordpress.com
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