When “Adonai regretted making humans on earth”

The Torah’s first parashah ends: “Adonai regretted making humans on earth, and God’s heart was pained.” (Genesis 6:6)

Why did God regret creating humanity? Because “They are flesh”. Rabbenu Bahya (13-14th c.) noted: Humans are unworthy that God’s spirit should reside in them, since they are only flesh like all other creatures, and their soul is drawn to flesh rather than to God’s spirit.

Bahya’s view is extreme. After all it was God who decided to create human being as a combination of Divine and animal? When God said: “Let us make mankind” (1:26), God was talking to nature in general and animals/primates in particular.

So the pain and regret God feels is not due to God’s negative attitude to humanity. But God is disappointment that humans have not yet lived up to their Divine potential.

Regret (“va-yinakhem”) also is related to the word for consolation (“nakhamah”). Midrash Genesis Rabbah 27:4 presents several portraits of God. Rabbi Judah has God saying: “It was My mistake that I created him below, as a terrestrial being; had I created him in the higher realms, he would not have rebelled against Me.”

Rabbi Nehemiah suggests that God is “…consoled, knowing that he created humans in the lower realms, with limited powers. For had humans been of the upper realms, they would have caused everyone to rebel.”

Rabbi Aivu proposes that God “…regrets creating humans with a yetzer ha-ra, an evil/untamed inclination, for had God not so created humans, they would not have rebelled against God.”

But Rabbi Levi has a more positive take on consolation. He conjectures that God is “…consoled in making humans as God did, for (eventually) humans will be set in the earth,” i.e.,humans are mortal and subject to burial. Every generation, no matter how evil will die out, so that there is always hope future generations will get it right.

Rabbi Maller says, “Although God knew giving humans moral free will would mean they would do great evil, when it occurs it still hurts God deeply and causes temporary regret. We also learn from this that God responds to human actions and cares deeply for us.”

How does Judaism view the use of power/choice and the dangers of giving human beings too much power/choice?

“For 2 years, the school of Shammai and the school of Hillel debated whether God should have created humankind. Shammai’s school said it would have been better if people had not been created; Hillel’s school held the opposite view.

Finally, they voted and the majority decided that Shammai’s school was right and it would have been better had people not been created, but since they were, each person is responsible for examining their own past and future deeds” (Talmud, Masekhet Eruvin 13b).

For more insight into the nature of Adam and the God who created us, see my just published book: Which religion Is Right For You?: A 21st century Kuzari (Hadassa Word Press ISBN 978-620-2-45517-6)

About the Author
Rabbi Allen S. Maller has published over 250 articles on Jewish values in over a dozen Christian, Jewish, and Muslim magazines and web sites. Rabbi Maller is the author of "Tikunay Nefashot," a spiritually meaningful High Holy Day Machzor, two books of children's short stories, and a popular account of Jewish Mysticism entitled, "God, Sex and Kabbalah." His most recent books are "Judaism and Islam as Synergistic Monotheisms' and "Which Religion Is Right For You?: A 21st Century Kuzari" both available on Amazon.
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