The website of Rabbi Moshe Pitchon

There is Truth, and There Are Lies

Genesis-Chapter 6

According to the first eleven chapters of Genesis, the early history of humanity was filled with trauma: exile (The Garden of Eden), murder (Cain and Abel), natural disaster (The Flood), and technological catastrophe (The Tower of Babel). Humankind learned early in its history that it could not take its existence in the world for granted: Creation can be revoked.

True, the first chapters of the Book of Genesis deal with topics about which there were numerous sagas in the ancient East. Nevertheless, the compilers of the first book of the TaNaKh did their best to frame a coherent account of human origins from available myths and legends. They sought to address questions such as what is primordial, elemental, principal, and essential in human beings. Theirs is an invitation to reflect on how human beings stand in relation to the whole, what is to act well, and what badly.


Genesis explains the origins of the human condition through the idea of human rebelliousness. In this book and all of Israel’s Foundational Literature, the history of humanity and Israel, in particular, is depicted as defying God. Yet, in difference from the non-Jewish sagas, the tragic hero in the TaNaKh is not destroyed by gods but by his peers directly or by the dynamics between them.


Starting with Noah in Genesis, Chapter 6, the TaNaKh becomes, in the words of Norbert M. Samuelson, a scholar of Jewish philosophy at Arizona State University, a blueprint or program for human behavior whose goal is to bring about a perfection which, in some sense, God cannot bring about without human help. Hence, whatever the view of God in this tradition, it must make sense of a God who desires something to be that the deity alone cannot bring about.


Robert Gordis- a leading Conservative rabbi who founded the first Conservative Jewish day school and served as President of the Rabbinical Assembly- summed up the TaNaKh’s meaning by saying that The TaNaKh “is an indispensable element in the religious and moral education of the human race.

The fool thinks, "There is no God" Human beings’ deeds are corrupt and loathsome; no one does good. The Lord looks down from heaven on human beings to find a human being of understanding, a human being mindful of God... All have turned bad, Altogether foul; There is none who does good, Not even one.

This depressing picture of humanity thousands of years ago is eerie as it could easily be a description of today’s world.


Psalm 14 was supposedly written after Genesis Chapter 6, Verses 11to 13;

And the earth was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence And God saw the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. And God said unto Noah: 'The end of all flesh is come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence through them; and, behold, I will destroy them with the earth.

And then came the flood…

We are not talking here about cultic transgressions- there was no cult, no religion at the time.

As Martin Sicker, a writer and lecturer on the Middle East and Jewish history and religion understands it

“In the biblical view, a society that does not enhance humanity is dysfunctional and therefore serves no useful purpose and cannot justify its continued existence. Thus, the biblical author makes clear it is not society’s contempt for the Creator that brings about its undoing. It is its contempt for man that is unacceptable. It was the fact that the earth is filled with violence that provoked the divine wrath.”

The astonishing phenomenon is that the more violence spreads worldwide, the more exculpatory explanations for the perpetrators increase. And, even worse, those in power situations, presumably in a position to take immediate actions and effect changes to correct the course the world is taking don’t act. This is because they don’t feel the pressure of those who care.

One of the voices of conscience is, of course, the TaNaKh. As Martin Buber said years ago:

“What it does have to tell us, and what no other voice in the world can teach us with such simple power, is that there is truth and there are lies, and that human life cannot persist or have meaning save in the decision in behalf of truth against lies; that it is right and wrong, and that the salvation of man depends on choosing what is right and rejecting what is wrong; and it spells the destruction of our existence to divide our life up into areas where the discrimination between truth and lies, right and wrong […] The humanitas which speaks from this Book today, as it has always done, is the unity under one divine direction which divides right from wrong and truth from lies as unconditionally as the words of the Creator divided light from darkness.”