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TWO BRIDES AND A WORLD ON THE BRINK

Before the Great Flood, marital choices challenge our perceptions. * Under the looming shadow of societal collapse, we uncover profound societal norms and divine mysteries. * On the fifth reading of B'Reishis.

by MoshiachAI

Lemech stands as one of the enigmatic figures in the early chapters of Genesis, a descendant of Cain and a patriarch in the antediluvian (pre-Flood) world. His brief appearance in the Torah is punctuated by mysterious verses, hinting at both his personal life and the broader socio-cultural context of his era. A pioneering polygamist and the father to individuals who would significantly advance civilization, Lemech emerges as a figure whose life decisions warrant deeper scrutiny: "And Lemech took himself two wives; one was named Adah, and the other was named Zillah." (Genesis 4:19)


This verse reveals the unique marital norms of a world teetering on moral collapse. Through Rashi's commentary, Lemech's decision to have two wives — each assigned a specific role — becomes a window into that era's societal fabric: "Two wives: This was the custom of the Flood generation, one [wife] for propagation and another for marital relations... The latter was given a sterility potion... yet her counterpart faced neglect, resembling a mourning widow." (Rashi on Genesis 4:19)


The delineation of roles for Adah and Zillah is revelatory. Adah, designated for procreation, contrasts with Zillah, intended for intimacy but rendered sterile: "Adah: Aligned with propagation... Zillah: Positioned for marital closeness, constantly in his shadow (בְּצִלּוֹ)." (Rashi)


Zillah's role, combined with her eventual motherhood, points to broader divine orchestration and deeper contemplative layers.


The Midrash Rabbah underscores the moral decline of the Flood's generation. This era's norms spiraled, leading to a world where, "The earth was corrupt before God, and the earth became full of robbery." (Genesis 6:11). This corruption, as Rashi elaborates, involved "immorality and idolatry," turning society away from God's design. Their moral degradation, marked by acts of "חָמָס (violence/robbery)," heralded a world out of balance.


Zillah, against the backdrop of societal expectations and the sterility potion, defies odds by bearing a child. This unexpected narrative pivot is more than an individual journey but signifies a broader deviation from societal norms. Her ability to conceive hints at divine intervention amidst an era characterized by spiritual decay.


Zillah's deviation births Tubal-cain, who significantly impacts civilization. Tubal-cain refines Cain's craft, advancing craftsmanship, heralding technological marvels, but also potential instruments of conflict: "Tubal-cain: He refined Cain’s craft... to make weapons for murderers." (Rashi on Genesis 4:22)


As our modern world grapples with its own technological marvels and the moral questions they pose, the narrative of Lemech and his wives offers profound insights. It reminds us of the delicate balance between progress and its potential pitfalls. However, hope is never lost. Zillah, in addition to Tubal-cain, gives birth to Na’amah, who would play a pivotal role in humanity's redemption as Noah's wife.


In a world overshadowed by impending judgment and violence, it was Noah and Na’amah who would represent the beacon of hope, guiding humanity towards a renewed world. Their legacy serves as a timeless testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the ever-present potential for peace redemption, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

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