Based on the story of Noah’s ark and the deluge related in the biblical book of Genesis,
many have taken the part of the “curse of Ham” to be applied to the so-called black race.
Unashamed of this pigment based generalization, and the blatant ignorance of its proponents, many have followed this line of thinking, and managed to keep these distorted notions afloat in their various religious communitues.
This remnant of European Middle-Ages thinking still reappears here and there, raising its ugly ignorant head, threatening to once again lower the bar of intelligence, to that of thinking impaired individuals. Yet noone who reads the Torah contextually, who makes the effort to at least know the material he claims to love, will fall into such displays of brain failure. From an African point of view, and Moses who wrote the book lived in Egypt, the racial narrative of skin tone has no relevance -cannot be relevant.
We are told Pharoah’s daughter Bathya, Moses adoptive mother, joined Israel and married in the tribe of Judah, making her one of the mothers of Israelite royalty.
We are told Moses himself married a Kushite woman. We are told King Solomon, the greatest of Kings, married the Queen of Ethiopia. And we are told these things within the Biblical narrative and traditions. The Oral Law, inseparable for Jews from the Written Law,
makes it clear by saying there are no applications to the national divisions found in the Bible narrative. There is no “people of Amon” “people of Moab” “people of Amalek” or even “people of Egypt”. Torah is not concerned with so called national or racial historicity. Everyone, Rabbi Akiba’s school teaches, is part of a humanity that seeks and needs the same enlightenment. Even the DNA genealogical search of authentic “Israelite antecedants” is insulting to the Torah’s message.
If Torah teachings were racially limited, they would be inferior and useless.
In the biblical Book of Esther, we already find a Jewish community spanning “From India to Africa”. We already find that “many of the peoples of the earth became Jews (mityahadim, in Hebrew). They did not adopt a race by becoming Jews, they adopted a way of living as humans, guided by higher principles. What does the Torah mean by Shem Ham and Yaffet, if not races and genealogies, we are asked ? Does the Book of Genesis not spell out the descendants of Noah’s three sons into genealogies and nations ? Just read a few chapters later, in the descendants of Abraham, to understand the answer is not so simple. For instance, among the descendants of Abraham, we find names of many black African nations, among which Efer, whose name became in essence, Africa.
And among the descendants of Ham, we find the Canaanites, who were white.
But most practically, since the tribe of Abraham was into converting people to the monotheistioc faith, race played absolutely no role. Why would Abraham marry Hagar, an egyptian princess if he thought that being a descendant of Ham made a difference since she was of a “cursed” race ? And if the curse does not apply at all, what then is its place ?
The same motive applies to the so called Eve’s curse on all women. If it applies to Eve, then it’s not on just the women, because we are all her children. If one did not read the Biblical books of wisdom, the Book of Ecclesiastes (Kohelet) the Book of Job, and the Book of Proverbs, one will understand nothing to the Book of Genesis. Let alone the notion of nations and race, even the notion of Divinity and Humanity will be hidden and cryptic to them. What is Adam ? What is the Tree of Life ? What is the Tree of Knowledge ? What is the serpent ? Even the first narratives of the Bible take a considerable amount of knowledge to be approached. Actually, the mystics show that the beginning of Torah is the level understood last. “Ma’aseh Bereshit” the mysteries of Genesis, are only taught when the student is versed in all other areas of Hebrew traditions, the social, moral, and judicial aspects of the Law. These aspects are universal, not racially oriented. Our teacher Hillel, when he resumed the entire Law by “what is hateful unto you do not do to your neighbor”, was speaking to a Gentile seeking refuge under the wings of Torah, who wanted to convert. The talmudic teacher’s pride was to say they had Haman’s descendants as their students. Haman was a genocidal hater of the Jews. But his descendants were converts to Judaism and the pride of turning them to Good was greater in our teacher’s eyes than seeking vengeance for their fathers wrongs. So they did not believe in the notion of generational “curse”. On the contrary our teachers were actively working to prove this notion wrong. From the perspective of those who transmitted us the Bible Books, who counted their letters, who told us which words are spelled differently than the written text, our talmudic teachers of the Oral Law, there is therefore no such notion as “race”. They are not only indifferent to it, they seek to abolish it. When speaking about skin tone, in an area where it matters like to identify lesions caused by leprosy, the mention 2000 years ago, (Mishna Nega’im) that Israelites had all skin tones, ranging from “black like a Kushite” to “white as a German”. Unfortunately, in a world ravaged by the damages of war, the discourse of limited national identity, of opposing teams, easily takes on whatever excuse available to further the divides between fighting parties. Even the religious discourse in such an athmosphere, gets infected by this spirit and starts to interpret the religious text for the masses to nourrish these notions.
The “curse of Ham” was used throughout the culture of the Crusades to justify war on those living South of the Mediterenean. Similarly, it is not unusual to find the mirror image being used in reverse against an invented “white culture”.
Today, some people are even ready to go into these race mythologies to the point of claiming that some humans are in fact, reptilians in disguise.
Why are people ready to swallow such lies and over-simplifications ?
How can they confuse the Infinite Love of the Creator, with a competitive sports mindset ? Who gave these ignorants the impression that they can even hold a discussion on the sacred Hebrew texts, texts which they either did not read, or understand in their original languages, or grammars, and are unable to apply in their most direct of respectful ways ?
These ignoramuses will be shocked to find that those who did in fact, keep these languages, traditions and sciences, were mostly to be found where they put their accusing arrows. Philon of Alexandria ? Egypt. The Elephantine Papyri ? Egypt. The Cairo Geniza ? Egypt. Eldad the Danite ? Congo. Saaya Ga’on ? Egypt. R. Isaac Alfassi ? Morocco. Maimonides ? Morocco. The Book of Zohar ? Morocco. The Book of Enoch ? Ethiopia.
These are the tents of Shem. In Africa. Not among a skin-tone based race, but a community of humans beyond limitating definitiond.. To base all this teaching on skin tones would be to spit at the face of intelligence. Those among the authors and interpretors of religion who made the error of linking the Ham narrative to race, were either speaking the scientifically ignorant language of their times, or being pawns in the bellicose language of war. But Torah wisdom as it stands represented by the teachers of Judaism, has since the Talmudic times when the words of the Masters were being transcribed, gone to the opposite side of blind hate, fighting it with wisdom instead of weapons, with beauty of spirit in action instead of the ugliness of pride and greed.
Judaism, as a belief system, believes in the question. It is a living Quest, which gives no easy answer. For Judaism, belonging to a race will not save you. Claiming your belief in a Savior, while acting out of ego, will not save you. You will find Judaism in the words of its masters. Not in the story of Noah and his 3 sons, but in Pirkey Avot, the Maxims of the Elders. Every word they say is foundational for the true understanding of life, and along with it, the understanding and application of the Biblical text. In these maxims, our teacher Hillel says : “If i am not for myself, who will be ?” Meaning, no race, or formula of creed, or dogma will do. Only my changing of my own self for the better can, and will, liberate me. Hillel goes on : ” And if i am only for myself, what am i ?” If i only seek my own salvation and safety, i am still greedy and self-serving, my quest is nothing. Then Hillel adds and concludes : “And if not now, when ?” Only righteous action, even the smallest at one’s present level, can allow the person to be fully in the present moment, living his life without being a liar, or a thief. One makes his ancestors proud, when by his own righteous actions he justifies their existence. When Bathya the daughter of Pharoah decided to adopt the faith of Israel, she justified G-d’s creation of her nation, since she was born from them to bring good to the world, raising Moses. Those who cannot see this most simple way of placing the Biblical narrative within its contextual intended expression, are covering the depth and beauty of the Hebrew tradition with the fog of lazy ignorance and useless divisiveness. We hope that those who are eager to know the true Hebrew Wisdom open Pirkey Avot, the Maxims of the Elders, read and teach these wonderful gems of Holy Wisdom to their children. Meditate upon the sayings of the teachers, and expand upon them into their traditional commentaries, add your own questions, explore to answer truly when asked : “What exactly is Judaism ?” So everyone knows “Pirkey Avot” is the answer.
Based on the story of Noah’s ark and the deluge related in the biblical book of Genesis,