Noah and his family leave the ark, and are blessed by God with similar words to the ones He used with Adam. “Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth (Genesis 9:1).” Creation has entered a new cycle, with humanity, and the world, needing to be replenished by man, who once again takes his place as a co-agent in the act of creation. Noah, who is responsible for replenishing the earth, is now given control over the creatures that populate the earth, the beasts and fish and fowl, and for the first time, man can eat animals. Prior to the flood, humans were vegetarians, but now that man has been responsible for saving the animals, he is given dominion over them and can become carnivorous. (yay!)
God establishes a covenant with Noah, and with his descendants, that never again will he destroy the world. He seals the covenant with a rainbow, which until today remains the symbol of a storm being over, thereby reassuring humanity that no matter how bad the storm is, the rains will end and the world will not be destroyed.
Now that Noah has left the ark, he plans a vineyard, drinks the wine that he produces, and gets drunk. “He was uncovered within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his brothers…and Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his youngest son had done unto him. And he said: ‘Cursed be Canaan (Genesis 9:21-22, 24-25).'”
Crazy story, to say the least. This is one of the times that the Torah says so much by what it leaves out. What is it that Ham did to his father? Why is Noah’s reaction to curse Canaan? What does it say that finally, after several chapters with Noah as the central figure, the first words we hear him speak are a curse on his own descendants?
There are some commentators who say that Ham’s sin against his father was disrespecting him by seeing him in a compromised position and reporting it to his brothers, thereby humiliating him. There are others who hold that Ham’s sin was sexual in nature. Still, while both of these are terrible sins for a son to commit against his parent, they still leave me questioning why, then, Ham’s son is the one who is cursed.
There is one explanation that intrigues me. When the text says that Ham saw the nakedness of his father, it means that nakedness belonging to his father – the nakedness of his mother. This reading says that Ham behaved in an inappropriate sexual manner towards his mother, and that Canaan, his son, is the product of this act. Therefore, Canaan, the child of incest, is cursed throughout the generations.
Dysfunctional family alert!