Rabbi Jose, whilst on a visit to Rabbi Simeon, asked this question: "What impelled the Holy One to Destroy, along with sinners, the beasts of the field and the fowl of the air? Were they alike responsible for the vast wickedness of the antediluvians?"
Said Rabbi Simeon: "It was because, as we read, And God looked upon the earth and behold it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way, upon the earth (Gen. VI. 12); implying that the animal creation also had forsaken its natural habits and desires after its own species resulting in the production of monstrous and abnormal forms. This was mainly owing to man's corruption and transgression against natural laws, and therefore the Holy One said, Through following and indulging in your lustful inclinations and passions you seek to derange and destroy the order of nature, I will destroy from off the face of the earth all living creatures and will purify the world by water, as at the beginning of creation; and, after that, will repeople it with a new progeny both of men and animals, better than what now exists.' It is written, 'Noah with his sons and his wife and his sons' wives entered into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.'" (Gen. VII. 7).
Said Rabbi Hiya: "We read, 'Can anyone hide himself in a secret place, that I shall not see him, saith the Lord. Do I not fill heaven and earth (Jer. XXIII. 24). How great the number of those who foolishly refrain from meditation on the law and the words of their Lord, imagining they can conceal their sins and wrong doing from his all-seeing eye, and say unto themselves, who will see and know what we do? Of such it is written, 'Woe unto them that seek deep to hide their counsel from the Lord, and their works are in the dark, and they say, Who seeth us and who knoweth us?' (Is. XXIX. 15). To them may be applied the following parable. A certain king
built a large palace with subterraneous passages and chambers.68a-68b Eventually his attendants rebelled against him. He then ordered his guards to seize and imprison them. In order to escape punishment, the rebels went and hid themselves in the secret underground chambers. On hearing of this, the king said, 'Do they think to hide from me who planned and built the palace and therefore am fully acquainted with all its secret hiding places?' To those who seek to hide their sins and misdeeds, God says, 'It is I who have built the secret places; it is I who concealed light and darkness, and you imagine you can hide from me.' Observe when anyone commits sins secretly, the divine law of karma will cause them to become revealed and manifested to the world. But if he repents and desires to atone for them, the Holy One hides him in a manner that the avenging and destroying angle is unable to behold and afflict him. Therefore it is the opinion of Rabbi Simeon that one who has the evil eye, that is, who is naturally envious and jealous in disposition, is biased by the spirit of evil, and, in the sphere wherein he moves, becomes himself a power of evil to others and should be avoided, in order to escape injury from him. For the sake of self-preservation it therefore behoves everyone to shun by the exercise of caution the deadly glances of the destroying angel. Speaking of Balaam, the scripture states, 'And Balaam the son of Beor hath said, and the man whose eye was closed hath said' (Num. XXIV. 3). Now Balaam possessed the evil eye and whenever he directed on anyone his looks, on him the destroying angel alighted. And knowing this, he turned his gaze upon Israel in order to afflict and destroy them. But note what is said. 'And Balaam lifted up his eyes.' It is not written eyes, but 'his eye,' and he beheld Israel abiding in their tents according to their tribes.' As he looked, he detected the presence of the Schekina in their midst, overshadowing and protecting them, so that the glance of his evil eye proved powerless and ineffectual to afflict and injure them. Then he exclaimed, 'How can I prevail against them, seeing that the Holy Spirit their protector is watching over and guarding them against all evil, for he coucheth and lays down as a lion and as a great lion, who shall stir him up?' (Num. XXIV. 9) or, in other words, who shall cause the Shekina to depart from the midst of Israel so that I may attack them with the power of my evil eye? It was in a similar manner the Holy One wished to protect Noah and hide him from
the power of the destroying angel's evil glances to afflict him, and so commanded him to enter and conceal himself within the ark and thus escape from the onrushing waters of the deluge."
Said Rabbi Jose: "Noah saw the angel of death approaching and therefore went into the ark in which he was concealed for a period of twelve months, respecting which there is a difference of opinion between Rabbi Isaac and Rabbi Jehuda, one affirming that this term is the fixed duration of the punishment of the wicked, the other that it was necessary for68b Noah to pass through the twelve degrees or stages of righteousness ere he could become a just and perfect man."
Said Rabbi Jehuda: "The punishment of the wicked endures six months by water and six months by fire. The punishment of the antediluvians was by water, why therefore did it endure twelve months?"
Said Rabbi Jose: "The punishment of the guilty in Gehenna is effected both by water and fire; that is to say, first by the descent upon them of waters cold as ice, for a period of six months, and of boiling waters for a like period and that rise from below, and is the chastisement by fire, as has been handed down by tradition. It was therefore essential that Noah should remain in the ark for twelve months to avoid the glances of the death angel who was then unable to afflict him when it floated upon the face of the waters, as scripture states, 'And it was lifted up above the earth.' Woe unto evil doers who will never rise again and appear at the day of judgment. They become blotted out of existence, as it is written, 'Thou hast blotted out their names forever'; (Ps. IX. 6) words spoken of those who perish everlastingly in the primordial fire. 'And the waters bare up the ark and it was lift up above the earth.'" (Gen. VII. 17). The actual punishment lasted only forty days upon the earth, as scripture states, 'And the flood was forty days upon the earth,' the remainder of the year serving for the complete effacement of the antediluvians from off the face of the earth.
Said Rabbi Abba: It is written, 'Be thou exalted, oh God, above the heavens, and let thy glory be above all the earth' (Ps. LVII. 11). Woe unto the wicked and unrighteous who daily insult their Lord and by their misdeeds repulse the schekina from them and cause it to forsake and depart from the world. In this verse the Schekina is called Alhim. Observe the words
of scripture, 'And the waters bare up the ark'; that is to say,68b-69a the deeds of sinful men repel the Schekina, of whom the ark is a symbol. When this happens, the earth is left without a defender and protector against impending judgments and affliction that assail it from all sides. Only after they have run their course and the wicked have been destroyed, does it return again into this lower world."
Here Rabbi Jose asked the question: "If this be so, why has not the Schekina returned again to the land of Israel after the dispersion of faithless and sinful Jews?
Rabbi Abba replied: "Because there are found in it no longer any just and righteous men. Wherever the just are, there is the Schekina abiding and dwelling amongst them, even though they leave their native land and emigrate to a foreign country. Of all the sins that tend to drive the Schekina from the world, self-defilement is the most heinous, as was already remarked, and he who is guilty of it will never behold the face of the Schekina, and never ascend into the heavenly palace, but will become as scripture states, 'destroyed from the face of the earth,' and that completely, so the Holy One shall raise the dead.