Religion & Beliefs

Hamas!

Welcome to weekly Storah: verse per verse, E-Z access to biblical know-how one verse at a time. Lauviticus offers a glimpse at translations and their modern relevance to our lives. For the audio version, click here. To subscribe to this … Read More

By / October 26, 2006

Welcome to weekly Storah: verse per verse, E-Z access to biblical know-how one verse at a time. Lauviticus offers a glimpse at translations and their modern relevance to our lives.

For the audio version, click here. To subscribe to this podcast, click here. Divine wrath or ecological inevitability – almost every world culture has a flood myth, and this week, in a synagogue near you, the official Jewish version aka NOAH, will be chanted out loud. What was so bad on earth to cause the flood? The Hebrew word that describes the lifestyle that was doomed to extinction is loaded onto the word HAMAS. Translated most often as violence or outrage. It can also mean injustice, oppression, or cruelty. And if the word is familiar to you from current events, read on. More than linguistic ties between Hebrew and Arabic meet here. Robert Alter translates the verse in Genesis 6:11 in this way:  'And the earth was corrupt before God and the earth was filled with outrage.'

The King James Bible talks of 'the earth… filled with violence'. Jewish Publication Society prefers ' Lawlessness'. Check your local bible for fascinating variations.

Umberto Cassuto, the late biblical scholar, suggests hamas means "a cold-blooded and unscrupulous infringement of the personal rights of others, motivated by greed and hate and often making use of physical violence and brutality." These ancient and biblical meanings are eclipsed by the immediate association of the Hebrew word with the name of the organization currently leading the Palestinian Authority. In Arabic the word hamas means "enthusiasm" or "zeal" and in this case also an acronym for the Arabic phrase Harakat al-Mqawama al-Islamiyya (The Islamic Resistance Movement)

But while THIS Hamas echos that pre flood word, it is but one of many voices on the planet, bringing on new floods in complex and multiple ways. And for Jews, too, the word Hamas is of troubling mythic significance. Further on in Genesis, a bitterly barren Sarah, lashes out at Hagar, her proudly pregnant rival, and at Abraham, husband and Patriarch in the making: ‘My Hamas on you!’ her words of rage, outrage, too much pain, terrible violence resonate still. (Gen. 16:5) Too much need, greed, zeal and despair have led the world once into divine rage and a fatal flood.  Maybe somewhere between that biblical rage and this modern reality is a common bond, a lesson to be learnt. Lauvticius would like to suggest this translation to pre-flood warning then and now: and the earth was filled with excess. What, for each one of us, in our personal earths, is the excessive intensity that beckons introspection? Let’s talk. Lauviticus