"You shall be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth." (Gen. 9:7) "This is the book of the generations of Adam" (Gen. 5:1)

Bereishit Rabba (24:6) comments that those mentioned in the above verse are descendants, whereas the previous ones were not descendants. What then were the earlier ones? Were they deities perhaps [sarcastically]? The answer given is that the generations Adam-Seth-Enoch were indeed "generations". [The Midrash goes on to elaborate on all the changes that took place on earth during Enoch's lifetime, indicating a radical decline in man's spirituality.]

It follows that ever since [Adam] and until the arrival of Mashiach, failure to procreate cannot be equated with diminishing G‑d's Tzelem, seeing as man has lost that image (or the ability to expand it through procreation) ever since the generation of Enoch. All that man can diminish nowadays through failure to heed the commandment "be fruitful and multiply" is a reduction of the "semblance" ["Demut" in Hebrew] of G‑d.

The proof of this is found in the words in the verse "For in the image of G‑d He made Adam" - in Hebrew "et ha'adam." (Gen. 1:27) It could have simply stated: "For in the image of G‑d He made him" - in Hebrew, "oto"; there was no need for the extra words "et ha'adam". We would have known that the reference was to the person who bleeds human blood. The addition of the word "ha'adam" emphasizes that the Torah speaks of a special man, the one who had been created in the "Tzelem of G‑d". It follows that though that Tzelem had been removed from subsequent man, a "Demut", i.e. a semblance of such a Tzelem, had been retained. Since this Demut contains a degree of holiness, the commandment of "fruitful and multiply" had to be re-stated at this juncture. This blessing...is extremely necessary as an accompaniment to the sexual act…

The commandment to "be fruitful and multiply" as issued to Adam was of one category, whereas the identically worded commandment when issued to Noah and his sons was of another. The former emanated from the divine spirit, the "right" side of the sefirot, whereas the latter is rooted in man's sex drive, derived from the "left" side of the sefirot. G‑d pronounced His blessing in both instances; G‑d's blessing is what they have in common.

This blessing, which originates in very holy regions, is extremely necessary as an accompaniment to the sexual act, even though the purity of that act nowadays cannot be compared to the time Adam and Eve performed it in Garden of Eden. Adam was under the influence of Tzelem, whereas nowadays the highest level of man's holiness is Demut.

When the Torah writes "And you shall be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth," (Genesis 9:7, directed at Noah) the meaning is: prepare yourselves thoroughly so that you contain enough holiness to attract the blessing and sanctity from the "higher" regions, since now that you are dressed only in garments made of leather, the sex act is rooted in unchastity. But for the sin of Adam, obscenity would not have existed…

But for the sin of Adam, obscenity would not have existed and the sexual act would have been the fulfillment of a mitzvah, no different from the putting on of tefillin. Ever since the serpent seduced Eve, the act became one of unchastity. This is why it has become necessary to sanctify oneself prior to performance of the commandment to procreate, and why, wherever the Torah mentions unchastity, it also mentions sanctity - to urge us to elevate such acts from merely being something profane to being something sacred…

You may well ask why the commandment of procreating, which was addressed to Adam has been recorded in the Torah at all, seeing that its original dimension as applicable to Adam had already become incapable of fulfillment? This argument is especially strong seeing that the Talmud (Sanhedrin 59) states that any commandment issued to mankind as such which has been restated after the giving of the Torah at Sinai applies both to mankind at large and to Israel, whereas any that has not been restated applies to Israel only. The Talmud seems clear that the commandment to procreate is not one of the seven commandments that apply to all mankind. Why then was this commandment to Adam written down at all? We must answer that the reason it was recorded was because of its applicability in an ideal world, a world after the arrival of the Mashiach.

A comment by the Zohar states that actually the performance of that commandment should originate in the emanations on the right (i.e. chesed) side, whereas nowadays it emanates from the side in which the evil urge resides. We have a statement in the Midrash Tanchuma (parashat Nasso 16) that at the time G‑d created the universe He desired to have a residence on earth just as He has in the heavens.

We also have a statement by our sages explaining the two different introductions to the psalms "L'Dovid Mizmor" and "Mizmor L'Dovid". In the former, the Divine Inspiration came to David only after he had commenced to play the harp, whereas the words "Mizmor L'Dovid" indicate that the Divine Inspiration overcame David even before he commenced playing the harp. (Pesachim 117) "L'Dovid Mizmor" represents the highest spiritual achievement of man, seeing that he initiates his spiritual achievement. If man only responds to an "injection" of Divine Inspiration, the achievement is of a lower order. Adam had to…increase this Divine Presence much as one adds light when kindling lights from a master candle…

In the verse "Turn back to Me and I will turn back to you," (Malachi 3:7) the prophet asks Israel to initiate repentance. He urges us not to wait for G‑d to initiate the Redemption since it would then be merely an act of love and mercy. When G‑d says , "I will be gracious to whom I choose, and I will be merciful to whomever I shall be merciful to," (Exodus 33:19) Shemot Rabba (45:6) describes G‑d as showing Moses all the rewards that he had stored up in His treasure chambers for the righteous. When Moses enquired who all these treasures were for, G‑d answered that those people who possessed merit would receive some as a reward due them, whereas those who did not have any merits would receive a free gift from Him.

Obviously, the amount of the handouts granted by G‑d as unearned gifts is smaller than those gifts in store for the righteous.

In our times, when the Presence of G‑d has withdrawn from earth, we have to strive to bring it back to us. In Adam's time however, before he sinned, G‑d had a residence on earth, and all that Adam had to do was to increase this Divine Presence much as one adds light when kindling lights from a master candle. In the future this situation will prevail once more, as promised by G‑d: "I will dwell amongst them." (Exodus 25:8) The Zohar refers to this as a time in the future when it says, that the "descendants" will then originate from the side of the emanations which are the home of the holy spirit. At such a time, procreation will proceed along the lines originally planned. Nowadays, however, man must consecrate himself at the time he sleeps with his wife, and he must concentrate on begetting children that will serve the Lord if he wants to succeed in having such children.

After having observed the above, his physical part will enjoy immortality as a species or by means of his children and grandchildren, and, in addition, his soul will enjoy individual immortality.

The Talmud (Sotah 2) speaks about "a first and a second matchmaking/mating". The "first one" is described as being proclaimed in Heaven, whereas the "second one" is man-made. The reference is to the commandment to be fruitful and multiply commanded to Adam and the subsequent commandment given to Noah and his descendants. The success of the second mating, which is on the basis of man's actions, depends on man's spiritual input being the first ingredient, whereas in the future, when the input from heaven comes first, such marriages will be far superior to the matches being made on earth nowadays.

Having explained all this, we can now understand the difference between the verse "Noah walked with the L‑rd" (Gen. 6:1) and the verse in which Abraham describes himself in the words "G‑d before Whom I walked." (Gen. 24:40) Noah needed G‑d to "hold his hand", so to speak, whereas Abraham was self-propelled and took the initiative. Noah was afraid to mix with the corrupt society he lived in and isolated himself with only G‑d as his companion because he was afraid of the possible influence on him of contemporary society. Abraham was not only confident that he would not succumb to the corrupt society around him, but he tried to lead his fellow-men back to the path of monotheism and a life of good deeds. I have elaborated on this elsewhere. This is the plain meaning of those verses. Noah…relied on Divine Inspiration as the first step…

According to the path we generally follow, it will be shown that Noah's strength was not as great as Abraham's in other matters. Abraham had "awakened" himself to recognize and serve his Creator. As a result, he received considerable input via Divine Inspiration. This is what is meant when I said that rapprochement to G‑d must proceed from "the bottom up", i.e. man must be the initiator.

Noah, on the other hand, relied on Divine Inspiration as the first step. "Walking with G‑d" means after G‑d had inspired him first. The "awakening" came from Above.

On the verses "I regret that I created them (humanity). But Noah found ("matza" in Hebrew) favor in G‑d's eyes" (Genesis 6:7 and 8), Rav Kahanae comments (Bereishit Rabba 29:1) that the end of verse 6 shows that even Noah had not really been found to be worthy. He was "lucky" to have found favor in the eyes of G‑d. Noah "found favor" (passive), however G‑d did not "find" (anything of substance). The meaning is that Noah "found" that G‑d awakened him; G‑d, however, did not "find", i.e. did not see in Noah something He felt he had to "respond" to. The reverse was true of Abraham, as demonstrated by the verse we have quoted.

[Translated and adapted by Eliyahu Munk.]