a gay black woman's discovery of her jewish self

Chava Talks The “Curse” of Ham

Posted on: October 18, 2012

 

No I’m Not Cursed

Cross-posted from Chava at Not a Contradiction.

This week we read Parshat Noach, which contains one of the most well-known stories in the entire Torah.  What a lot of people don’t realize is that this popular story also contains the curse of Ham (or the Hamitic Myth as it is sometimes called), something many use to justify racism towards and the oppression of black people.  And while granted this justification has fallen out of favor for many in the mainstream American and liberal Jewish community, for those who believe in a more literal and traditional interpretation of the Torah it is still as valid as ever.

My sister has been asked at Shabbat meals “So how do you feel about the curse of Ham?”, I’ve had people justify comments about the inferiority about black people with “It’s in the Torah.”  Except, no…folks, it’s not.

For those who need a quick update on what the curse of Ham is..here goes. After the flood ends and the water dissipates Noach and his family leave the ark.  Apparently, after being stuck on ark for all that time, the first thing Noach wants is a glass of wine.  Thus, the first thing he does is grow a vineyard.  Unfortunately, he partakes of his own product a little too much and passes out from intoxication.  His son Ham, sees his intoxicated state and engages in some inappropriate behavior (what that behavior consists of is a source of rabbinic debate).  Ham mentions the drunken state of Noach to his two brothers and Ham’s brothers respectfully and without looking at their unclothed father, cover him up.  When Noach awakes he realizes what Ham had done and curses his son Canaan.  Noach’s curse calls for Ham’s son Canaan to be a subjugated slave to his brothers.

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