David Sklar, PhD, ACSW
NOAH, THE ANGER AND SHAME OF THE ALCOHOLIC FATHER
Updated: Apr 22, 2020
We all remember the story of Noah in the Bible. Noah is told by G-d to build an ark in lieu of G-d's decision to destroy the world. Noah was to take his family, along with all the animals in nature, load them on the Ark, ride out the flood which will kill everything on earth, then upon landing, begin planting a new, more just and moral world order. Nice story, but not as nice as it may have first appeared. Two things occur shortly after disembarking. 1) Noah kills many of the animals he had cared for on the Ark as a sacrifice to G-d, who smells the sweet smell and realizes "the imagination of man's heart is evil from is youth", and allows human beings to eat meat (previous to Noah we were all vegetarians). Noah then receives blessings from G-d, plants a vineyard, gets wasted, and is found by his son Ham drunk and naked in his tent. "And Noah began to be a husbandman, and he planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he was uncovered within his tent .And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren without." (King James Bible, 9:20-22). Noah, until that moment was a disciplined man. He awoke every morning for decades to work on building an Ark. He undertook the daily tasks of feeding and caring for hundreds of animal. He was the most righteous man of his generation.You get the sense G-d didn't pick him out of a bar. Yet his second greatest urge (Noah's first urge was to kill animals as a sacrifice to G-d) after all he endured was to plant grapes instead of wheat, get drunk before eating bread. This comes out of nowhere. Perhaps altering our reality through mood altering substances is intrinsic to our being. It seem so for Noah.
Noah is found naked drunk by his son Ham. What happens when the hungover Noah awakens has historical consequences." And Noah awoke from his wine, and knew what his younger son had done unto him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan, a servant of servants shall he be unto his brethren. And he said, Blessed be the Lord G-d of Shem, and Canaan shall be his servant (KJ,9:24-26). Noah curses his progeny and punishes the descendants of Ham for eternity for finding him drunk and telling his brothers. Like most drunks, he blames others for what he caused by being angry at his son for seeing. Noah curses Ham rather then accept responsibility for what Noah created. It is an interesting example of how the shame of the alcoholic father becomes an attack on the son who has seen and lost respect.