Almost every law in the Torah commands proper action aside from the first few in the Ten commandments about G-d's and His oneness. In his book, Kosher Jesus, Chapt. 28, pg 163, Rabbi Shmuley Boteach writes, "It is inhumane to hold someone accountable for the sins of another. Judaism believes in a just G-d that holds people responsible as individuals and doesn't punish them for their ancestors' sin."
He then quotes Deuteronomy,
"Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin."
In Ezekiel, G-d declares:
"He will not die for his father's sin; he will surely live... Yet you ask, 'Why does the son not share the guilt of the father?' Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all My decrees, he will surely live. The one who sins is the one who will die. The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child. The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them."
Rabbi Shmuley later writes,
"Judaism is predicated on the belief that each of us is born neither good nor bad, but innocent. Judaism holds all are born innocent, all are accountable to G-d for their behavior — no excuses. We have a conscience, We will be judged by one thing and one thing alone: our actions. G-d, it turns out, is just."
In the chapter, he was arguing against original sin. But we could apply his reasoning to my question. Does G-d punish people for generations and kills innocent babies in the flood and the plagues in Egypt?
One view is that punishment is the result of natural consequences, which could have long-lasting effects and affect people, even for generations. If read in this way, it explains the meaning of Exodus 20:5, “visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation,” and Deuteronomy 19:15, “One witness shall not rise up against a person for any iniquity or for any misdeed.” This interpretation is supported by the Ralbag in his commentary on Exodus 20:4-5. He states that acts have consequences, for example, if a person acts improper and is therefore punished by exile, their children will grow up in exile. G-d does not inflict punishments for generations.
Another example is Exodus 12:29 which says that all the first-born, even the cattle’s first-born were killed at midnight. This is symbolic, for the Egyptians felt that the first-born was a type of cast system. G-d wanted to strip away the pagan cast system. But is this consistent and reconcilable with the Rabbi's views?
Chief Rabbi Hertz explained the nine plagues of Egypt as natural yet exaggerated events. He is silent regarding the 10th plague in this way. Why? Perhaps he felt the need for supernatural intervention? But the 10th plague can be explained naturally, too. Some rabbis see Scripture as exaggerating some events to make a point. If we apply this to the last plague than it would seem to be saying that it also struck them, the first-born. This makes sense when we consider all the aftereffects of viruses floating around from dead animals due to other plagues. This is also consistent with a just G-d, that acts have consequences and the events explained in the Bible as natural events, but nonetheless, divine.
Because how could it be that a just G-d punishes people for generations? Unless we accept the Ralbag's view or another is presented, I do not see how we can reconcile these biblical verses with the rabbi's views, and if the rabbi's views do not matter, can we use these view to combat original sin? People do not inherit sin, they grow and can commit sin later in life. Indeed, the bar mitzvah is done when the child is thirteen because they are not accountable for their own sins. It could be that they died in the food/plagues to harm the parent, but is this fair? Many have claimed that these children would have turned out evil anyway and so it was a good to prevent they're coming into the world. If so, why did G-d create them, to begin with? No doubt the Nazis would have equally claimed Jewish babies as evil inclinations for their premature eradication and justification of the holocaust. Besides, the rabbi says that babies are innocent. The proof is that even some Amalekites converted to Judaism and become Torah-observant Jews, expressing the view that it is wrong to slaughter all women and children.
The rabbi ends the chapter with this, "The matter is settled by G-d's own pronouncement. No person inherits or is punished for someone else's sin.
My question is, how do we reconcile G-d punishing generations and babies in the flood? Is it good enough to accept the Ralbag's interpretation in these instances? for G-d is just.