Parshat Noach Vol.10 No.7

Date of issue: 6 Cheshvan 5761 -- November 4, 2000

This week's issue has been sponsored by the Leben family in honor of Tamara's Bat Mitzvah.

How to sponsor

This week's featured writers:

Rabbi Ezra Wiener
Yehuda Turetsky
Moshe Glasser
Shuky Gross
Rabbi Howard Jachter
-
*Introduction to Bishul*
Halacha of the Week
Food For Thought
-by *Dani Gross and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky*

The Covenant of the Rainbow
by Rabbi Ezra Wiener

The difficulties that emerge from the juxtaposition of two or more seemingly unrelated topics in the Torah frequently generate Halachic and/or philosophical connections between the topics. Parshat Noach is no different in this regard.

Upon his departure from the Teiva, Noach erects a Mizbeach and offers Korbanot. (Although the notion of bringing an offering was introduced previously by Kayin and Hevel, it is Noach who establishes a precedent for the offering of an Olah on a Mizbeach.) Hashem then smells the Rayach Nichoach and is resolved not to "curse the ground anymore for the sake of man." This is followed by a blessing to be fruitful and multiply which in turn is followed by a guarantee that the beasts will be instilled with fear of man and man is permitted to eat all moving creatures. At this juncture, Noach is commanded regarding the prohibition of suicide, the response that Hashem exhibits, and the way a court should act towards a murderer. The section concludes with the establishment of a covenant via the testimony of the Keshet (rainbow).

In addition to the difficulty in establishing a correlation between these episodes and commandments, another problem at the beginning of the Parsha becomes evident: Was it necessary for the Torah to describe the measurements of the Teiva in such detail?

In truth, this last difficulty may not be of much concern to us, as we are quite used to detailed measurements, specifically in the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels.

This echo of the Mishkan, which accompanies the description of the long, arduous task of building the Teiva, may present us with a solution to our original problem.

The Mishkan epitomizes the human being's need for a physical manifestation of Kedusha, and the Korbanot represent the human being's desire and capability to sanctify himself through the mundane and the physical. It is when only Noach takes the initiative to offer Korbanot from such a limited stock, demonstrating the human's capability to sanctify the physical world, that Hashem vows not to bring destruction to the world. Noach's actions therefore merit a blessing to procreate, as this is the type of "new world" that Hashem sees fit to have its inhabitants multiply within. As Noach demonstrates the ability to use animals for a holy purpose, Hashem in turn gives Noach permission to consume animals and other living creatures even for unholy purposes. This can only be a reality if the animals indeed are fearful of the humans. There is one concern, however, with the innovation of sacrificing animals; As the nations of the world were eventually to introduce the sacrifice of human beings as a religious practice and as a primary manifestation of the sanctification of the physical, Hashem cautions Noach that this next step in the sanctification process is antireligious and unholy. The human being is created in the image of Hashem and that image is to be preserved by refraining from taking one's own life and by insuring that punishment is exacted for those who do not deem precious the life of a human being.

What better representation of man's ability to elevate the Earth and its creatures to spiritual heights, and more specifically to offer them to Hashem, than the rainbow, which stretches from the earth to the heavens?

Love or Fear
by Yehuda Turetsky

Many Midrashim compare and contrast Noach and Avraham. In fact, Rashi quotes an opinion that if Noach were in the same generation as Avraham, he would not have been considered such a Tzaddik. Some suggest that the reason for this is that Noach did not pray to help the people of his generation, whereas Avraham, placed in a similar situation, prayed for the people of Sedom.

The Kedushat Levi, Reb Levi Yitzchak Miberditchev, explains that there are two types of Tzaddikim. Some serve Hashem wholeheartedly but do not bring others closer to Hashem through their services. Others serve Hashem and are able to bring others who do not act properly closer to Hashem. The Kedushat Levi quotes the Ari Hakadosh, who says that Noach received a punishment because of his inability to bring the people of his generation closer to Hashem. He explains, however, that the reason Noach did not pray for the people of his generation was because he did not view himself so highly. Consequently, he did not feel that his prayers would have any affect on Hashem's decision to bring the flood.

The Shem Mishmuel might offer another explanation why Noach did not interact with the people around him. Noach's righteousness was with him from the earliest parts of his life, and his goal in life was to retain this high level. Avraham, however, had to work very hard to attain his high level. Since Noach's job was to retain his Kedusha, he had to separate himself from the people of his generation. This could be why he did not help those around him repent, whereas Avraham, who knew how to rise in Kedusha, was able to bring many other people closer to Hashem.

The Slonimer Rebbe, zt"l, wrote that there was a fundamental difference between Avraham and Noach: Avraham's dominant trait was Chessed, and Avraham was closer to Hashem through his Ahava while Noach was closer to Hashem through his Yira. This helps explain the Pasuk, Et Haelokim Hithalech Noach, "Noach walked with Hashem" (6:9). It was Elokim, the name of Hashem that represents Yira, that was most relevant to Noach. This teaches us an important lesson: one can reach Hashem in a variety of ways: through Ahava or through Yira; as long as we strive to be close to Hashem, everything else will fall into place.

Don't Drink and Prophesy
by Moshe Glasser

In Parshat Noach, we come across a fascinating incident. Noach, having just arrived on solid ground after being at sea for almost a year, plants a vineyard. When the grapes mature, he uses them to make wine, becomes intoxicated in his tent, removes his clothes, and is found in his tent by his son Cham. Cham tells his brothers Shem and Yefet of their father's embarrassing state, and Shem and Yefet respond by covering their father in as dignified a way as possible. When Noach regains his senses, he curses Cham and Cham's son Canaan for their disrespectful behavior, and he blesses Shem and Yefet for their kind deed.

This episode is extremely confusing, and a number of questions arise from it. First, Cham is constantly referred to as "the father of Canaan." Why is he seen only in terms of his son? Second, why would Noach, in a world recently devastated by flood and stripped of all vegetation, plant a crop that is not vital to the survival of life? It would make more sense for him to concentrate his energy on crops that are necessary sustain life, such as grains, or on the digging of wells. Instead, he plants a fruit that is used for frivolous purposes. Additionally, why would Shem and Yefet go into their father's tent and cover him; wouldn't it have been be easier for them to have just guarded the entrance of the tent so that others could not enter?

The answers to these questions are all connected. First, examine Canaan, forefather of the nations Bnai Yisrael conquered many generations later. Here he is seen as the heir to Cham's tradition: certainly nothing to be proud of. It is now easier to understand why this nation must be conquered, knowing that their ancestor was capable of embarrassing his father in such a fashion. (Rashi states that it was Canaan who saw Noach intoxicated and naked, and he told his father about it.)

To understand the next question, one must understand why Noach wished to become intoxicated. He had undoubtedly heard about Gan Eden: the easy existence, the unchallenging life, the simple state of a world run by Hashem with man as a bystander. He wished to restore that existence and believed that if he did his part in restoring it, Hashem would handle the rest. The first aspect would be to remove his clothes and return to the state of Adam and Chava in Gan Eden, where clothes were not necessary. To do so, he first had to loosen his inhibitions, which is easier to accomplish when intoxicated. Thus, he was not trying to have a good time, but rather to recreate Gan Eden, first in the privacy of his tent and eventually worldwide. The final question is now easily answered, as Noach's purpose is understood. Shem and Yefet, in covering their father with the very item he wished to shed in the return to Gan Eden, were showing their father that one can never go back: Gan Eden is gone, and we must deal with the world we are given.

Noach was the first idealist, a man who looked at the world not as it was, but as it should have been. Shem, Yefet, and even Cham (though in a harsher manner that his brothers) were more practical, and they realized that the world can only be altered to a certain extent, certainly not as far as Noach wished.

While this episode in Noach's life shows us that some things can never go back to the way they were, it does give us hope and a little advice. Only those willing to look or feel a little strange can possibly hope to change the world; only a man willing to remove his clothes and release his inhibitions could possibly hope to restore Gan Eden. The world cannot change completely, but we have to improve the world that is presented to us. An idealist never achieves his goal by creating a new society; rather, he uses the existing system or society and improves upon it from the inside to create a piece of his vision of perfection. May the idealists among us rise to the challenge and make the world a better place from the inside out.

Potential
by Shuky Gross

This week's Parsha opens by stating, Noach Ish Tzaddik Tamim Haya Bedorotav, Et Haelokim Hithalech Noach, "Noach was a righteous man in his generation; Noach followed the ways of Hashem" (6:9). On the word Bedorotav, "in his generation," Rashi points to a Machloket as to whether Noach would have been called a Tzaddik had he lived at the same time as Avraham Avinu. One side says that he would have been a Tzaddik and would have been greater than all the other Tzaddikim of that time. The other side argues that had he lived at the same time of Avraham he would not have been a Tzaddik at all; he would have just been an average person.

We can learn from this that everyone has potential to be either a Tzaddik or an average person. One should try to make an impact upon his generation and rise to his challenges to become a Tzaddik. If one tries to be this type of person, he will hopefully be a source of Nachat and pride to his family and to all of Klal Yisrael.

Halacha of the Week

If one speaks Lashon Hara, he often fails to fulfill the Mitzva to judge others kindly and favorably (introduction to Sefer Chafetz Chaim).

Food for Thought
by Dani Gross and Avi-Gil Chaitovsky

1) Noach gave Cham the curse of being enslaved to Shem and Yefet forever. Why, then, according to Rashi, was Nimrod Tzad Daatan Shel Briot, able to capture and rule the minds of men, if he was supposed to be a slave to the descendants of Shem and Yefet?

2) Throughout Parshat Bereishit, Rashi often says that there is a way to understand a difficulty with the help of a Midrash, but he does not explain the Midrash. For example, Rashi writes on 3:8, Midrash Agada Rabim...Vaani Lo Bati Ela Lepishuto Shel Mikra. How does Rashi decide which Midrashim are Pshat and which are Drah?

3) Why is Yoktan not mentioned when the rest of Ever's children are mentioned in 11:17? Additionally, why doesn't the Torah mention the children of Peleg in 10:25 and only mention them later in 11:18?

4) What is the significance of the Areiv and the Yonah that Noach sends from the Teiva? Why do we sing a Zemer about the Yona on Shabbat?

If you have a response to these questions, please contact us at koltorah@hotmail.com Responses may be published upon agreement of the provider.

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Avi-Gil Chaitovsky, Dani Gross
Managing Editors: Moshe Glasser, Zevi Goldberg
Publication Editor: Daniel Wenger
Business Manager: Ilan Tokayer
Staff: Josh Dubin, Michael Humphrey, Binyamin Kagedan, Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter, Yechiel Shaffer, Gil Stein
Consultant: David Gertler
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

Subscription information

Report an error

Back to the home page

This publication contains Torah matter and should be treated accordingly.