NoachFor the week ending 4 Cheshvan 5756; 27 & 28 October 1995
It is now ten generations since the creation of the first man,
Adam HaRishon. Adam's descendents have corrupted the world with
immorality, idolatry and robbery, and Hashem resolves to bring
a flood which will destroy all the earth's inhabitants except
for Noach, the sole righteous man of his era, his family and sufficient
animals to re-populate the earth. Hashem instructs Noach to build
an Ark in which to escape the Flood. After forty days and nights,
the flood covers the entire earth, even the tops of the highest
mountains. After 150 days, the water begins to recede. On the
17th day of the 7th month, the Ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat.
Noach sends forth first a raven and then a dove to ascertain if
the waters have abated. The dove returns. A week later, Noach
again sends out the dove, which returns the same evening with
an olive branch in its beak. After seven more days, Noach once
again sends forth the dove, which this time does not return. Hashem
then tells Noach and his family to leave the Ark. Noach brings
offerings to Hashem from the animals in the Ark which were carried
for this purpose. Hashem vows never again to flood the entire
world and gives the rainbow as a sign of this covenant. Noach
and his descendants are now permitted to eat meat, unlike Adam.
Hashem commands the Seven Universal Laws; the prohibition of idolatry,
categories of forbidden sexual relations, murder, eating the meat
of a living animal, and the institution of a legal system. The
world's climate is established as we know it today. Noach plants
a vineyard and becomes intoxicated from its produce. Ham, one
of Noach's sons, delights in seeing his father drunk and uncovered.
Shem and Yafes, however, manage to cover their father without
looking at his nakedness, by walking backwards. For this incident,
Ham is cursed that the descendants of his son Canaan will be
the lowest of slaves. The Torah lists the offspring
of Noach's three sons from whom are descended the seventy nations
of the world. The Torah records the incident of the Tower of Bavel,
which results in Hashem fragmenting communication into many languages
and the dispersal of the nations throughout the world. The Parsha
concludes with the genealogy of Noach to Avram.
If the Torah itself praises Noach, why would one think to imply that it is belittling him?
Really, the idea is this: Noach recognized the depravity of his
generation so clearly that he stinted no effort to distance himself
from it in every possible way. Thus, he made himself into a tzadik.
In the time of Avraham Avinu, however, there would have been no
such motivation, since the people were on a much higher spiritual
level. Consequently Noach would not have made the effort to perfect
(Adapted from Rabbi Yoizil Horowitz)
Hashem first tells Noach that He is going to destroy all life, but doesn't tell him that it will be by a Flood. Then Hashem instructs Noach to build an Ark, and only after that does Hashem inform Noach that He is going to flood the world. Why did Hashem wait to tell Noach that He was going to destroy the world with water until after He had commanded the building of the Ark?
The obvious answer it that Hashem wanted Noach to build the Ark
to fulfill His command, and not for his own rescue. For, without
knowing that a Flood was the chosen method of destruction, Noach
could equally well have built himself a deep earth trench as a
fallout shelter against lethal solar radiation. From this we can
learn a lesson for all mitzvos - we should do them purely
because they are the will of Hashem, even if we think we may know
(Adapted from Rabbi Moshe Feinstein)
The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) refers to the Flood as the 'waters of Noach', implying that Noach bears at least partial responsibility for the Flood. For, if Noach had taught his generation to know Hashem by instructing them to emulate Hashem's middos (character traits), they surely would have repented.
The Rambam (Maimonides) once had a dispute with a philosopher whether instinct or behavioral training governs the behavior of an animal. The philosopher held that an animal can be trained so completely that it can be made to do almost anything. To prove his point, he painstakingly trained a number of cats to stand upright, balance trays on their paws and serve as waiters. He dressed them for the part in white shirts with little black bow-ties, and conducted a banquet with the cats as the waiters. As these feline waiters were serving the soup, The Rambam, who had been invited to the banquet, released a mouse... The banquet room was turned to pandemonium as the cats, forgetting all their hundreds of hours of training, let their trays crash to the ground, rushing about on all fours after the mouse.
Without training, a person's baser instincts and desires will
drag him onto all fours. However, the human being is distinct
from the animals by virtue of his ability to perfect his middos
so that they control his baser instincts. One who has not yet
worked on perfecting his middos will, like the trained
cat, be able to put on a show of discipline for a time, but only
so long as no 'mice' are released in his path... Only after a
person has acquired good character traits, will the Torah reside
in him, for even though only Torah can bring one's middos
to ultimate perfection, where there is no foundation of proper
middos, the acquisition of Torah is impossible.
(Adapted from Shiurei Binah - Rabbi Zev Leff)
Insights into the Zemiros sung at the Shabbos table throughout the generations.
"A Woman of Valor..."
Hear this Zemir
The 22 concluding passages of King Solomon's Proverbs serve as a tribute to Hashem and his Torah on one level and on another level to the Shabbos and the Jewish woman who prepares the home for it. The simple and allegorical implications of "woman" used by Solomon find expression in the Talmudic interpretation of the passage: "He who has found a woman has found good" (Proverbs 18:22). If this is a literal reference to woman, say our Sages, see how good is the good woman that even Scripture praises her. If this is an allegorical reference to Torah, concludes the Sage Rava, see how good the good woman is that she has been chosen to serve as an allegory for Torah itself. In similar fashion we say these Biblical verses, each beginning with one of the 22 letters of the Hebrew alphabet, as a tribute to all the divine dimensions of the holy day we have just begun to enjoy and to the Jewish wife and mother whose accomplishments form the canvas on which our song of praise is painted.
Written and Compiled by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair
General Editor: Rabbi Moshe Newman
Production Design: Lev Seltzer
© 1995 Ohr Somayach International - All rights reserved. This publication may be distributed to another person intact without prior permission. We also encourage you to include this material in other publications, such as synagogue newsletters. However, we ask that you contact us beforehand for permission, and then send us a sample issue.
This publication is available via E-Mail
Ohr Somayach Institutions is an international network of Yeshivot and outreach centers, with branches in North America, Europe, South Africa and South America. The Central Campus in Jerusalem provides a full range of educational services for over 550 full-time students. The Jewish Learning Exchange (JLE) of Ohr Somayach offers summer and winter programs in Israel that attract hundreds of university students from around the world for 3 to 8 weeks of study and touring.
Copyright © 1995 Ohr Somayach International. Send comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Dedication opportunities are available for Torah Weekly. Please contact us for details.