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Vatishaches ha’aretz lifnei HaElokim
vat’malei ha’aretz chamas (6:11)
The Zohar HaKadosh states that prior to the sin of eating the fruit of the tree of knowledge, the serpent was known merely as “Ches.” After the serpent successfully enticed Chava to sin, Adam added to its name the letter “nun” from Hashem’s name of Lordship (ado-nai) and the letter “shin” from Hashem’s name Sha-dai in order to mitigate its potential to bring evil and sin into the world. Similarly, the accusing angel was initially known as Samech-Mem, but in order to counteract its wicked powers Adam added one of Hashem’s names and called it Sam-ael.
The Meged Yosef quotes his grandfather, the mystic Rav Leib Sharhas, that for a time, Adam’s plan worked successfully. The additions from the Divine names were able to keep the evil powers in check and the world functioned reasonably for 9 generations. The Torah notes, however, that in the generation of Noach the world was filled with chamas. This alludes to the fact that they sinned so greatly that they allowed the serpent and the prosecuting angel to regain their initial strength, as chamas is a combination of their two original names (Ches and Samech-Mem)!
In order to restore justice and civilization to the world, Hashem had no choice but to once again diminish the power of this dastardly duo. He commanded Noach to make an ark which would measure 300 cubits long (approximately 500-600 feet), 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits tall, with the roof of the ark sloping upward to one cubit so that the rain would run off.
As each letter in the Hebrew alphabet has a numerical value, we may reexpress the dimensions of the ark as shin cubits in length, nun cubits in width, lamed cubits in height, and an aleph cubit finish on the roof. The length and width are precisely the two letters needed to once again transform the “Ches” back into the nachash, while the height and the finish on top are exactly what was needed to reduce the mighty Samech-Mem into the Sam-ael, thereby allowing Noach to combat the “chamas” which was rampant in his generation and be saved from the flood brought to destroy it!
Vay’chal Noach ish ha’adama vayita kerem
vayeisht min ha’yayin vayishkar vayis’gal b’soch ohalo (9:20-21)
After the waters of the flood subsided and Hashem commanded Noach and his family to leave the ark, he encountered a desolate wasteland, a reminder of the year of unprecedented destruction the world had just endured. Overwhelmed by the sheer amount of rebuilding which was necessary to render the world once again inhabitable, Noach chose to begin by planting a vineyard.
The Torah criticizes his actions, noting that he debased himself by doing so, and the end result was that he became drunk after drinking from the wine and passed out naked in a drunken stupor. Rashi explains that Noach’s error was that he should have overcome his craving for wine and begun by planting more essential trees. Although it may be true that Noach could have displayed better judgment in his priorities for rebuilding the earth, why was his mistake so catastrophic? Even if there were more important items which needed to be planted and tended to, the vineyard also served a valuable purpose, so why does the Torah take Noach to task for such a seemingly insignificant lapse in judgment?
Rav Moshe Shmuel Shapiro, quoting Rav Yerucham Levovitz, explains that the Torah is teaching us the tremendous significance associated with the beginning of a project, for good or G-d-forbid for bad. Although this action seems to represent a trivial oversight, in reality Noach’s planting of the vineyard set the tone for his actions in rebuilding and repopulating the world. In one small lapse in judgment, he transformed himself from a perfectly righteous man (6:9) into a mundane man of the earth (9:20).
Rashi writes (Devorim 11:19) that when a child is learning to speak, his father should teach him Torah so that his first speech consists of words of Torah. He adds that one who neglects to do so is considered as if he has buried his son. Although it is admirable to begin a child’s education with spiritual and holy matters, why is one who fails to do so viewed so harshly, especially when he can fix his error by subsequently teaching his child Torah?
Rav Yerucham noted that the entire success of its growth is determined by its beginning – the time of its planting. Rashi is teaching us the power of the beginning, which forms the foundation for a child’s entire life, and everything which will transpire subsequently is an outgrowth of that basis. Although it is possible to undo the damage which was caused by poor “planting,” the strong and solid foundation will still be missing for life.
The Medrash relates (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:4) that on the night after the construction of the first Beis HaMikdash was finished, Shlomo HaMelech married the daughter of Paroh. The combination of the two celebrations was a cause for tremendous joy. In order that Shlomo shouldn’t wake up early in the morning, his new wife hung a sheet on top of his bed and drew on it pictures of the moon and stars so that when he would wake up, he would think it was still the nighttime and would continue to sleep. On that night he slept uncharacteristically until 4 hours of the day, and the Jews waiting eagerly to offer the morning sacrifice had to wait for him, as the keys to the Beis HaMikdash were underneath his head.
When his mother, Basheva, heard that the sacrifice was being delayed due to his sleeping late, she went and woke him up and rebuked him quite soundly. Although it would have been nice to bring the sacrifice at the earliest possible time, nothing was actually lost as it was offered at 4 hours of the day, which is still within its acceptable time range. Further, Shlomo did nothing wrong as he was rejoicing with his new bride, and he had only slept late as a result of her deceiving him. Why, then, was Shlomo’s mother so upset with him? Rav Shapiro explains that Basheva understood the importance of a proper beginning, both to the Beis HaMikdash and to one’s marriage, and she wanted to emphasize to Shlomo that no excuse in the world justifies damaging the foundation of a new project.
As the recent Yomim Tovim fade into the past, we return to our daily lives and projects. Whether we are returning to a new zman in yeshiva, to the new school year, to our jobs, or to our families, we should internalize the post-flood lesson of Noach, making sure to plant solid foundations which will help ensure success in all of our endeavors.
Ki mei Noach zos li asher
nishbati me’avor mei Noach
The Zohar HaKadosh notes that the Haftorah for Parshas Noach curiously makes reference to mei Noach – “the flood-waters of Noach” (Yeshaya 54:9). Noach was the only one found righteous and worthy of salvation in his generation, so it would presumably have been more appropriate to refer to it as the flood of his wicked contemporaries. However, during the 120 years that he spent building the ark, he neglected to pray for their repentance, nor did he successfully influence even a single person to repent his evil ways. Had he been more concerned about them and not sufficed with his own personal piety, he could have prevented the flood and its accompanying destruction; hence, it is memorialized as “the flood of Noach.”
The Arizal writes that Moshe Rabbeinu contained within him a spark of the soul of Noach, and part of his life mission was to rectify certain mistakes made by Noach. Moshe was the antithesis of Noach and came to correct this selfish and inappropriate lack of concern for others. Although Divine Providence brought him to Paroh’s palace where he was spared the fate of his fellow Jews, he nevertheless felt their pain from his youth and embarked upon his mission as their communal leader, often sacrificing his own personal growth and honor for their sake.
The 120 years that Noach spent absorbed in ensuring his own personal salvation through the building of the ark were perfectly rectified during Moshe’s 120 years of living for others. We witness Moshe’s ultimate dedication to his people after the sin of the golden calf. Hashem desired to eradicate the current Jewish population and to create a new nation consisting solely of Moshe’s descendants. The Darkei Mussar notes that Moshe had every right to be upset with his stiff-necked people, whom he found not mourning but celebrating what they perceived as his death and their replacement of him with an inanimate object. Nevertheless, he beseeched and implored Hashem to forgive their actions, adding that should He refuse to do so, then He should also erase Moshe from the entire Torah. This pure and unprecedented selflessness represented the ultimate correction of Noach’s errors, and not surprisingly this is hinted to as the letters in macheini (“erase me”) also spell mei Noach!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) The Medrash Tanchuma (5) derives from the word (6:9) tamim – complete – that Noach was born already circumcised. How many other Biblical figures can you name who were also born circumcised? (Medrash Tanchuma 5, Paneiach Raza)
2) Which item from Parshas Noach appears and figures prominently in Megillas Esther? (Yalkut Shimoni Esther 1056, Ayeles HaShachar)
3) Rashi writes (6:18) that those in the ark were forbidden to have martial relations. The Medrash (Devorim Rabbah 5:2) states that ants live only 6 months and the Gemora in Chullin (58b) discusses a certain insect which lives only 1 day. How were these species able to survive the flood without becoming extinct if they weren’t able to reproduce and those which entered the ark died before being permitted to leave?(Chavatzeles HaSharon, Ayeles HaShachar)
4) Why did Noach send the raven and the dove to determine if the waters of the flood had receded (Rashi 8:8) when regardless of their reports he would remain in the ark until Hashem explicitly commanded him to exit (8:15-16)? (Nesivos Rabboseinu, Derech Sicha, Ayeles HaShachar)
5) After the flood, Noach emerged from the ark and brought an offering to Hashem from every kosher animal and every kosher bird (8:18-20). The Rambam writes (Hilchos Beis HaBechirah 2:2) that the altar on which Noach offered his sacrifices was on the location on which Avrohom would bind Yitzchok and on which the altar would ultimately be built in the Beis HaMikdash in Jerusalem. As the ark came to rest on Mount Ararat (8:4), which is assumed to be in eastern Turkey, how was he able to arrive in Jerusalem with all of the animals in such a short period of time? (Radal on Pirkei D’Rav Eliezer 23:25, Nesivos Rabboseinu, Ayeles HaShachar)
6) Rashi writes (9:5) that Hashem emphasized that although after the flood it became permissible to kill an animal in order to eat it, it is still forbidden for a person to kill himself. Is this prohibition against committing suicide applicable to Jews, non-Jews, or both? (Minchas Chinuch 34, S’ridei Aish 104, Chovos HaLevavos Shaar HaBitachon, Matamei Yaakov, Chavatzeles HaSharon)
7) The Gemora in Makkos (11a) relates that when Dovid HaMelech was digging the foundation for the Beis HaMikdash, a fountain of the deep threatened to spring forth and flood and destroy the entire world. Dovid prevented this by writing Hashem’s Divine name on a piece of pottery and throwing it into the depths to make the water stay in its place. How could the water threaten to flood and destroy the earth when Hashem made a covenant with Noach (9:12-13) to never again bring a flood to destroy the world? (Shiras Dovid, Matamei Yaakov, M’rafsin Igri)
8) Hashem told Noach (9:12-13) that the rainbow will be the sign of His covenant to never again destroy the earth. Does this mean that rainbows never existed prior to the flood and Hashem changed the laws of nature in order to bring about their existence, or that they occurred previously but only now achieved a new symbolic meaning? (Seforno 9:13, Ibn Ezra, Drashos HaRan Drush 1, Ramban)
9) Rashi writes (9:22) that Canaan was cursed by Noach (9:25) because he saw Noach’s nakedness and told his father Cham about it. As Canaan isn’t listed among those who entered or exited the ark, it must be assumed that he was born just after the flood, as the Gemora in Sanhedrin (108b) lists his father as one of the three who engaged in forbidden marital relations in the ark. How was he able to walk and talk like an adult when he was at most a few months old? (Maharzu on Bereishis Rabbah 36:4, Ayeles HaShachar)
10) In listing the ten generations from Noach to Avrohom Avinu and the years of their lives (11:10-26), it is clear that the average antediluvian lifespan of the generations from Adam to Noach (5:3-32) was significantly longer than that of the post-flood generations. To what may this change be attributed? (Ramban 5:4, Moreh Nevuchim 2:47, Seforno 8:22)
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