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Parshas Noach - Vol. 5,
Compiled by Oizer Alport
Vayomer Hashem l’Noach bo atah v’chol beis’cha el hateiva ki oscha raisi tzaddik l’fanai b’dor hazeh (7:1)
Although the Torah previously testified (6:9) that Noach was completely perfect and righteous, when addressing him directly Hashem mentioned only that he was righteous, leaving out the full extent of his piety. Rashi explains that this teaches us that when somebody is speaking in the presence of the person he is praising, he should relate only a portion of that person’s admirable qualities.
Rav Akiva Eiger was once called upon to perform a seemingly impossible task: to eulogize somebody whose greatness was beyond his contemporaries’ comprehension: the legendary Gaon of Vilna. He began his eulogy by discussing this very difficulty, questioning how he could accept upon himself the responsibility of describing and summing up the greatness of the irreplaceable treasure which had been lost.
He explained that Rashi’s comment on our verse provided him the only justification he could find to allow him to agree to the speech. The Gemora in Shabbos (153a) teaches that the soul of the deceased is present when it is being eulogized. In light of this fact, we may apply Rashi’s principle to conclude that when praising somebody who is present, one is only required to relate part of his praises, and in that case the eulogy may begin!
Vayehi ha’mabul arba’im yom al ha’aretz (7:17)
Parshas Noach is read in the month of Marcheshvan. However, the name for this month as well as the other months originated in Babylon, as the names by which we know them aren’t mentioned in Tanach. In fact, on a Biblical level, most months have no names and are simply referred to by their place in the calendar (e.g. the first month, the second month, etc.). Interestingly, the month of Marcheshvan has an alternate name, as the verse (Melochim 1 6:38) refers to it by the name “Bool.”
The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Melochim 1 184) explains that this is because the flood began in this month, and it lasted for 40 days. The word for a flood is “mabul,” which denotes 40 days (the numerical value of the letter “mem”) of “bool.” What remains to be understood is what does the word “bool” mean, and what is its connection to the flood?
In modern Hebrew the term “bool” means a stamp, but the actual term refers to transforming the appearance of an object to take on a new image, such as machines which are able to transform a penny into a souvenir with a new picture on it. In other words, the word “bool” is used to connote that one image has been erased and obliterated in order to make room for the creation of a new one. This is precisely what happened during the “mabul,” when Hashem flooded the world for 40 days to destroy it in order to make room for a new, more righteous society comprised of Noach’s descendants.
Similarly, Rav Dovid Orlovsky points out that the Torah begins with the letter “beis” and ends with the letter “lamed.” The Gemora in Kiddushin (30a) teaches that the middle letter of the Torah is the “vav” in the word “gachon” (Vayikra 11:42). Together, these letters spell the word “bool,” alluding to the fact that the Torah, which was given in 40 days just like the flood, has the ability to completely transform a person by obliterating what was originally present in order to facilitate the creation of a new, holier person.
As we read Parsha Noach, the memories of the prayers and promises that we made during the months of Elul and Tishrei are still fresh in our minds. In Parshas Noach we read about the power of the “mabul” which began in this month to obliterate the world in order to bring about a new creation in its place. Through the study of Torah, the month of “Bool” similarly contains within it the power to assist each of us in effecting the personal revolution and transformation that we yearned for and resolved to achieve.
Vayikach Shem v’Yefes es hasimla vayasimu al sh’chem shneihem vayeilchu achoranis vay’chasu es ervas avihem up’neihem achoranis v’ervas avihem lo ra’u (9:23)
After the waters of the flood subsided and Hashem commanded Noach and his family to leave the ark, Noach 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, he chose to begin by planting a vineyard. The Torah criticizes Noach’s actions, noting that he desecrated and sullied himself by doing so. The end result was that he became drunk after drinking from the wine and passed out naked in a drunken stupor.
When Noach’s sons Shem and Yefes became aware of his humiliating and degrading condition, they approached him with a garment to cover him, an act for which they were praised and rewarded. However, what is interesting to note is that the Torah emphasizes that when Shem and Yefes approached Noach, they walked backward and turned away their faces so as not to see their Noach in his disgraced state. This is difficult to understand. Even if they were ashamed to personally witness their father’s degraded state, why did they approach him while walking backwards? Why didn’t they simply walk in a regular fashion and close their eyes, which is significantly easier?
The Alshich HaKadosh explains that although the motivation for Shem and Yefes’s action was their father’s honor, the reason that they covered him in this manner was not for his sake, but for theirs. They understood that exposure to impurity has a deleterious effect on one’s soul. Even if he finds the immoral item repugnant, contact with it inherently causes damage. In particular, a person’s face is part of his Tzelem Elokim – Divine Image – and whatever it is exposed to automatically leaves an impression. For this reason Shem and Yefes felt they had no choice but to approach their uncovered father in this unnatural manner in order to protect their faces from coming into contact with such impurity.
Similarly, Lot and his family were warned by the angels that although they merited being saved from Sodom, they were forbidden to turn around while escaping to look back at the destruction. In spite of this, Lot’s wife turned around when they were fleeing and immediately turned into a pillar of salt (Bereishis 19:26). Although she transgressed the command against looking back at Sodom, for what was she punished so harshly? Rav Don Segal explains that when a person looks at something, he becomes spiritually connected to it. In this case, when Lot’s wife turned around to gaze at Sodom, she became connected to the city and was punished with destruction as if she were part of the city.
In a modern application of this concept, Rav Don Segal relates that he was once driving his teacher Rav Chatzkel Levenstein in a car when Rav Chatzkel suddenly and abruptly ducked down as if somebody was shooting at him and he needed to protect himself. Startled, Rav Don asked what the problem was. Rav Chatzkel explained that they had just driven past a large movie theater which was shining down spotlights in order to attract attention and encourage people potential patrons to come inside. Rav Chatzkel, who was aware of the powerful influence exerted even by something with which our face and eyes come into temporary and unintentional contact, felt that he had no choice but to duck and protect his Tzelem Elokim from the impurity latent in the spotlights of the theater.
the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Rashi writes (6:18) that those in the ark were forbidden to have marital relations. Were they also forbidden to be isolated together with their spouses during this time? (Kli Yakar 8:16)
2) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (108b) records a conversation which took place between the raven and Noach when Noach wished to send it to determine if the floodwaters had receded (8:7). Did the raven actually speak, or does the Torah merely relate the content of what it communicated in some other way? (Yad Ramah and Be’er Sheva Sanhedrin 108b, Ayeles HaShachar)
3) The Shulchan Aruch rules (Orach Chaim 229:1) that one who sees a rainbow recites a blessing praising Hashem for remembering His covenant (9:12-13) to never again destroy the earth. How can one look at a rainbow in order to recite this blessing when the Gemora in Chagigah (16a) teaches that one who gazes at a rainbow will have his vision impaired? (Mishnah Berurah 229:5)
4) In Parshas Bereishis, the Torah lists the ten generations from Adam to Noach to Avrohom and the years of their lives (5:3-32). A quick examination reveals that the average post-flood lifespan of the generations from Noach to Avrohom listed in our parsha (11:10-26) was significantly shorter than that of the antediluvian generations. To what may this change be attributed? (Moreh Nevuchim 2:47, Ramban, Seforno 8:21)
5) How old was Avrohom when he married Sorah (11:29)? (Seder HaDoros 1973 and 1998)
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