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 Parshas Noach - Vol. 8, Issue 2
Compiled by Oizer Alport


Me'ha'of l'mineihu u'min ha'beheima l'minah mi'kol remes ha'adama l'mineihu shnayim mi'kol yavo'u eilecha l'hachayos (6:20)

Parshas Noach revolves around the ark that Hashem instructed Noach to build in order to save himself, his family, and all of the species of birds and animals from the flood that destroyed the earth. Interestingly, when Hashem initially commanded Noach to build the ark, He told him to bring into the ark two of each kind of birds, animals, and creeping creatures, mentioning birds first. However, when the time came for Noach to actually go into the ark, the Torah records that he entered together with the animals, birds, and creeping creatures, listing the animals before the birds. What is the reason that the Torah reverses the order of the birds and the animals in a span of only ten verses?

Rabbi Chaim Zvi Senter suggests that birds are considered superior to animals due to their ability to fly over them, and therefore they are listed first. However, this advantage is only relevant when they are living naturally in the wild and free to fly around. If, on the other hand, the birds are restricted to a confined area, their inherent advantage becomes irrelevant, and their unutilized potential renders them inferior to other animals.

In light of this distinction, it is now understandable that at the time that Hashem initially approached Noach to discuss the impending flood with him, He mentioned the birds before the animals, as they are naturally considered superior. However, when the time arrived to enter the ark, which would negate the birds' ability to soar toward the heavens, they no longer had any edge over the animals and are listed after them.

Rabbi Senter adds that the Gemora (Shabbos 130a) teaches that Klal Yisroel is compared to a bird: a dove. Just as the dove is able to fly through the air with its wings, so too the Torah is the wings of the Jewish people. If we elect to lower ourselves to the restricting decadence of the immoral nations that surround us, we give up our advantage and become inferior to them, due to our wasted abilities. However, when we use the Torah properly, by studying and keeping its laws, we are able to actualize our potential for greatness by soaring to lofty spiritual heights.

Vayomer Hashem l'Noach bo atah v'chol beis'cha el ha'teiva ki os'cha ra'isi tzaddik l'fanai b'dor ha'zeh (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." What is the deeper meaning of the two different names for this month, and what is the connection between them?

The Medrash (Yalkut Shimoni Melochim 1 184) explains that this is because the flood began in this month, and it lasted for 40 days. In Lashon HaKodesh, 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 far as the significance of the Babylonian name for the month - Marcheshvan - Rav Tzvi Meir Zilberberg explains it based on the Gemora in Megillah (27b), which teaches that after a person has completed Shemoneh Esrei, he is not permitted to go to the bathroom immediately, but must first wait the period of time required to walk a distance of four amos (approximately 6-8 feet). The Gemora explains that this requirement is due to the fact that during this brief period, his tefillah is still fluent in his mouth and rechushi merachshan sif'vasei - his lips are still considered to be moving in prayer.

Rav Zilberberg points out that if the vowels are changed, the Aramaic word used by the Gemora to say that the person's lips are still moving can also be read as Marcheshvan. In other words, the message of the Aramaic name for the month is that even though the month of Tishrei has passed, we shouldn't make the mistake of thinking that all of the prayers and closeness to Hashem that we experienced during that time are left behind. The name Marcheshvan conveys to us that even one month later, we are still connected to the sparks of spiritual elevation that we enjoyed during the Yamim Noraim and Sukkos.

In Parshas Noach we read about the power of the flood 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.

Answers to the weekly Points to Ponder are now available!
To receive the full version with answers email the author at oalport@optonline.net.

Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):

1) Which item from Parshas Noach appears in Megillas Esther? (Yalkut Shimoni Esther 1056)

2) 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)

3) The Gemora in Sanhedrin (108b) relates that there was a bird on the ark which saw how difficult it was for Noach to feed each animal according to its own unique feeding schedule, and opted to be merciful and not to request any food. Upon recognizing this, Noach blessed the bird that it should live forever. The Maharsha writes that this was the bird which didn’t eat from the fruit of the tree of knowledge like the other animals (Rashi 3:6). If it didn’t take part in the sin which brought the decree of death to the world, why did this bird need Noach’s blessing that it shouldn’t die? (Maharil Diskin Parshas Bereishis, Tiferes Torah)
4) Did the 70 languages spoken by the nations of the world exist as spoken languages prior to the dispersion of the generation that attempted to build the tower of Bavel? (Rashi 11:1, Chizkuni 11:7, Moshav Z’keinim, Bechor Shor, Ayeles HaShachar)

5) How old was Avrohom when he married Sorah (11:29)? (Seder HaDoros 1973 and 1998)

  © 2012 by Oizer Alport. Permission is granted to reproduce and distribute as long as credit is given. To receive weekly via email or to send comments or suggestions, write to parshapotpourri@optonline.net


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