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
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!
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
1) Which item from Parshas Noach appears in Megillas Esther? (Yalkut Shimoni
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,
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
5) How old was Avrohom when he married Sorah (11:29)? (Seder HaDoros 1973 and
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