Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

For sponsorships and advertising opportunities, send e-mail to:

Back to This Week's Parsha Previous Issues

subscribe.gif (2332 bytes)

Vol. 12   No. 2

This section is sponsored
with wishes for a refu'ah sheleimah»
to La'ah Beilah bas Bisyah n.y.

Parshas No'ach

The Great Flood

Here is a chart of the dates from the moment the flood commenced on the seventeenth of Mar-Cheshvan 1656, until the earth dried completely one year and ten days (three hundred and sixty-five days) later, on the twenty-seventh of Mar'Cheshvan 1657. The chart shows the difference of opinion between Rashi and the Ramban (who is supported by Rabeinu Bachye).

Both opinions agree that the Flood began on the 17th of Mar-Cheshvan (according to Rebbi Eliezer, who maintains that the world was created in Tishri, and that the second month, the month in which it began, therefore refers to Mar-Cheshvan). They also agree that the rain ceased to fall on the 27th Kislev, forty days later.

The dispute covers a number of major details regarding the Flood. What stands out significantly however, is that whereas, according to Rashi, when referring to the months, the Torah sometimes names it after the beginning of the flood, sometimes after when the rain ceased to fall, and sometimes after the calendar month, according to the Ramban, it refers exclusively to the calendar month.


... the flood began) terminating on Rosh terminating on the 17th Chodesh Sivan ... of Nisan ... (the seventh month of the year).
according to Rashi Event according to Ramban
... starting from the 27th of Kislev, when rain ceased to fall), terminating on Rosh Chodesh Sivan... 'And the water subsided at the end of a hundred and fifty days' (8:3) ... starting from the 17th of Mar-Cheshvan,  when the flood began)
terminating on the 17th of Nisan (the seventh month of the year
... seventeen days later, on the 17th of Sivan (the seventh month from the time the rain ceased to fall). 'And the boat came to rest on Mount Ararat on the 17th of the seventh month' (8:4) ... on the same day (because the water began to subside very quickly). 
Rosh Chodesh Av the tenth month after Mar Cheshvan, when the Flood began). 'And the water subsided until Rosh Chodesh of the tenth month, when the tops of the mountains were seen' (8:5). Rosh Chodesh Tamuz (the tenth month of the year). 
The 10th of Ellul. 'And it was, at the end of forty days, that No'ach opened the window of the boat' (8:6)   The 10th of Av.
Rosh Chodesh Tishri (after the three week during which he sent the raven and the dove to look for dry land).  'And it was in the six hundred and first year (of No'ach's life), on the first day of the first first month that No'ach removed the cover of the boat' (8:13). Rosh Chodesh Tishri (after the three week period during which he sent the ravenand the dove to look for dry  land, and then waiting another thirty days).
  'And on the 27th day of the second month  
 (Mar-Cheshvan) the earth was completely dry.  


* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Chochmas Chayim)

Who Gets First Rights

"And you shall take for yourself from all the foods that can be eaten ... and it shall be for you and for them to eat" (6:21).

R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld asks why, bearing in mind the Halachah obligating one to feed one's animal before oneself, the Torah writes "for you and for them", and not the other way round.

And he answers in the name of his Rebbe, Maharil Diskind, with the Pasuk said after the Great Flood (No'ach 9:3) "like the vegetation, I have given you everything" (including the animals). It was then that, for the first time, No'ach was given jurisdiction over the animals, with regard to eating their meat, which until then, had been forbidden. It transpires that up until after the Flood, No'ach did not acquire the animals fully (with a Kinyan ha'Guf, only with a Kinyan Peiros [which constitutes the right to use them, but precludes complete ownership over them]). And the obligation to feed one's animals before eating oneself is confined to animals over which one has a full ownership.

It is unclear as to what the prohibition of eating meat has to do with the degree of acquisition. If it did, then nobody would acquire a cat, a dog or a donkey with a Kinyan ha'Guf!

I would therefore suggest two other possible answers to the Chochmas Chayim's question. Firstly, because although the Pasuk makes reference to eating the food (the ultimate objective of storing it), it is really talking about bringing food aboard the boat to store away for consumption in the course of the year. And there is no law forbidding storage of food for human consumption before what is needed for animal consumption.

And secondly, the animals were not No'ach's personal property. They were Hefker, only G-d had placed them under his jurisdiction for the duration of the Flood, with instructions to look after them. In such circumstances, there is no obligation to feed one's animals first. This answer is similar to that of the Maharil Diskind, only it has nothing to do with the fact that No'ach was forbidden to eat the animals.

Both answers will be enhanced if we bear in mind that, for two reasons, No'ach and his family ought to have been entitled to eat before the animals. Firstly, because the animals were only spared due to the merit of No'ach, and therefore owed their existence to him; and secondly, because it is inconceivable that No'ach and his family should have to wait until all the other occupants of the boat had eaten (a job that must have taken the best part of the day, at the very least), before being themselves permitted to eat.


Why Are the Birds Omitted

"And G-d remembered No'ach, all the wild beasts and all the animals that were with him in the Teivah" (8:1).

Rebbi Yosef Chayim once asked Maharil Diskin why the Torah omits the birds from the list. One cannot answer that the Torah is being brief (incorporating them together with the animals), because then, it could have done the same thing with the wild beasts, particularly, as Chazal have anyway said that "beheimah" includes 'Chayah'.

Maharil Diskin replied with the well-known Chazal that of all the numerous species that the Teivah housed, there were just three that ignored the Divine decree not to indulge in marital relations for the duration of that year - Cham (No'ach's son), the raven, and the dog. And that explains why the Torah omits both the B'nei No'ach (on account of Cham) and the birds (on account of the raven) from the phrase currently under discussion.

Citing a Tosefta in Kil'ayim, Maharil Diskin explains that the dog is classified as both a Beheimah and a Chayah. And in fact, both the animals and the wild beasts disowned it; each one told him that he belonged to the other group. And it is because they did that, that the Torah gives them credit, inserting both groups, in spite of the dog's disgraceful misbehavior (as if it belonged to neither of them).


A New Phenomenon

"And No'ach began to till the land, and he planted a vineyard. And he drunk from the wine, became inebriated and became exposed in his tent" (9:20:21).

The Torah relates how Cham saw his father in that state and how he went to tell his brothers what he had seen. Cham's conduct indicates that he was somewhat bewildered by his father's behaviour, and suggests that he had never in his life seen drunkenness before. No'ach was six hundred years old when he entered the Teivah. Does this mean that he had desisted from wine all those years, and that this was the first time?

To answer the question, the Chochmas Chayim cites the commentaries, who explain that major climatic changes took place following the flood (see for example, the Seforno [8:22]), among them, a deterioration of the pure and clean air that existed before the flood. As a result, food, which before the flood could last indefinitely, took to rotting and turning mouldy after it. A similar concept is cited by the commentaries to explain the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (5:7), which states that the meat of Kodshim never rotted in the Beis-Hamikdash. This, they explain, is because the air in the Beis-Hamikdash, was pure and clean, like it was everywhere before the Flood.

The alcohol in wine is caused by bacteria, which causes it to ferment, which in turn, affects the person who drinks more than he is used to.

Consequently, before the flood No'ach may well have drunk wine to his heart's content and remained unaffected by it, because the bacteria that attacked the wine after the flood, simply did not exist then. After the flood, No'ach, unaware of the change that had taken place, inadvertently drank more wine than he could take, with the result that the Torah records. It is hardly surprising therefore, that Cham, equally unaware of the change, was bewildered by what he saw (though it does not justify his subsequent behaviour).


Ashur's Reward

"Ashur (Assyria) left that land ... " (10:11).

Rashi explains that, when Ashur saw his children joining Nimrod in his rebellion against G-d, when they began building the Great Tower, he moved from there.

We learned in the Mishnah in Megilah (8b) the Chochmas Chayim explains, that a Seifer-Torah that is written in Ivrit, is not Metamei the hands of the person who touches them (i.e. it is not considered a Kasher Seifer); only when it is written in Ashuris, on a parchment scroll and with ink. Piskei Tosfos comments there that Ashuris is Lashon ha'Kodesh, and not Ivrit, and the reason that we refer to Lashon ha'Kodesh as Ivrit, is because it is the language that Avraham Avinu (who came from the 'other side of the River') spoke. In any event, this script was handed to Ashur, as a reward for his moving away from his generation and building the City of Ninveh.

From here we see the tremendous reward that is coming to those who separate from those who deny G-d, to the point that the holy script which is used in writing a Seifer-Torah, is named 'K'sav Ashuris' after Ashur, for doing precisely that, thereby perpetuating his name forever, in connection with the holy Seifer-Torah to boot.


Leah's Eyes and Sarah's Eyes

" ... and the name of Nachor's wife was Milkah, the daughter of Haran, the father of Milkah and Yiskah" (11:29).

Yiskah (a derivative of 'Socheh'- to look with Ru'ach ha'Kodesh) was alias Sarah, who is listed among the seven Nevi'os. In addition, the word can mean to gaze, and she was called by that name because everyone would gaze at her beauty (Rashi). R. Yosef Chayim Sonnenfeld explains the connection between the two explanations of 'Yiskah' in the following manner. Chazal explain that Le'ah's eyes were red from crying (see Vayeitzei 29:18), because she overheard people saying that she, Lavan's older daughter, was destined to marry Eisav, Yitzchak's older son, whilst her younger sister Rachel, would marry Ya'akov, Eisav's younger brother.

By the same token, one might have expected Sarah's eyes to be red from crying, when she heard people saying that Milkah, Haran's older daughter, was destined to marry Avram, Terach's older son, whereas she, the younger sister, would become the wife of Avram's younger brother, Nachor (an idolater).

She did not cry however, because, due to her Ru'ach ha'Kodesh, she knew that she would marry Avram. And that explains why everyone was able to gaze at her beauty, which, unlike that of Le'ah, remained untarnished.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Mitzvah 18:
To Sanctify the Firstborn in Yisrael

It is a Mitzvah to declare the firstborn holy to G-d. This applies to all male firstborn that emerge from the womb of the mother, both as regards man and as regards animals, as the Torah writes in Parshas Bo (13:2) "Sanctify for Me all firstborn, those that open the womb in Yisrael, both man and animal, they belong to Me".

When we speak of animals, we refer exclusively to Kasher domesticated ones, such as an ox, a sheep and a goat, but not wild beasts (Chayos), which this Mitzvah does not incorporate.

The only non-Kasher animal which the Torah includs in the Mitzvah of Bechor is the donkey.

The Mitzvah consists of the owner declaring the firstborn animal holy, and then giving it to the Kohen, who then brings its fat-pieces and its blood to the Mizbei'ach, before eating its flesh in Yerushalayim, The owner does not however, give the Bechor to the Kohen as soon as it is born, but is first obligated to look after it for thirty days, if it is a small animal, and fifty days, if it is a large one.

In Chutz la'Aretz (or nowadays when there is no Beis-Hamikdash, even in Eretz Yisrael), one locks the door in front of a Bechor, allowing it to die by itself, according to some opinions. According to others however, the Kohen waits for it to obtain a blemish, before eating it himself in any location, or giving it to anyone he pleases to eat, because a blemished Bechor has the Din of Chulin, as the Torah writes "the Tamei and Tahor may eat it together, like a deer and a gazelle". And so the Ramban writes in his Hilchos Bechoros.

The author will explain the details of Bechor Adam and of Petter Chamor in the Mitzvah of the redemption of each one, in this Parshah and in Parshas Korach, respectively.

A reason for the Mitzvah is - that G-d wanted to grant us the merit of performing a Mitzvah with the first of one's produce, for us to realize that everything belongs to Him, and that all man possesses in the world is what G-d graciously allots to him, And this lesson is really driven home when, after a much hard work, and extensive effort, when the time arrives for one's efforts to bear fruits, and, as we know, the first-fruit of his labour is as precious to him as the pupil of his eye, he takes that first-fruit in his hands, and gives it to Hashem.

It also serves as a reminder of the great miracle that G-d performed on our behalf, when He killed the Egyptian Firstborn and saved the firstborn of K'lal Yisrael, in Egypt.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Where the Bechor should be Shechted and eaten, and for how long it may be eaten ... Which Mumin (blemishes) disqualify a Bechor and the definition of a fixed blemish and a temporary one, and what is the difference between them ... Who is believed regarding blemishes (to testify that the owner did not inflict it) ... and the distinction between one that came by itself, and one that was deliberately inflicted by a person ... Which Chacham is eligible to examine a Mum ... The Din of a Bechor belonging to Jewish partners or if one of the partners is a gentile ... Under which circumstances a firstborn animal is exempt from the Din of a Bechor and under which it is not ... And what is the Din regarding a Safek Bechor, or one that is born by a cesarean, a Tumtum and an Androginus (whose sexual organs are covered and who is bisexual, respectively) ... all of these are explained in Maseches Bechoros and in Shulchan Aruch Yoreh De'ah 306 - 312).

The Mitzvah of sanctifying the Bechor of a Kasher animal applies min ha'Torah only in Eretz Yisrael, at all times, as the Chachamim derived from a Hekesh of Bechor to Ma'asar Beheimah. The Rabbanan however, extended it to Chutz la'Aretz, too. And it pertains to men and women alike, whether the owner is a Kohen, a Levi or a Yisrael. A Bechor Beheimah may well belong to the Kohen who originally owned it, yet he is obligated to sacrifice its fat-pieces and to sprinkle its blood, before eating the flesh in compliance with the Dinim of a Bechor.

Bechor Adam and Petter Chamor however, do not apply to Kohanim at all, as we will explain in their respective places. And this is one of the Mitzvos that is based on something (that one does not always have, and that not everybody is therefore obligated to keep).

* * *

For sponsorships and adverts call 651 9502

Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

Shema Yisrael Torah Network
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to
Jerusalem, Israel