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

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Vol. 21   No. 2

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
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Parshas No'ach

What Did They Have to Drink?

"And as for you, take for yourself all kinds of food that can be eaten and it shall be for you and for them to eat" (6:21).

To answer how it was possible to fit in food for a whole year to satisfy each and every animal, the G'ro, commenting on the words "that can be eaten", cites Chazal who define it as the size of an egg , which is the largest amount that a person can swallow at one time. Consequently, he explains, No'ach did not take a full measure of food for a year to satisfy his family and all the animals. He took only an egg-volume for each meal, and when they came to eat it, a miracle occurred and they were satisfied.


The Oznayim raises the question that whereas G-d instructed No'ach to take food on to the boat, He said nothing about water! For, as is well-known, one can live without food for so long, but not without water. Moreover, they would have needed fresh water for washing and for cooking, too!

He offers two suggestions. The first, that when G-d instructed him to take a food supply on to the boat, 'food' incorporated water, and he supports this with a statement of the Ramban, who seems to hold like that.

The second suggestion is that he organized some sort of piping that enabled him to collect flood water from outside the boat. He queries this however, from the fact that sea-water is not drinkable.

It seems to me however, that the water outside the boat may well have been rainwater and not sea-water. Besides, he might have arranged a sort of funnel to gather the rain water as it fell. Bear in mind, that he entered the boat in Mar-Cheshvan, just before the rain season, so, apart from collecting water from a local river, there would have been no water supply from which to draw.

In fact, the reason that the Torah makes no mention of water might well be due to the fact that, since there was so much water available outside the boat, No'ach's source of fresh water was too obvious to mention.


With G-d's Help

Regarding the previous question, the first answer that springs to mind is that G-d provided water throughout the year in the form of a miracle. The Ramban however, points out, that if G-d had wanted to perform a miracle, He would not have bothered No'ach to spend a hundred and twenty years building a boat. So it seems that G-d handled the Flood as He runs the world, leaving us to do what we can, but completing what we are unable to do ourselves.

In other words, He allows the world to run naturally, but provides Divine Assistance where it is needed. And that is precisely what happened here. The one boat that No'ach built could not possibly have sufficed to house all its occupants (as the Ramban points out). Indeed, it is highly unlikely that, given the primitive tools at No'ach's disposal, as well as his lack of building experience, the boat that he built could possibly have been seaworthy, let alone withstanding the tremendous velocity of the water of the flood. But G-d stepped in and enabled the boat to be both one hundred per cent seaworthy and to house as many animals as needed to reside in it for a year.

Likewise, under normal circumstances, it would have been impossible to fit all the food for a year to feed all the boat's inhabitants. In any event, it would have been bound to go bad (See Rashi 6:18). Only G-d made sure that, not only was there sufficient food, but that it also remained fresh for the entire year.

And presumably, the same can be said about the water. We may not know exactly how No'ach brought water into the boat, enough to satisfy the needs of both his family and all the animals. But one thing we do know, that whatever he did, he did with Divine Assistance, without which, he could not have succeeded.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Oznayim la'Torah)

Going to the other Extreme

" the world was corrupt (va'tishoches) before G-d, and the world was full of robbery" (6:11).

The two major sins of which the world was guilty were immorality (as the word 'hashchasah' always has connotations of immorality) and robbery (both in all their forms), two sins to which G-d has a particular loathing, as we find in Sanhedrin and Tehilim, respectively.

What sealed its fate, however, was robbery, as the ensuing Pesukim clearly indicate (See Rashi, Pasuk 12). This is because G-d takes a dimmer view of sins that are between man and man than those that are between man and Himself.

As is well-known, the Rambam advocates that a person who constantly sins by going to one extreme can only remedy this by going to the other extreme, in order to arrive at what he calls 'the golden path'. And it is with indirect reference to this Rambam that the Oznayim la'Torah describes life in No'ach's boat as it floated on the vast expanse of water for an entire year.

To counter the promiscuity that had prevailed during the years prior to the flood, he explains, all the boat's residents (including the animals, that had lived immoral lives, like their human counterparts) were forbidden to cohabit, and were even separated upon entry (though it is not clear how the dog and the raven were then able to contravene this command).

In order to rectify the sin of robbery that had been rampant throughout society, we find that No'ach and his sons spent the entire year performing kindness with all the animals (and presumably, with each other, too). Providing the numerous animals with their food proved to be a full-time job, driving them to the point of exhaustion, and even injury, as the Medrash explains. It was Chesed in the extreme.


No Electricity

"Light you shall make for the boat!" (6:16).

Rashi cites a dispute in the Medrash as to whether the light refers to a window, which allowed natural daylight to enter No'ach's boat, or to precious stones which lit the interior.

The Oznayim la'Torah refers to the Pasuk later which specifically states that "No'ach opened the window of the boat " in support of the first opinion. He therefore explains that the two opinions do not clash, but rather that they supplement one another. No'ach needed a window both in order to let in sunlight and in order to see outside to keep track of what was going on, as far as this was possible.

A window however, irrespective of its size, would have sufficed to adequately illuminate only the top floor of the boat, the two lower floors would remain relatively dark, at best, whereas the inner rooms, which housed the three hundred and sixty (nine hundred, according to others) compartments that housed the animals, would have remained pitch black.

So it makes sense, the author posits, to say that No'ach built a window on the top floor and that in addition, he placed a precious stone in each compartment, to allow him to see whenever he entered to feed the animals.


Shem & Yefes

"And Shem and Yefes took the robe (9:23)

The word the Torah uses for 'took' is "Vayikach" (in the singular). This teaches us, Rashi explains quoting the Gemara in Sanhedrin, that it was Shem who took the initiative in performing this great Mitzvah. He picked up the robe to cover his father, whereas Yefes joined him on second thoughts, as it were. As a result, Rashi concludes, Shem's descendants were rewarded with the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, whilst Yefes' were granted the merit of burying their dead.

The Oznayim la'Torah queries the connection between Yefes' act of covering his father and the reward that he received; nor is the direct connection between what Shem did and Tzitzis clear.


To explain the issue, the author refers to the Medrash which discusses the concept 'Mi hikdimani va'ashaleim' , which means that nobody has ever 'beaten Hashem to the draw', so to speak. A man can perform the Mitzvah of fixing a Mezuzah on his door or building a parapet on his roof, but that is only after G-d has given him a house. He can fix Tzitzis to his garment, but only after G-d gives him the garment. In other words, it is not man who opens the cycle of giving, but G-d. Conversely, it is man who is constantly repaying, not G-d.

Consequently, he explains, when Shem's descendants were given the Mitzvah of Tzitzis, it means that they were also given the garment on which to fix it. As for the merit of burying the dead, what is burying a deceased person if not covering his body? So we see that both Shem and Yefes received their reward precisely Midah k'Neged Midah (measure for measure). The difference between them is that whereas the former's descendants are repaid during their lifetime, the latter's receive their reward only after they have died.

And that too, the Oznayim la'Torah concludes, is Midah k'Neged Midah. Because whereas Shem performed the Mitzvah with drive and enthusiasm - it was a live Mitzvah, Yefes was merely mimicking Shem. His Mitzvah was a dead one. It therefore transpires that each one received a reward that befitted the deed.


We can learn from this incident how important it is, not only to perform a Mitzvah that comes to hand, but to perform it with joy and enthusiasm.


The Generations of Shem

" these are the generations of Shem Shem lived, after he fathered Arpachshad, another five hundred years, and he fathered sons and daughters" (11:10/11).

The Oznayim la'Torah, citing the commentaries, asks why the Torah does not mention the death of any of the ten generations between No'ach and Avraham, as it did by each of the ten generations between Adam and No'ach?

To answer the question, he makes the interesting observation that each of the ten descendants of Shem died a natural death, not one of them was killed by the flood. Even Lemech, Noach's father, died five years before the onset of the flood, and as for his father, Mesushelach, he missed it by seven days, as Rashi points out. The Torah therefore makes a point of informing us that all of them were Tzadikim, and were 'gathered in before the evil struck'. On the other hand, there is no reason to inform us that the ten descendants of No'ach died, as everyone is destined to die eventually, and to make mention of it would not be teaching us anything.

Alternatively, he quotes Chazal, who say that the Pasuk mentions death with regard to Yo'av, because he did not leave behind any descendants when he died. By the same token, Adam's descendants did not leave behind any (permanent) descendants, since they all perished in the Flood, as opposed to Noach's descendants, who all had many children and grandchildren. That is why the Torah says nothing about them dying.

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