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

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Vol. 22   No. 2

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

Why No'ach Survived

And No'ach (Ve'No'ach) found favour (Chein) in the eyes of G-d" (6:8).

The decree of destruction, says the Gemara in Sanhedrin (Daf 108:a) actually applied to No'ach, too, and he was only spared because he found favour in the eyes of Hashem. It bases this startling fact on the the 'Vav' of "ve'No'ach", which connects the word to the previous Pasuk - "for I am sorry that I created them - and No'ach". The Torah Temimah attributes the second part of the statement to the fact that "Chein" is rooted in 'Chaninah', implying 'taking pity on someone who is otherwise undeserving, as in the Pasuk "ve'chanosi es asher ochon" (and I will favour those whom I decide to favour (ki Sissa, 33:19). See also first Rashi in Parshas Va'eschanan.


This Chazal clearly follows the opinion that No'ach was not the perfect Tzadik that "Tzadik Tamim" seems to suggest (See Rashi at the beginning of No'ach - DH 'be'dorosav'). In fact, this is a Machlokes between Rebbi Yochanan and Resh Lakish in Sanhedrin (108a), and is the opinion of Rebbi Yochanan there.


The question arises as to why Rebbi Yochanan detracts from No'ach's level of Tzidkus, when the Pasuk seems to be portraying it in glowing terms?

The author offers a number of explanations for this.

1). Based on his own interpretation of the Possuk later, (7:6) as quoted in Rashi there, that No'ach's level of Emunah was weak, and that he did not, therefore, enter the ark until forced to do so.

2). The 'neginus' (Torah reading notes) of "Zaddik Tomim" clearly indicate that the two words do not go together. Indeed, the Gemorrah in Avodoh Zoroh, (Daf 6A) explains "Zadik" - in his actions, "Tomim" - in his ways, his Middos, his characteristics.


By the same token, he explains, Rebbi Yochanan's interpretation of the word "Tzohar" (light), ibid. 16, as precious stones, that lit up the inside of the ark, as opposed to a window that allowed the light to penetrate. This is because, like we find with the wife of Lot, who was forbidden to turn round when escaping S'dom, due to the fact that she was not worthy of seeing its destruction, so, too, was No'ach unworthy of witnessing the destruction of mankind.


The S'forno (an early commentator) agrees with the Torah Temimah's basic interpretation of the above two Pesukim, with one major difference. According to him, No'ach in any event deserved to be saved, and it was in connection with saving his children, that 'he found (undeserved) favour in the eyes of Hashem'. Why is that? Because, as opposed to Avraham, Moshe and Shmuel, who taught their respective generations the ways of Hashem, No'ach may have rebuked his generation on account of their sins, but, like Iyov and Daniel after him, he failed to do so. And, as Chazal teach us, a Zaddik who does not teach others to go in the ways of Hashem, is worthy of saving himself, but not others - even his own family. Hence, the Torah writes that No'ach's family was saved only because No'ach found favour in the eyes of Hashem.

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Parshah Points to Ponder
(Adapted from the Torah Temimah)

The Dog, The Raven and Chom

The Medrash tells us that when the world is in trouble, one refrains from having marital relations. And we find this with Yosef, where the Torah writes that Yosef's two sons Ephrayim and Menasheh were born before the years of famine began (Bereishis 41:50). Rashi, quoting a Gemara in Ta'anis, writes: "From here we see that it is forbidden to indulge in marital relations during a time of famine."

For the twelve month duration of the flood, all the people and animals desisted - all, with the exception of the dog, the raven and Chom, who were unable to control their physical urges. Therefore, G-d punished all three of them: the dog is kept on a leash (and thereby restrained), the raven mates by spitting into its partner's mouth, and Chom's skin turned black - a sign of degradation and disgrace. Chom of course, was punished further for shaming his father, and others say for castrating him. G-d proclaimed him to be a slave. His descendants would forever serve the descendants of Shem and Yoffes.


More About Chom

Why did No'ach curse specifically Cana'an, of all Chom's children?

We mentioned earlier that according to some opinions, Chom actually castrated his father. Why did he do this? In order to prevent him from having a fourth son - and that because he did not want any more brothers. Another brother would also inherit No'ach, thereby detracting from his (Chom's) portion by a full twenty-five percent.

His punishment therefore, was most appropriate. His fourth son was cursed, on account of his preventing his father from producing a fourth son. And for his greed, G-d made him pay, decreeing on him slavery - and slaves do not inherit, because they cannot own anything. In fact, many years later, when the Cana'anim (see Torah Temimah Bereishis 9, note 23), demanded that Yisroel return their land, Geviho ben Pesisoh, who represented Yisroel before Alexander the Great, replied just that: "The Torah writes," he said, "Cursed is Cana'an! He shall be an abject slave to his brothers." And whatever a slave aquires belongs to his master!


More About the Raven

Just like a person looks into the water and sees his own reflection, so too is one prone to suspect others of one's own faults. It is hardly surprising therefore, that the raven refused to go on the Sh'lichus that No'ach sent him, because he suspected No'ach of having designs on his mate. It is hardly surprising because, as we wrote above, the raven himself was unable to restrain himself, so he was quick to suspect No'ach of a similar fault (Sanhedrin 108b).

Others explain there that, belonging to the non-kosher species as he did, there was only one pair of ravens left in the world. So what would happen, he asked No'ach, if an accident were to befall him before his return? His whole species would die out. Seemingly, this argument was justified, so No'ach sent a pigeon, of which there were fourteen, seven males and seven females.

Whatever the case, the Chofetz Chaim points out that someone will not go on an errand for which he does not have the z'chus, since G-d brings about good things through a good person and bad things through someone who is unworthy. Even if he succeeds in setting out on his mission, he will be prevented from fulfilling it.

Rashi, on the other hand, cites a Medrash that the raven was reserved for another Shli'chus many years later, when the ravens brought Eliyohu ha'Novi bread and meat to the cave where he was hiding from Ach'ov.

R. Bachye completes the story: When the raven returned from his unfulfilled mission, No'ach refused to take him back. What use are you to mankind, he asked him? You can be used neither as food nor as a sacrifice?

But G-d intervened: "Take him back, until the water dries up (a certain Tzadik will come along and make the world dry up - Eliyohu ha'Novi, as is hinted in the word "yevoshes", which has the same letters as "Tishbi") . Then I will need the raven to bring him bread and meat from the kitchens of Ach'ov.

For reasons known to G-d, He decided (just like he decided to save Dovid ha'Melech from King Shaul specifically through the spider) to use the ravens to feed Eliyohu. It had to be the ravens, and no other species. And for that reason alone, the raven was saved from extinction.

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