by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
Back to This Week's Parsha | Previous Issues
SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS NOACH 5762 BS"D
Ch. 6, v. 13,14,17: "Keitz kol bosor, Assei l'cho teivas atzei gofer, Vaani hi'ni meivi mabul" - The order of these verse is puzzling. Shouldn't Hashem first have told Noach that the manner in which He planned to bring an end to the populace is through a flood and then tell him to build an ark as a refuge for himself, his family, and representatives of all species? There was no need for an ark if Hashem would have destroyed mankind in another manner, i.e. a plague, etc. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l answers that had Hashem first mentioned that He was planning to flood the world, Noach might have thought that he was required to build the ark to save himself. However, Hashem wanted him to do it for another reason as well, simply to fulfill Hashem's command, an independent mitzvoh in and of itself. He adds that there is a great lesson in this for all of us. We sometimes make calculations of what benefits we have when we do a mitzvoh, but in reality, we should have the single-minded approach that the main reason is to fulfill Hashem's command, as per the literal translation of the word mitzvoh, a command.
Perhaps another answer can emerge from a comment on the following offering.
Ch. 6, v. 18: "Atoh uvo'necho v'ish't'cho" - Rashi (gemara Sanhedrin 108b) says that the men are mentioned first and the women afterwards to teach us that Hashem indicated that they were prohibited from having marital relations. The Imrei Binoh and MVRHRH'G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l ask, "Perhaps the reason the men were mentioned first is because of the rule of the gemara Horios 13a that when it comes to saving lives men are saved first. Horav Kamenecki answers that Rabbi Ovadioh of Bartenura explains that there is a priority to save a man because he has the opportunity to fulfill more mitzvos than a woman does. If so, here where we are discussing bnei Noach, there are no more mitzvos for a man than for a woman, and we can thus derive the prohibition to have marital relations in the ark.
Alternatively, he offers that the verses (7:1 and 7:4) indicate that Noach was commanded to enter the ark a week before the flood rains would come. At that time there was no saving of lives at hand.
As mentioned at the end of the previous offering, the following comment might give us an alternative answer to the question raised by Rabbi Moshe Feinstein zt"l: Why indeed did Hashem command Noach to enter the ark a week before the "mabul" would come? Rashi (gemara Sanhedrin 108b) on 7:4 says that the delay of seven days was out of honour for the week of mourning for the passing of M'sushelach. Rashi also points out that this week was an extension beyond the 120 years allotted Noach to build the ark. As Rashi points out in 6:14, Hashem had many options to save Noach, but specifically ordered him to build a large sea-worthy vessel so that people would notice his actions and when he would be asked the purpose of his activities, he would say that Hashem planned to flood the entire world, and hopefully they would repent. As we know, it was to no avail. Noach was unsuccessful in influencing any of his contemporaries.
We know that Hashem allows a person to live out his life as long as he is able to accomplish. For example, Moshe asked Hashem to remove him from this world if he would be unsuccessful in convincing Hashem to forgive the bnei Yisroel after they sinned (as per some commentators on Shmos 32:32). Perhaps Noach did not have the merit to be saved on his own. As mentioned in Sedrah Selections parshas Lech L'cho 5761, Targum Yerushalmi and the Sforno seem to be of the opinion that Noach and his family were saved only because of Noach's finding favour in the eyes of Hashem (6:18). Since Noach convinced no one to repent, perhaps his merit to live was ancillary to the merit of M'sushelach, just as we find Avrohom entreating Hashem to save S'dom in the merit of righteous people who lived in its midst (Breishis 18:24).
Once M'sushelach died, Noach's life was in great danger, as there was no other righteous person greater than Noach alive. However, as mentioned in the writings of the Holy Zohar, the ark was not only a sea-worthy, water tight vessel, but a world unto its own with its own set of rules, beyond those of nature. Food did not decompose, animals and man lived in relative peace, and an olive's volume of food per person was enough to sustain him throughout the total stay in the ark (GR"A on 6:21). Since in our world Noach was unable to turn the many to the right path, a "tzadik in peltz" as per the Holy Admor of Kotzk, only keeping himself warm, but not affecting others positively, he had to step into a different world to save himself. This necessitated his entering the ark, a microcosm unto itself, a week before the "mabul" came. This might also answer the question raised by Horav Moshe Feinstein zt"l in the previous offering. Hashem told Noach to build an ark before advising that there would be a flood because although 120 years would be given to Noach to turn the populace to the path of proper behaviour, Hashem knew that Noach would not influence the masses and that M'sushelach would die on the day that the 120 years would end. Noach would immediately be in need of the ark as a place of refuge independent of the flood. Hence building the ark was mentioned before Noach's being told that there would be a flood.
Ch. 7, v. 2,3: "Mikole hab'heimoh, Gam mei'ofe" - Why does the Torah mention animals before birds here and in 6:20 mention birds first? Perhaps here, where seven are to be brought, mainly for the purpose of sacrifices, animals are mentioned first as they are a more important sacrifice, as per the mishneh in Zvochim (10:3). In 6:20, where it discusses pairs of non-kosher species, birds are mentioned first as they have more species, as pointed out by the Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh. There remains to be explained why in 6:20 "remmes" is mentioned and is left out in our verse.
Ch. 7, v. 2: "Mikole hab'heimoh hat'horoh TIKACH l'cho shivoh shivoh" - The Ramban on 7:9 says that the non-kosher species came to Noach, but the kosher species had to be collected. MVRHRH'G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l says that this can be deduced from the terminology of our verse TIKACH, used only by the kosher species. He explains that two each of the non-kosher species came to the ark to save themselves from the flood, but the increase in number of the kosher types was to allow Noach to offer some of them as an offering to Hashem. Since this was a mitzvoh, Hashem wanted Noach to put in the effort, and not have them come to him. (This is similar to the insight into Breishis 24:16,18 given by the Holy Kedushas Levi. "Va't'malei chadoh," and "Vato'red kadoh" - Rashi in verse 16 comments that Eliezer saw the water rise to meet Rivkoh. In verse 18, she had to lower her bucket to draw the water. Why the change? Earlier she was getting water for herself. Since she was very righteous, Hashem performed a miracle. The water rose in the well and she only had to fill her pail. Since in verse 18 she was involved with the mitzvoh of feeding a passerby, she had to put in her own effort.)
Ch. 7, v. 3: "Gam mei'ofe hashomayim shivoh shivoh" - Rashi says that these words refer to the kosher species of birds only. Even though the verse does not spell this out, we can infer this from the ruling by animals, where seven were to be taken from the kosher species only. The Meshech Chochmoh explains that the Torah does not explicitly state that from the non-kosher bird species pairs should be brought because the majority of bird species are kosher (gemara Chulin 63b), but by animals where the majority of species is non-kosher (ibid.) the Torah does specify. MVRHRH'G R' Yaakov Kamenecki zt"l goes a step further. He notes that the Targum Yonoson ben Uziel translates the word GAM of our verse as "b'ram" - HOWEVER, a deviation from his regular translation "ofe" - also. Horav Kamenecki derives from this that Targum Yonoson tells us that by animals the Torah differentiates between kosher and non-kosher species, HOWEVER by birds, seven are to be brought even from the non-kosher species. (This would explain why our verse says "l'chayos zera," to sustain the species, even though by those from which seven were brought the Torah does not use this expression, as the majority of the seven were to brought as sacrifices. (Another answer to this question is offered by the Meshech Chochmoh. See the next offering.)
I have difficulty in understanding the words of Horav Kamenecki from 6:20. The verse says, "Mei'ho'ofe l'mi'neihu u'min habheimoh l'minoh shnayim mikole." We see that the Torah clearly states that from the birds pairs will come to the ark. This is well understood according to the Rashi on our verse. This also presents no difficulty for the Meshech Chochmoh, as he explains why the verse says "u'min habheimoh asher lo t'horoh hee shnayim, and is not as explicit by the birds. The Meshech Chochmoh is still in agreement with Rashi that of the non-kosher species only pairs entered the ark. In any case, it seems clear that the Torah says pairs of birds in 6:20, referring to the non-kosher species, and sevens in our verse, referring to the kosher species.
Ch. 7, v. 3: "L'chayos zera" - As mentioned in the previous offering, if sevens are to be brought from kosher species of birds only, why does the Torah say "l'chayos zera" since the majority of the seven will be sacrifices? According to MVHRH'G R' Yaakov Kamenecki's zt"l interpretation of the Targum Yonoson ben Uziel mentioned in the previous offering this is easily understood since sevens were brought from non-kosher species as well. The Meshech Chochmoh offers a different answer. Tosfos on the gemara Nidoh 50b d.h. "tarngolta" says that there is a species of bird called "tarngolta d'agmo" whose male is non-kosher and female is kosher. The Meshech Chochmoh says that from this species seven males are also brought. The purpose is to propagate the species, as the males will not be brought as sacrifices.
Ch. 9, v. 3: "Kol remmes asher hu chai lochem y'h'yeh l'ochloh" - The Torah permits the consumption of flesh in this verse. Commentators say that only after Noach saved all living creatures from succumbing to the "mabul" was he permitted to eat of their flesh. Immediately after this the Torah warns not to kill people and that if one were to transgress, retribution would come. Why is this the appropriate place to mention the prohibition against murder? The Abarbenel answers that once people consume flesh they develop a nature of aggression and cruelty, making murder a greater possibility, hence the need to warn against murder.
Ch. 10, v. 9: "K'Nimrod gibor tzayid lifnei Hashem" - Rashi explains these words to indicate that Nimrod was a very evil person, teaching people to rebel against Hashem. However, the Ibn Ezra says that on a simple level we may say that the verse tells us that Nimrod was a trapper who brought his catch as an "oloh" offering to Hashem on an altar.
Ch. 10, v. 21: "Achi Yefes hagodol" - Rashi (M.R. 37:7) says that from the text we do not know if Sheim or Yefes was the older brother. Rashi concludes that Yefes was the older brother through a calculation. The Ibn Ezra agrees with Rashi but also brings an opinion that Sheim was the older brother, and refutes Rashi's calculation. The Ramban agrees that Yefes was older than Sheim, but the intention of the verse is to say that Sheim is the older brother, meaning that of the last two brothers, Sheim and Chom, Sheim was the older. Targum Yonoson ben Uziel takes a totally different approach, stating that "godol" does not refer to age but rather greatness of stature. He says that Yefes was the "godol" regarding fear of Hashem, "rabbo bidchalto d'Hashem."
It seems from the cantellation sign, a "tipcho," for the word "achi," indicating a pause, that the words "Yefes hagodol" go together, meaning that Yefes is the older brother. Perhaps the Targum Yonoson and the Ibn Ezra had a different cantellation.
A GUTTEN SHABBOS KODESH. FEEL FREE TO DISTRIBUTE BY COPY OR ELECTRONICALLY.
FEEDBACK IS APPRECIATED. TO SUBSCRIBE, KINDLY SEND REQUEST TO: SHOLOM613@AOL.COM
See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha
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.
For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael Classes,
send mail to firstname.lastname@example.org