Noach Ish Tzaddik (6:9) – Rashi notes that the primary Toldos (outgrowth) of a Tzaddik is his/her Maasim Tovim. HaRav Shlomo Wolbe ztl (Shiurei Chumash) notes that people perform many good deeds. Still, the deeds are what they perform but are not really coming from the person. The Tzaddik is different, what he DOES is really an outward expression of who s/he is. When a Tzaddik does a Maaseh Tov, s/he not only performs the specific action but rather sets forth the chain of events wherein many more positive things happen to the world in the future. It is like the parent who raises a child but really is raising many more future generations in the process. That is what the word Toldos means – that the outgrowth of the Maasim Tovim is far-reaching. It is the opposite of Avoda Zara whose whole essence was doing actions that were meaningless. (Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita makes a similar point in the name of Rav Soloveitchik in regard to meaningless actions being the epitome of Chukos HaGoyim).
He sent the Raven (8:7) - The Midrash Rabba comments that Noach had a significant debate with the Raven as to why he was being sent. Noach noted to the Raven that he (Noach) didn’t understand what other purpose Ravens had in the world. After all, they could not be eaten or used for food. Hashem was the one who intervened and told Noach to take the Raven back in for the world would eventually need him. Indeed in eliyahu’s time, when hiding, it was the ravens who fed him.
Seizing on the Midrash, HaRav Yitzchok Ruderman ztl. (Sichos Levi) once asked why Hashem didn’t use doves or another Kosher bird to feed Eliyahu. Why ravens? He answered that there are 2 types of people who serve as Hashem’s agents in the world. One group cannot handle seeing someone do something wrong and will respond rather strongly. The other will look for the opportunity to strengthen the community but without the fiery response of the first group. Hashem sent the Ravens to Eliyahu in order to show him that he was acting like they do – with a strong temper – but that even they could overcome their nature and feed him. He too, needed to overcome his nature and care for the Jewish people.
Hashem spoke to Moshe saying “Leave the Teiva” (8:15) – Why would Hashem need to command Noach to leave the Teivah? After all, Noach and his family only entered the Teivah in order to avoid the impending danger of the Mabul. Why would he need the command to leave once the crisis was over? The Or HaChaim explains that the leaving from the Teivah signified an end to the prohibition against cohabitation which was in effect while Noach’s family was in the midst of the crisis. Hashem was informing Noach that the crisis was now over and that he could – perhaps SHOULD resume populating the world.
Rav Mordechai Gifter ztl (Pirkei Torah) suggests that there is a different lesson to be learned: While on the Teivah, Noach and his family attended an intensive seminar in the world of Chessed. Indeed, taking care of and feeding the animals was a lesson in Chessed and it was one that was unyielding while the family was on the Teivah. Noach might have assumed that he needed to remain in the Teivah until his studies were complete – that he was not READY to move on. For that Hashem told him “Leave”. Hashem wanted him to know that the time had come for him to move on – that he HAD completed the course of study and was now ready to move on to the next mission of building a world with that Chessed.
Rav Gifter adds that Chessed is the antithesis of the middos that caused the world’s destruction: Chamas or petty theft is a lack of consideration of one’s fellow man. Chessed is the opposite – it is the supreme consideration – at times, even over one’s very self.
The Rainbow (9:13) – Why is the Rainbow used as the symbol f the promise between Hashem and man? Rav Aharon Soloveitchik ztl. once pointed out that we need to understand the depth of the colors of the rainbow and yet, at the same time that they represent but one aspect of the human being and his experience. Man (and particularly his soul), said Rav Aharon, is like a white light and how he refracts that light and what he chooses to highlight as his primary colors helps him identify the stronger areas of his identity and personality.
Noach the man of the land (9:20) – Rashi derides Noach’s fall from grace as an Ish Tzaddik to becoming a common Ish Adama – a man whose whole life was based solely on the land and the here and now. In other words, he was no longer interested in spiritual pursuits. Rabbi Dr. Binyamin Lau (Esnachta) argues that perhaps another interpretation is appropriate. He notes that the term “Ish” often refers to a leader. In other words, after the Mabul, Noach took a more active role in running the world. In fact, Rabbi Lau suggests that Noach remained a Tzaddik even during this time as it is stated that he was Tzaddik “B’dorosoav”, or as noted by the Pesikta both in his youth and in his seniority. Rabbi Lau adds that Noach’s is a story of a man who saw a calm world destroyed traumatically and then merited to see 70 nations spring forth from him again. This only happened because he WORKED at it -- as an Ish HaAdama.
And Shem and Yefes took the cloak (9:23) – Rashi notes that the Torah uses the word VaYikach which is singular, in order to show that Shem moved faster and was more bent on doing the job. Yefes too, did the action but without the same desire and energy. Thus, the reward for Shem was the Mitzvah of Tzitzis and the reward for Yefes was burial for his children in the final battle of Gog U’Magog.
HaRav Steinman Shlita (Ayeles Hashachar) notes that although they did the very same act, the two brothers received entirely different rewards. One reward (Tzitzis ) was eternal and ongoing. The other’s was a one time event (a single burial). Rav Steinman observes that we see that a single Mitzva includes all aspects of the Mitzva when the reward for doing it is brought forth. Showing more enthusiasm and initiative in doing the Mitzva can change the reward in the end. People do not realize how not only does Mitzva performance affect world destiny but the WAY one does a Mitzva affects the world’s future as well.
The land spoke a single language with a few issues (11:1)– The prelude to the story of Migdal Bavel is somewhat contradictory. Earlier we had read that the nations had spread themselves throughout the world based upon family and language. Now it seems like the Torah is suggesting that there was a single universal language. How does that make sense? Moreover, Achdus or unity seems to be a desired state in life. Why would Hashem punish the people for wanting to stay united?
HaRav Yaakov Ariel Shlita notes that there is a fundamental difference between a Safa and a Lashon. While both are normally assumed to refer to spoken languages, the Safa refers to the external language of the people, utilized when explain mundane, external issues to each other. Lashon speaks to the internal language of the people – its heart and soul. The differences between the nations are not merely in the spoken word, it is in each country’s style, culture and mentality. When the nations aligned to build the Migdal (tower), each wanted to make a name for itself. THAT ALONE, was a recipe for disaster.
Maran HaRav Schachter Shlita often notes that true unity is a gift unique to Am Yisrael. We have the ability to relate and unite internally and fully – not just superficially. Hence the nations of the world are referred to as “Mishpichos Haadama” while we are “Am Yisrael.”
Haftora – For this is like the waters of Noach to me – By referring to the Mabul as Mei Noach, it sounds as if the Navi blames Noach for a role in its coming? HaRav Shimon Schwab ztl. explains that Noach was held somewhat culpable since he had the opportunity to Daven for the people of his generation and did not do so. Perhaps this is why some judge Noach derisively – for not seizing on the chance to Daven on behalf of his people.