Points to Ponder

Noach 5776

This is the story of Noach (6:9) – Rashi notes that the Toldos of Tzaddikim are Maasim Tovim. The Lev Simcha of Ger quoted Rav Simcha Bunim of Pshischa who explained that in Shomayim the gate to children is next to the gate of Gemilas Chessed, if one finds the gate of children closed, one can sometimes enter through the  Gemilas Chessed gate and get to where he wants to go.


Noach was a Tzaddik (6:9) – The Ponovizher Rav ztl. asked what is a Tzaddik or a Tzaddeikes? He answered that the first requirement is a “Gutzkeit” identified as a good heart. Chazal explain that he was a Tzaddik in his actions – in other words, he took care of the creations of Hashem (See Tana D’Bei Eliyahu Rabba 16). A sense of Compassion is a sign of tziddkus. If you have it, you’ve got it all.

Noach walked with Hashem (6:9) – Rashi notes that Noach needed support as opposed to Avraham whose faith provided him strength on his own (See our Derasha from the first day of Rosh Hashana 5776). The Eish Kodesh of Pisacetzna ztl. notes that the big difference here is one of steadfastness. Bnei Yisrael are identified with the trait of Ksheh Oiref which is identified as both a good and a bad midda. This is precisely because when it is a good midda it is steadfast. When it is used in the face of being wrong, it is called stubbornness. But it is committed. Avraham was the father of that steadfastness. No matter the challenge – Nimrod, the people’s rebellion, the lack of acceptance, the Kivshan, Avraham stuck to his guns. Noach too, met his challenges but remained on the job because of the support he received from Hashem.


Hashem said to Noach “The end of man is coming as the land is filled with Chamas (6:13) – The Talmud (Bava Metzia 44) notes that Hashem who punished the generation of the Mabul will punish those who do not remain steadfast in their word. Why is the comparison to the generation of the Mabul? Rav Asher Weiss Shlita suggested that those who do not remain true to their world – like the generation of the Mabul, sin against their fellow man and Hashem and ultimately lie to themselves as well. The same is true to he who does not keep his word. He too, lies to everyone. It is the meaning of chamas.

And I shall uphold my Bris with you (6:18) – Which Bris? This matter is hotly debated among the different Meforshei HaChumash. The simple understanding is that the Bris refers to an agreement that existed between Hashem and Noach. However, Rav Elchanan Samet shlita asks, we find no such Bris mentioned. Rashi suggests that it was a bris that Noach would not lose vegetation or a Bris that the people would not kill him but that too, is suspect as it has no source. Abarbanel opines that the Bris refers to a certain understanding that Hahsem had from the beginning of the world that he would never wipe it out entirely. Netziv and Cassutto as well as the Midrash HaGadol all suggest similar themes. Thus, notes Rav Samet,  it turns out that the reason why Hashem didn’t wipe out mankind, was not because of Noach, it was because of the Bris. Noach was the person chosen to carry out the Bris because of his Tziddkus. This will further explain why the rainbow Bris was not actually a new Bris but a renewal of an old one (and perhaps explain why Hashem didn’t use a new sign but rather an old one – see later thought…)


I put my rainbow in the cloud and it should be a sign of a connection between us (9:13) – Why was the rainbow used as a sign? Rav Schachter Shlita quotes Ramban who assumes that the past tense here is to show us that the rainbow was there from Sheishes Yimei Berashis . Why then is the rainbow a sign? Ramban suggested that the direction of the natural curve of the rainbow is up – instead of downward which is suggestive of an attack outward. The rainbow’s reverse direction demonstrates that Hashem is showing Rachmanus upon us. The Gemara in Kesubos describes the sign of Tzidkus as a generation in which there was no rainbow. However, in the generation of Rabbi Yehoshua Ben Levi, there was no rainbow and still when he was in shomayim, he fibbed and said that there was. Rav Schachter learned that from here, one is allowed to lie about Tzidkus issues when the intent is not for a practical purpose.

Let us go down and mix up their languages (11:7) – Rashi notes that as a result, one asked for a brick and the partner brought cement and the first one would argue with him and kill him. Why did Hashem need to thwart the efforts with such extreme force that one would literally murder his friend?  Why not stop at getting them to end the project? The Brisker Rav ztl. answered that when 2 people are joined in any project, then any stumbling block placed in front of them will be eventually overcome as they remain untied until their goal is achieved. That’s why the story had to end with the entire unity being broken. (This explains why in Achav’s generation the Reshaim could still win wars as they remained untied in goal).


 Haftorah: For this is the waters of Noach to me: Rav Daniel Z. Feldman Shlita  suggests that the mabul is sometimes identified as being part of Noach’s failures simply because he was too lax in utilizing his ability to stay off the destruction of the world. However, the children of Avraham note that in the same way that there ae many different rays to the color of the rainbow, there is light after the storm that can illuminate darkness as long as there are those willing to light the way.