Points to Ponder

Noach 5777

And he wiped out all of the Yikum (7:23) – Rav Ovadiah Yosef ztl notes the incredible gifts that Hashem gave the generation of the Mabul and how they were Kifuyeii Tova for all of it and took Hashem’s gifts for granted. He cites a Midrash  that they only needed to plant once every 40 years and the ground continued to produce. The Midrash adds that one could travel throughout the world in moments, that people could uproot trees and that the animals feared them. The Midrash tells the story of one of the women who gave birth and told her child to cut his own umbilical cord. As the youngster looked around, he had a battle with the Melech HaShaidim that was stopped due to the time. The Melech HaShaidim told the baby to thank its mother that he didn’t kill the baby and the baby told Melech HaShaidim that he should thsank the baby’s mother for had she cut the cord, he would have destroyed the Melech HaShaidim. This type of confidence was inspired by the gifts given by Hashem yet went unrecognized. Hence, says Rav Ovadiah  ztl., the Dor HaMabul has no share in the world to come – for Hashem does not need Kifuyeii Tova.

And behold there was an olive leaf in her mouth (8:11) – Why were the olive trees saved? Daas Zekanim opines that perhaps it was because in the future it would provide oil for the Beis HaMikdash. If that is indeed the case, wine too would be needed for Nesachim, why not save those as well? Rav Gifter ztl. explains that olive oil is only used for positive purposes so it does not need man to sanctify it with a holy purpose. On the other hand, wine and alcohol need man to realize that it can be used positively or negatively and man needs to actively choose not to use it negatively. As we see Noach fails to learn that message.

Only meat with its soul you shall not eat (9:4) – Rashi explains that this refers to Eiver Min HaChai. However, from this point forward, man was permitted to eat meat. Ramban explains that this is because Noach saved the animals in general so he was given permission to consume from them for his own needs.  The Talmud (Pesachim 49b) notes that one who is a Talmid Chacham is permitted to eat meat but one who is an Am Haaretz is not. Why? Rav Yaakov Kamenetzsky ztl. <Pirkei Avos> explains that while humans  aspire for growth, animals do not aspire to self improvement. If an animal did, it would aspire to be the BEST in life – and have the best life. The way that this happens is when it is improved by man. That improvement happens when man who consumes the animals uses the energy it provides for his own betterment. That only happens by the Talmid Chacham – who uses the meat properly.

And Noach began to be a man of the earth (9:20- translated according to Ramban) – Rashi notes that Noach debased himself with this process (Chullin). While it seems clear that the Torah recognizes his error in not choosing wisely, what was it in his character that led to this mistake? Rav Haim Sabato Shlita suggests that unlike Moshe and Avraham, Noach was a personal Tzaddik who felt that his own Tzidkus could not even save the generation. So he removed himself from it. Sforno explains that a Tzaddik who perfects himself can only be saved himself. While Moshe grows from being Ish Mitzree to Ish HaElokim, Noach goes in the opposite direction. This happens because he does not take the generation with him – he winds up alone and lowly, at ground level.

And Cham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father and told his 2 brothers outside (9:22) – Rashi quotes the dual opinions as to whether Cham castrated or abused Noach. Rav Wolbe ztl. explains that the literal physical castration is impossible since the Torah only uses the word “saw”.  Rather, he notes that the issue must be more spiritual/psychological impotence. We find many examples in the Gemara of Hezei Reiya. We see the power of the gaze in the earlier generation. (This is especially true in the generation of shaming).

Haftorah: For this is the waters of Noach to me (Yeshaya 54:9) – Why is the flood referred to as Mei Noach? Wasn’t Noach the one who was saved by it? Rav Schachter Shlita would often cite the Midrash that explains that Noach didn’t daven to negotiate with Hashem the way Avraham did. The Jewish people help everybody – we need to fulfill our mission and expect that in its merit Hashem will fulfill the rest of the Possuk that Asher Nishbatee Migor Bach.