Points to Ponder

Noach 5778

These are the offspring of Noach Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. (6:9)- The phrase b’dorosav, “in his generations,” has given rise to much commentary. Rashi cites a dispute among Chazal as to the nature of this phrase: Is it an accolade, meant to praise Noach? Or a deficiency, considering Noach to be righteous only in contrast to his generation? Some see Noach as a very righteous person who was able to withstand the extreme evil of his generation. Indeed, had he lived in the era of Avraham Avinu, Noach would have been even greater. Others view his righteousness through the lens of contraposition. He was a tzaddik, righteous man, only in contrast to the people of his time. But why not leave well enough alone? Why search for a way to paint his impeccable character in a deficient manner? The Alter from Novoradok explains that, indeed, both perspectives on Noach advanced by Chazal depict him as a tzaddik. The dispute is not concerning his level of tzidkus, but rather, concerning what motivated his righteousness. Some say that Noach wanted to grow spiritually, to grow closer to Hashem. He was self-motivated, because he understood the importance of a life of holiness and purity, a life of spiritual value in which morality is not one based on human subjectivity. The other position taken by our sages sees Noach choosing a life of piety because he was morally outraged by the behavior of his compatriots. When he saw how the members of his generation were morally corrupt he knew that he must distance himself from them as much as possible. Thus, both positions taken by Chazal applaud Noach as a tzaddik. The only difference was if it was positive growth? Or a reaction to society’s revolting behavior.

On this day Noach, his wife , family and their wives entered the Teiva because of the waters of the Mabul (7:7) – Rashi explains that Noach was among the weak of faith. How could one referred to in the Torah as a Tzaddik be one of weak faith? Rav Nachum Eliezer Rabinovitch Shlita suggests that there are 2 types of Emunah. There is a factual Emunah and a practical one. The former does not require the person to do anything with the faith. The latter requires the person to act. When Noach heard that there was going to be a flood that would destroy the world he believed it but also believed that Hashem could change mankind as we know it through the process of Teshuvah. Until the final moment, he hoped that the flood would not signal the doom of mankind but rather the doom of the EVIL WAY of mankind. This was Rashi’s intent here and is not a negative of Noach – rather of his generation. Rav Rabinovitch adds that we also have a requirement to believe in ourselves and practically act on that Emunah to achieve greater success than we have achieved in the past.

On this day all of the wells of Tehom opened and the windows of Shomayim opened (7:11) – The Tanaim note that there is not 15 amos of water level in the entire world. The additional waters must have come from the waters on top of the Rakiya. This water combined with the waters of the earth created the full waters. The Yirushalmi tells us that there was no flood in Eretz Yisrael. Rav Schachter Shlita noted that this is why Terach sought out to get to Eretz Canaan. He saw that there was something special about the place and wanted to be there. This is not the intent of the Talmudic understanding of Eretz Yisrael Gavoha Mikol HaArazos – EY is not the highest point in the world. That refers to the singling out of the land which has ramifications for the international date line (according to the Baal HaMaor).

The dove came to him at evening time and behold it had an olive leaf in its mouth (8:11) – Rav Yehonasan Eybeshutz ztl. explains that the dove brought a branch and not the fruit because the animals of a Tzaddik do not eat non-Kosher and the dove did not want to take an olive lest Maaser not be taken from it. However, given that everyone had perished, weren’t all of the fruits Hefker and thus, exempt form Maaser? Rav Chaim Kanievsky Shlita noted that it is possible that the fruit came from the stock of Og who lived and this would have necessitated the separation of Maaser according to the position that a non-Jew does not acquire the land to the point that he exempts the fruit from Maaser. Ergo, the dove was strict.

Go out of the Teivah, you, your wife your sons and your daughters in law with you (8:16) – The Yalkut Shimoni points out that Noach sinned by not following the command and thus was embarrassed by the episode with his drunkedness. A second opinion mentioned notes that he ADDED to the Kedusha and thus was rewarded with direct communication from Hashem. How does one explain such an opposing set of theories? Rav Altusky ztl. suggests that the first opinion was (as Rashi explains) pointing out that Hashem was encouraging the end of the separation of man and wife – separate seating – that was the norm in the Teiva. Noach didn’t follow through and lost out on the chance for Pru U’Revu. The second opinion was that he just chose to remain strict in this separation and Hashem rewarded him. Rav Altusky adds that Hashem can recognize dual intentions in the action and reward some of it while punishing the other part. Noach ignored the word of Hashem in an attempt to eek out a guarantee that Hashem would not destroy the world Noach was supposed to populate. For this, he was punished. At the same time, he was able to utilize the chance to remain a Kadosh and for that intent he was rewarded. The person performing any action needs to remember that Hashem also sees the intentions and counts them too.

For man was created in the image of Hashem (9:6) – The reason not to murder is because of the Tzelem Elokim? Is it permitted to murder if one were not a Tzelem Elokim? Moreover, the Gemara (Sanhedrin 57b) uses this possuk in order to include abortion within the context of Tzelem Elokim as forbidden to Bnei Noach but the same possuk is utilized to be somewhat more lenient in that we do not see the child as a Nefesh as yet (See Erachin 7a). Now if the child is a Nefesh for a Ben Noach why is it not so for a Jew? Rav Tzaddok HaKohein suggests that Tzelem Elokim refers to the potential for creating life. In that regard, man mimics Hashem in a certain sense in that both have the ability to create. Therefore, when one chooses to do the opposite of creating – killing – he ruins his whole purpose in the world. Rav Betalel Rudinsky Shlita explained that included in this idea is a two-fold problem with killing. The first is that the purpose does an action of killing. Additionally, he is not fulfilling his purpose on earth – to be a creator and not a destroyer. This second idea applies even when one aborts a fetus. For even if it lacks a Nefesh, the one who takes away the potential for creation is reversing the course that Hashem set for HIM as a creator and not a destroyer.

Let us make bricks into a tower whose head will be in Shomayim (11:3-4) – Rav Yosef Chaim Sonnenfeld ztl. was once asked by Emperor Franz Yosef why it is that when the world gets to make more and more scientific discovery, it begins to believe in Hashem less and less. Rav Yosef Chaim answered using our possuk. You see, normally in building, people first develop the plans for building and later make or purchase the bricks for them. When the people came to the idea of building, they sought to use rocks. They did not have proper stones to build in the areas and had to solve their lack with the invention of bricks. When they figured out how they could, by making bricks, they decided that they were just as creative as Hashem – and decided that they didn’t need Him in their lives.

Haftorah: For this is the waters of Noach (Yeshayahu ) – Why is the Mabul referred to as the waters of Noach? The Zohar HaKadosh explains that when one has the chance to pray for his world and does not, the punishment is referred to as his. The difficulty is that Noach tried hard – anything that survived did so because of his efforts! Why then does he get saddled with the negativity of the Mabul? Moreover, even Avraham Aveinu stopped seeking assistance when it was clear that he was not going to be able to find 10 worthy people in Sodom. He did not plead for fewer. Yet, that plague is not called his? Why? Rav Chaim Shmuellevitz ztl. explains that like with Iyov, who was punished for not speaking up to care for the Jewish nation with terrible pains, the same lesson applies here. Iyov was punished with Yissurin because he was silent. He wa to learn that he would cry out, even when the cries would make no difference. Because when there is a need facing a people, there is no time for calculations – one CANNOT be silent. Rav Nosson Tzvi Finkel ztl. added that this is the intent of the Talmud (Berachos 12b) that one who has the ability to seek Rachamim and does not is called a sinner and if s/he is a Chacham it is worse. This is because one needs to feel sick about injustice and make a difference even by feeling the pain.