Weekly Reading Insights

Noach 5763

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Noach
To be read on 6 Mar Cheshvan 5763 (Oct.12)

Torah: Genesis 6:9-11:32
Haftorah: Isaiah. 54:1-55:5 (which mentions "the waters of Noach")

Stats: Noah, 2nd out of 12 in Genesis, contains 0 positive mitzvot and 0 prohibitive mitzvot.
It is written on 230 lines in a parchment Torah scroll, 4th out of 54 in overall length.

G-d told Noach that the world was filled with perversion and He wished to destroy it through a flood. He ordered Noach to build an ark, promising to save him and his family. He also told him to bring into the ark seven pairs of every clean animal and two pairs of every unclean animal, and seven pairs of every bird, as well as food for his family and for the animals. It rained for 40 days and nights, and all was destroyed. The water remained for a year. G-d then commanded Noach to leave the ark, and promised that He would never again cause such mass destruction by flood on earth. Noach offers sacrifices from the clean species. G-d placed a rainbow in the sky as a sign of this covenant. As a result of an unpleasant incident, Noach cursed his son Cham, whose son was Canaan, that he would always be slave to his brothers. Noach died at the age of 950. The Parsha then chronicles the generations of Noach's sons. The earth had one language, and the people decided to build a tower to heaven. G-d saw this, and made the people speak different languages so that they could not understand each other. He then scattered them across the world. The chronicle of generations continues through to Avram, who married Sarai. They settled in Charan.


"He sent forth a dove." (8:8)

Where did it fly? To the land of Israel, which had not been inundated by the great Flood. The Jewish people is likened to a dove. Banished and exiled over the face of the earth, the Jew's heart is nonetheless always drawn to the Holy Land, the land of Israel.

(Be'er Mayim Chaim)

"I have set My bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of My covenant between Me and the earth...and I will remember My covenant." (9:13-14)

Before the Flood, the clouds in the sky were thick and dense, obscuring the light of the sun. The Flood, which cleansed and purified the earth, also refined the clouds and made it possible for the rainbow to be observed, a phenomenon caused by the sun's rays. The rainbow, a product of the process of purification, is therefore symbolic of the Final Redemption, which will come about through the refinement and elevation of the physical world, as stated in the Zohar: "When a rainbow appears with its shining multicolored hues -- await the arrival of Moshiach."

(Lubavitcher Rebbe)



Selected with permission and adapted from the three-volume English edition of
Shney Luchot HaBrit -- the Sh'lah, as translated, condensed, and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (1565-1630), known as the 'Sh'lah' - an acronym of the title, was born in Prague. A scholar of outstanding reputation, he served as chief Rabbi of Cracow, and more famously, of Frankfort (1610-1620). After his first wife passed away, he remarried and moved to Israel in 1621, where he became the first Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi of Jerusalem. He later moved to Tiberias, where he is buried, near the tomb of the Rambam.

Let us understand the difference between Genesis 6:1, “Noach walked with the Lord,” and Genesis 24:40 when Abraham describes himself, “G-d before Whom I walked.” Noach needed G-d to “hold his hand,” so to speak, whereas Abraham was self-propelled, took the initiative. Noach was afraid to mix with the corrupt society he lived in and isolated himself with only G-d as his companion because he was afraid of the possible influence on him of contemporary society. Abraham was not only confident that he would not succumb to the corrupt society around him, but he tried to lead his fellow-men back to the path of monotheism and a life of good deeds. This is the plain meaning of those verses. I have elaborated on this elsewhere.

According to the path we generally follow, it will be shown that Noach’s strength was not as great as Abraham’s in other matters. Abraham had “awakened” himself to recognize and serve his Creator. As a result he received considerable input from the Holy Spirit. This is what is meant when I said that rapprochement to G-d must proceed from “the bottom up,” i.e. man must be the initiator. Noach, on the other hand, relied on Divine inspiration to be the first step. Walking with G-d means after G-d had inspired him first. The “awakening” came from Above.

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(W:02-63 Noach)

One of the more amazing mystical concepts emphasized in Judaism in general and in Chassidic philosophy in particular is the idea of Hashgacha Pratit, Divine providence. Divine providence refers to the direct involvement of G-d in every individual detail in His creation. The question is how much? Is every occurrence that we experience a vessel for Divinity, literally G-d communicating to us, or perhaps only the 'major things'? The Baal Shem Tov taught that every single event in the world, even a leaf falling from a tree, is a divine event and has some revealed or hidden teaching and purpose to it. We have a very interesting example of this in this week's Torah portion.

After the flood, one of the first things Noach did was to plant a vineyard. Upon harvesting the grapes he made wine, drank and became drunk. The verse says (9/22), "He was uncovered in his tent." The Torah continues, saying that Ham, the father of Canaan, Noach youngest son, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers who were outside. Ham's older brothers, Shem and Yafet, then took a garment, "went in backwards and covered their father's nakedness, their faces turned backwards, and they did not see their father's nakedness". Twice the Torah states that they turned backwards. What additional insight is the Torah providing us by repeating that the two sons did not see their father's nakedness?

The Baal Shem Tov explains that when a person sees something negative in another person, this is really an indication that some part of that evil is in him-or something resembling that evil on even a very minute level. The other person is merely functioning as a mirror. A person whose face is clean sees no blemish in the mirror. Something inappropriate is only a reflection of a problem in ourselves. The reason someone is shown the negative trait is to be moved by the coarseness of it, to identify it in oneself and to fix it in one's own soul.

But wait! Maybe the reason we are shown this negative thing is in order to help the other person improve. This could also be Divine providence and more so, we have a commandment from the Torah to reprimand a person if it will help him change.

The answer is that if the motivation of our seeing the negative was to help the other person change, we would not have judged the badness as something integral to that person, rather just as something to fix--like a stain on someone's clothing; the emphasis would be on the fixing. The fact that the other person was seen in a negative light and that we were repulsed by that person is proof that on some level, however minute, this evil exists in ourselves. This is why the verse states only about Ham that, "He saw his father's nakedness." Since Ham was immoral, it resonated in him. On the other hand, the other sons, who were clean from this evil, only saw what needed to be fixed, and "they did not see their father's nakedness."

A Jew must see only the good in others. If they have something that needs fixing, we have to see it only as an opportunity to help-and not conclude that the other person is bad. Certainly, we should not mention the negativity to others, as Ham did! If, however, our perception is that the person is evil, we should seek to correct ourselves. If we follow this teaching, we will be a vessel for personal truth and will constantly progress in our Torah lives bringing the redemption closer still.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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