Parsha Insights

Where Biblical law and Torah tale is brought vividly to life


The Jewish perspective on topical and controversial subjects

Life Cycle

Probing for meaning in our journey and its milestones.

Yearly Cycle

Discover depth and mystique in the annual Jewish festivals

Rabbi’s Desk

Seeking life’s lessons in news items and current events

Home » Noach

Noach: Food for Thought at your Dinner Table

Submitted by on October 7, 2007 – 3:20 amNo Comment | 2,607 views


Sunday – Ritual Mitzvot and Social  Mitzvot

“The end of all flesh has come before me for the earth has filled with violence.” The “end of all flesh” is a euphemism for the prosecuting angel, who presents our misdeeds before G-d and demands that He punish us. When this angel appears G-d usually forgives our misdeeds and bans the prosecuting angel, the one who demands the “end of all flesh,” from His chambers.

This is true of sins that we commit against G-d. However, G-d cannot forgive sins that we commit against our fellow human. Only the person we have wronged can forgive those sins. Until we have secured such forgiveness, the prosecutor, the “end of all flesh,” is permitted in G-d’s chamber.

We now understand the deeper meaning of the aforementioned verse. The primary sin that brought about the flood was violence, a sin that G-d cannot forgive without the consent of the victim. Because G-d could not forgive this sin He was therefore “forced” to permit the “end of all flesh” to come before Him. Tiferet Yonatan.

Monday – What He Lacked in Faith He Made up in Love

“The waters fell upon the earth and Noah entered the ark.” Our sages inferred from this verse that Noah hesitated to enter the ark because he questioned the veracity of his own prophecy. Why did Noah doubt G-d’s promise?

Entering the ark meant saving himself and abandoning those left behind. Noah understood that so long as he remained with his community there was a (slight) chance that they would be inspired to repent and the decree would thus be annulled. Noah therefore delayed his entry till the last moment – till the rain began to fall. At that point he knew that the people would not repent and he abandoned all hope. Only now was he ready to save himself and enter the ark. Tiferet Yonatan.

Tuesday – G-d Remembered

“G-d remembered Noah and the animals with him in the ark . . . and caused the waters to subside.”

That the memory of Noah inspired a divine change of heart is understandable, but what did the animals in the ark contribute to this positive change of heart?

When G-d thought of the animals he was in fact thinking of Noah. Accordingly the verse should be understood as, “G-d remembered Noah and (his intense labour of providing for) the animals with him in the ark. Furthermore, the Midrash teaches that Noah was struck by a lion when he was late with his feeding. Accordingly, G-d remembered Noah and (the injuries he incurred by providing for) the animals with him in the ark. Or HaChayim.

Wednesday – Communal Responsibility

“And G-d said to Noah, go out of the ark.” The Hebrew word for ark also means, word. The Baal Shem tov taught that one who is fully immersed in the words of Torah reaches the sublime state that Noah achieved in the ark. Yet, appealing as this state can be we are sometimes instructed to come out of the ark.

Contemplating the degradation of our society’s moral values, we might be tempted to separate ourselves and create an ark, a communal enclave, where proper Jewish values are taught. Appealing as it is to remain inside this ark, we are duty bound to come out of it. It is our obligation to seek out those  who choose to remain outside of the ark and bring the Torah to them. Likutei Sichos 25 p.33.

Thursday – The Inverse Sign

“I have placed a rainbow in the cloud and it will be a sign of the covenant.”

The rainbow, as its name implies, forms the shape of a bow that arches toward earth. When shooting an arrow, the shooter aims the arch of the bow inwardly, yet the rainbow’s arch faces away from G-d, toward earth. This is why the rainbow is viewed as a sign of the covenant.

Combatants, who want to signify their peaceful intentions, turn their weapons inward. The raindrop is G-d’s weapon through which he could flood the world. Yet the light refracted through the raindrop communicates that the weapon is pointed heavenward rather then toward us. It is a sign that G-d has taken an oath to never flood the world again. Nachmanidies.

Friday – Setting the Tone

“Noah began and planted a vineyard.” Our sages taught that by planting a vineyard Noah degraded himself. There is nothing degrading about planting a vineyard, but there is something degrading about setting the tone for post flood life by planting a vineyard.

The tone for every endeavor is set at its beginning. Noah had just emerged from the ark after an entire generation was decimated. His first act would set the tone for the new society that he would establish. It would have been fortuitous to set the tone with an act of spirit such as prayer or Torah study. By choosing the highly materialistic endeavor of vineyard planting Noah missed an important opportunity and the society he established turned toward Idolatry rather than G-d. Divrei Yisrael.

Shabbat – The Wrong Kind of Unity

Why were the people punished for building the tower of Babel? All they sought was to make a name for themselves (a towering reference point) less they be scattered upon the earth. The answer can be discerned from G-d’s response to the tower. “Behold they are one nation and they converse in a single language.” Their desire to unify was, in this instance, sinful.

After the flood G-d took an oath that he would never destroy the world’s population by water. Our sages observed that this oath did not apply to the destruction of a segment of the population. The post flood generation therefore worried that if any one segment sinned against G-d they might be flooded. Hence they sought to protect themselves through unification. Let us become a single entity, they said. Let us form a common front. This way we might all sin and all deserve to be punished. There would be protection in numbers since G-d promised not to destroy the world’s entire population at one time.

They were punished because they used the divine oath as an enabler of sin. Sefat Emet.