Parshat Noach

A Student Publication of Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Noach            6 Cheshvan 5763             October 12, 2002              Vol.12 No.2

In This Issue:

Rabbi Darren Blackstein
Uriel Schechter
Effie Richmond
Ariel Caplan
Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week’s issue of Kol Torah has been sponsored by
Rabbi Darren Blackstein in memory of his beloved mother,
Miriam Chaya

The Ties That Bond
by Rabbi D. Blackstein

The Torah tells us, in the last Pasuk of Perek 10, that from the families of  Noach the nations were separated, נפרדו on the earth after the flood. Perek 11 begins by describing a type of unity and tranquility that mankind had achieved. However, that comfort lead to a degree of rebellion against Hashem. Pasuk 4 tells us that the people planned to build a city, and a tower that would reach into the Heavens, and through this they would make a name for themselves there. The Torah continues to tell us that the motivation for this action came from their fear of eventually being scattered,  נפוץ, on the face of the earth. Mankind has this uncanny ability to find ways in which he ignores the kindness of Hashem. Rashi, on Pasuk 5, points out why we are called the sons of “man.”  Just as Adam in 3:12 blamed his sin on Chava and did not show appreciation to Hashem for giving him a mate, so too this generation chose to rebel instead of showing Hashem that they appreciated that their ancestors survived the Flood.

How did they rebel? The Rashbam says that they went against the commandment to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth. Instead, they sought to dwell and fill the Heavens. Indeed, the Ramban seems to subscribe to this when he says that they tried to establish a “name” there, implying that they wanted to change the way Hashem relates to His creation. Why should the concern over being scattered cause mankind to seek a solution in a totally different domain? Surely, we believe in a connection between Heaven and Earth! However, the efforts of these people seemed to show dissatisfaction with the way Hashem had set up Heaven and Earth. They failed to see that our efforts have to be primarily focused on the Earth and not on the Heavens above.

We must realize that the way to deal with our difficulties is through allegiance to Hashem and His Torah. It would be seem that the first Mishna in the 3rd Perek of Sukkah has a similar message. The Mishna describes qualities that render a Lulav invalid. One such quality is separated,
נפרצו where the leaves are totally separated from the spine. This is what the people were afraid of in Pasuk 4, lest they be scattered, נפוץ, and be totally separated from each other. However, the Torah already described them as separated נפרדו, at the end of Perek 10. Indeed, our Mishna describes that a condition of the leaves being spread out but not separated from the spine, called נפרדו, still retains Kashrut. Rebbe Yehuda says that this type of Lulav must still be tied together so that it looks like all other Lulavim. That is to say, that even though the people are spread out, the situation is not optimized until you bind them together with Torah. People that are united still have to show their unity through that which truly binds us - the Torah. The people had this quality and then lost it when they began to fear that they would ultimately be separated even from each other - נפרצו.

Still, this generation was better than the generation of the flood, who were destroyed. The punishment for the generation of the Tower was that they were scattered, but not destroyed. Rashi, in Pasuk 9,  points out that this is because they were careful in the way they treated each other, as opposed to the lack of moral and ethical concern on the part of the generation of the flood. Let us take our Parsha and our Mishna as examples and reminders of how important it is to be bound to Hashem and to each other.

Trust in Hashem
by Uriel Schechter

Following the completion of the מבול Hashem commands Noach צא מן התיבה אתה ואשתך ובניך ונשי בניך אתך.  Prior to the מבול Hashem commands Noach ויאמר ה' לנח בא אתה וכל ביתך אל התיבה.  Before the flood Hashem tells Noach and his family to enter the תיבה and after the flood he tells Noach and his family to leave the תיבה.  The Midrash writes that Noach would never have done anything without Hashem telling him what to do.  The Ben-Yosef asks if Noach would dare to act on his own before Hashem told him to, following such a great tragedy as the מבול.  However, on the contrary, one can ask why would Noach have to be told to leave the תיבה?  After the water subsided would it not be logical for Noach to leave the תיבה and rebuild the world? 

The Ben–Yosef answers his question by saying that the Midrash is trying to teach an important lesson.  One might think that the reason Noach entered the
תיבה was just to save his life.  However, now that the מבול has ended, and Noach is able to walk on dry land again, he might not recognize the Chessed of Hashem.  It is comparable to one who leaves jail and wants to start a new life again.  It is unlikely that he will go back and remember his old life.  The same is true with Noach.  One might think that once he left the תיבה and started a new life he would forget his past.  Therefore, the Midrash comes to teach us that Noach did not forget his past and would not act without Hashem’s direct command.

Harav Yosef Adler provides the answer to the second question.  He answers that after the destruction of the world Noach did not know if it was worth it to rebuild the world if it could get destroyed again.  Therefore, Hashem needed to tell Noach
צא, go out and rebuild the world.  צא was Hashem’s encouragement to Noach not to give up and that if he rebuilds the world it will not be destroyed again.  Hopefully we can take these two messages, not to forget our past and never to be discouraged, and build a nation of true Bnai Torah.

Why Double Language?
by Effie Richmond

The Torah says in this week’s Parsha, “Vatishachet Haaretz Lifnay Haelokim Vatimalay Haaretz Chamas.” In addition it also says “Vayomer Elokim Lenoach... Ki Malah Haaretz Chamas.”  Why is there repetition? If the Torah tells us that the land self destructed before Hashem (Vatishaches Haaretz Lifnay Haelokim), why does it add that it was filled with Chamas (crime)?

Chazal say that Hashchasa, “destruction” refers to the sins of idolatry (Avoda Zara) and illicit relationships (Giluy Arayot), while Chamas refers to robbery (Gezel). The Ramban explains that when Hashem spoke to Noach, He based the decision to destroy the world on the sin of Chamas. Why did Hashem not mention Giluy Arayot and Avoda Zara as a reason for the Hashchasa? The Ramban explains that avoidance of Chamas is considered a Mitzva Muskelet, an obligation that is readily grasped from an intellectual perspective. Man can readily understand and appreciate the necessity to maintain law and order. Chazal refer to such Mitzvot Sichliot as Mitzvot that would be followed even had they not been written in the Torah. Giluy Arayot and Avoda Zara, are considered Mitzvot Shliliot, Mitzvot that we must obey and restrictions we must follow simply because Hashem has commanded us to refrain from them. They are prohibitions that man would not place on himself if left to his own rational devices. (That is why the Ramban only refers to Giluy Arayot and Avoda Zara and omits murder, Shfichat Damim, from the category of Hashchasa, since murder is also a Mitzva Sichlit.)

Hashem tells Noach that He will destroy the world because it is filled with Chamas. Hashem says that even if He would be willing to overlook their transgressions of the Mitzvot Shliliot, namely Avoda Zara and Giluy Arayot, He cannot overlook their violation of basic norms and ethical behavior.  Their transgression of the Mitzvot Sichliot of Chamas and Gezel, which are restrictions that they should have understood on their own and never violated. Chazal said that the fate of the generation of the Mabul was sealed because of their violation of Gezel, which left an permanent mark on the generation and led to their destruction.

The Rav zt”l asked why the Torah used the words Lifnay Elokim, “Before Elokim” when telling us that the generation self destructed (Vatishachet Haaretz Lifnay Elokim). We can easily understand using these words when describing the Mitzva of Usemachtem Lifnay Hashem Elokaychem, “And you should rejoice before Hashem you G-d.”  But how do these words fit here?

The Rav explained that in Parshat Vayikra the Torah tells us about Shvuat Hapikadon, an oath that must be taken by a person entrusted to watch an item. The Torah describes the concept of Shvuat Hapikadon as Nefesh Ki Techta Umaala Maal Behashem Vkichesh Beamiso (A person who sins by committing a misappropriation offense against Hashem by lying to his neighbor). The Tosefta explains that such an offense against his fellow man can only be committed by one who has previously been Moel Behashem, acted inappropriately towards Hashem. A Jew who fears Hashem (Bayn Adam Lemakom) will refrain from acting sinfully towards his fellow man (Bayn Adam Lechaveiro). In other words man is called a sinner not only because he violates the Mitzvot Sichliot, but because he has violated the Mitzvot Shliliot as well, and sinned towards Hashem. The Ramban says the same thing happened by the Dor Hamabul. They started out with Hashchasa, by rebelling against Hashem and the Mitzvot Shliliot of Avoda Zara and Giluy Arayot and eventually ended up violating the Mitzvot Sichliot of Gezel and Chamas.

The Rav said that in Tefilat Neila we recite Ata Noten Yad Leposhim, that Hashem helps man Lemaan Nechdal Meoshek Yadaynu, “so that he can desist from the robbery of our hands.” Why do we not say Lemaan Nechdal Mayaverot Yadeinu, “so that he might desist from the sins of our hands”? Why use a term like Oshek instead of Avonot or Aveyrot that is more commonly used to refer to sin?

The Rav explained that Oshek is an all-inclusive term for all kinds of sin, similar to Chamas. (When the Torah says Ki Malah Haaretz Chamas it means that man committed all kinds of Aveyrot.) On Yom Kippur we say that Hashem assists man to repent for all sins, Oshek, that he committed. When man sins he loses his privileges, Zechutim, over himself. In Tefila Zaka we say that Hashem created man and all the parts of his body to serve Hashem and act morally, yet instead we have acted immorally and we are Gazlanim, theives. In Malachi, the prophet asks how it is possible to steal from Hashem? The answer is when man does not give Trumot and Maasrot, he steals from Hashem.  If Hashem gives us wealth and we do not give Tzedaka, we are stealing from Hashem. If man uses his hands or his legs for sinful purposes, he is stealing them from Hashem, who created them so that we might perform Mitzvot with them. We forfeit our rights, Zechutim, over our own bodies. When we pray that we may desist from Oshek Yadaynu, we ask that we be granted the strength to resist the sin of Gezel through the misuse of either physical or material gifts given to us by Hashem. We pray that we might not repeat our sinful past when we were guilty of Oshek Yadaynu, misuse of our hands, indeed our very existence.

The Rav explained that the Dor Hamabul was filled with Chamas because they had perverted their entire physical and spiritual existence. They were guilty of Oshek, violating all of Hashem’s laws between man and God as well as man and man, to the highest degree and were punished accordingly.

Using Recourses Wisely
by Ariel Caplan

In the second paragraph of the Shema, Hashem promises us abundant financial blessings as a reward for doing Mitzvot.  Only when the description of rewards for Mitzva observance is completed does the Torah say,
השמרו לכם פן יפתה לבבכם, “Beware for yourself, lest your heart turn astray.”  The Torah then continues with punishments for sinning.

Why did the Torah not just say to do Mitzvot and refrain for sin, and then describe the consequences for each?  A Midrash on Parshat Noach may provide the answer.

The Midrash says that before the flood, people had great lives.  Children could walk and talk from the day they were born.  People lived for hundreds of years, and no one died without seeing their children and grandchildren.  They never had to go through the heat of summer and the cold of the winter; instead, they had mild spring weather year-round.  The generation before the flood also possessed great strength, to such an extent that they considered lions harmless and could uproot whole trees.  In addition, they did not become weak in old age, but only got more powerful.  They also had very little work to do.  One year’s crop was sufficient to feed them for forty years.  They knew no suffering at all.

Instead of using all these blessings for a good purpose, they rejected Hashem.  They said that they did not need His help for anything.  Based on this “logic,” they committed the three cardinal sins, and they stole constantly.  In the end, they were all wiped out.

From this Midrash, we see that we must be careful to remember that Hashem gives us everything that we have, and we must be thankful.  The reason that the section of Shema about sins comes right after the description of material blessings is to warn us to not become arrogant in good times.  Rather, we must use the resources we have – talents, possessions, etc.- to follow the Torah and do good things.

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