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Parsha Noach

10/11/2018 08:33:48 PM


Parshas Noach spans two periods of time- before the destructive flood and after- and depicts Noach’s role of facilitating the transition between the pre-flood world and the post-flood world.  Noach is uniquely defined by this rebuilding task, as we do not find other characters in the Torah who are given such a mission.  In order to better understand Noach’s role in this job, we can look back to Parshas Bereishis to the naming of Noach and see how Noach’s very name reflects his mission.  The Pasuk says: “He was called Noach because this one will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground which God has cursed.”  What rest would Noach provide in an agricultural sense?  Rashi explains that Noach would eventually invent the plow, an innovative approach to working the ground that would revolutionize the work of farming by providing an easier and more effective approach to growing crops.  In conclusion of his analysis of Noach’s name, Rashi writes that Noach should not be confused with Menachem, for although they share a common core in Hebrew language, the invention of the plow fits with the name Noach, and not Menachem.  Menachem connotes consolation and emotional reassurance, whereas Noach is simply ease and luxury, and these two types of “comfort” should never be confused because one cannot perform the job of the other.  As the first inventor in the Torah, Noach’s very name is the Torah’s perspective for the advancements of technology- ease, but not necessarily consolation- and this name of Noach will come to define the man who lived through a destruction of an old world to build a new one.

One core idea that emerges from Noach’s exit from the Teiva and God’s rainbow covenant is that one cannot rebuild a new world by simply replicating the old one.  Noach’s hesitancy to leave the Teiva and propagate is relatable, because without a new plan and directive for mankind, what guarantees that the same mistakes will not recur to warrant yet another flood?  As the Ramban writes based on empirical science, the rainbow existed far before God’s covenant with Noach, and the rainbow was only meant to represent an idea that God was imparting to Noach in encouraging him to start a new world.  The Ramban famously explains that the rainbow is an inverted bow, as in a bow and arrow, representative of peace, as God is promising that the bow will never turn around to face earth any more.  Other ideas about the rainbow is that it represents a change in the new world, where people will feel God’s light in their darkened times.  After the flood, Man’s physicality was decreased with the average life span lessened, and with this alteration came a closer connection to God’s light and an easier grasp of spiritual truth.  Rainbows appear in the aftermath of a dark and overcast sky, and shine brighter through the context of the previous storm.  As R’ Hirsh notes, a distinct part of the rainbow’s beauty is how the seven colors blend together, and each Jew somehow finds their particular color in the great mesh of light that attaches itself to God.  From this angle, the rainbow covenant presented a new world where mistakes can remain isolated issues and not addictive patterns, a world that preaches themes of remorse for wrongdoing, and a world that is naturally drawn to organized and moral societies.

There are 7 universal mitzvos that apply even to Gentiles, and they are known as the “Seven laws of the children of Noach.”  The story of Noach is the story of the recreation of the world, so to speak, with Noach emerging with new ideas and fresh tools to live with.  Even the simple mitzvah of procreation, which was originally given to Adam, is repeated again to Noach after he steps out of the Teiva.  The Sefas Emes suggests that Noach’s mistake of immediately planting a vineyard and getting inebriated was due to the fact that the nature of the world changed, and after the flood, the intoxicating degrees of wine changed.  It is not a coincidence that Noach was the first inventor in the Torah, as his name describes, because it was Noach’s capacity to advance beyond what was that made him the unique pioneer that he was.  It was horribly sad that the world was destroyed and that people’s makeup changed, and we should never be naïve enough to think that our advancements make us a happier or more successful generation, but it is nonetheless imperative to take a lesson from Noach in how to continue on and find the novel growth of the future.

Fri, January 18 2019 12 Shevat 5779