Hebraic Studies - Parashat Noach

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Parashat Noach

Bereshit - Genesis 6:9 to 11:32

 

With Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

Noach’s Challenge:

“Noach - Noah found grace in the eyes of … Noach was in his generations a man righteous and whole-hearted; Noach walked with Elohim … Make thee an Ark of gopher wood; with rooms shalt thou make the Ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch” Bereshit - Genesis 6:8-9 & 14 (JPS version of the Torah with some alterations with correct names provided, etc).

As we read in the Torah we find that Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, commanded Noach - Noah to build a - “Tevah” – the Ark and do so according to specific dimensions. The project of building the “Tevah” and the gathering of all the food to feed the species that were selected to enter the “Tevah” took Noach 120 years. The Torah states,

“Thus did Noach; according to all that Elohim commanded him, so did he” Bereshit - Genesis 6:22 (JPS).

Of course this verse refers to the fact that Noach followed ’s instructions regarding the building of the – “Tevah” exactly. The question is why does the Torah need to tell us that Noach did exactly as commanded him? Why would we think otherwise considering the Torah had already stated that Noach was devout and perfect in all of his generations?

The specifications of Noach’s Ark were approximately six hundred feet in length and one hundred feet in width and sixty feet in height. This Ark would be capable to carry a huge amount of animals, including reptiles, insects, birds, domesticated and undomesticated animals, and of course to Noach, his wife and his children and their spouses, etc.

Note: I will return to the animals a little later as there were specific details given, and they were very important!

It would seem that it is impossibility for this limited structure to accommodate this endless number of creatures. The building of the Ark would be an exercise of futility since something of a limited dimension cannot contain something beyond its capacity. It should have been reasonable that Noach would have had difficulty assuming this endeavour of the Ark because of the impossibility of its reality. Noach with unswerving faith in immediately began building the Ark. This is the meaning of the verse,

“Thus did Noach; according to all that Elohim commanded him, so did he” Bereshit - Genesis 6:22 (JPS).

It is believed that Noach built the Ark over 120 years and it was so that the people of the generation should see him building it and ask him “what it’s the purpose of this structure?” By engaging in dialogue with the members of his generation, Noach would have the opportunity to alert them to the pending world destruction if they would not make corrections in their lives and enter into teshuvah (repentance). Noach built the Ark despite all the ridicule he continually received when he would respond that the purpose of the Ark was to accommodate a large number of species. Noach nevertheless did not waiver and was he was never deterred.

On a human level, one is able to understand the Splitting of the Sea because it is simply a question of parting the waters (which is not beyond ’s ability); however, putting thousands of gallons of water into a three-ounce cup is beyond the human capacity to comprehend. One of the miracles which took place in the Beis HaMikdash (The Temple) was that although on Yom Kippur all those who were present in the Sanctuary stood pressed together - when they heard the pronouncement of the Name of by the High Priest, all those present prostrated themselves to their full length without any difficulty. The Beis HaMikdash in the physical context had a specific dimension; however, vis--vis its functionality it had an unlimited capacity.

We are limited to the physical realm and cannot comprehend anything beyond that. Noach was able to negate his understanding to such a degree that he was able to follow the Dictate of regardless of his inability to comprehend the impossible. This aspect of Noach’s greatness is being communicated to us by the verse, “Thus did Noach; according to all that Elohim commanded him, so did he.”

If says that events will unfold in a certain manner then we accept them as fact. For example, at the end of time the Jewish people will be confronted by all the nations of the world at the time of the Armageddon and ultimately we will defeat them. How is it possible that relatively speaking a handful of people are able to defeat an unlimited enemy? The answer is that if this is what has communicated to us through the Prophets then it will take place in its proper time. This is something that goes unquestioned. This is the perspective that a Jew must have. Noach is building the Ark, according to the specifications prescribed by to accommodate a huge number of animals.

The Tzaddik:

“These are the offspring of Noach…” Then, the Torah digresses by saying, “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noach walked with Elohim.” The Torah identifies Noach as what we call a tzaddik so that the world can appreciate him as the role model of devoutness since that is his purpose in existence.

The Torah mentioned the righteousness of Noach in the context of fathering his children so that we can understand why they merited surviving the Great Flood. The offspring survived only in the merit of their father. The offspring of Noach were considered “minors” because they were less than one hundred years old at the time of the Great Flood; indeed, before the Flood anyone less than one hundred years old was actually considered to be a minor.

As I said earlier, when we mention a tzaddik one should acknowledge his worthiness. If the Torah wanted to highlight this special dimension of Noach, then why not simply start the Portion with, “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noach walked with Elohim” and then discuss the offspring of Noach? Why interrupt one statement with the other? Evidently, there must be a connection between the importance of the “offspring” of Noach and his classification as a tzaddik.

All of the families that descended from Adam perished in the Great Flood except for Noach and his family. Therefore, in essence Noach is the father of all mankind and is the antecedent of all humanity; all the characteristics that he possessed were inherited by his descendants. Every human being, both Jew and non-Jew have relevance to the potential of Noach. At this point, it is important to acknowledge Noach as the tzaddik because it informs us about the characteristics which mankind inherited from him and therefore we all have the chance to be a tzaddik.

The potential of every non-Jew is demonstrated by the righteousness of Noach. The potential of every Jew is even greater because he also has relevance to the spiritual characteristics and accomplishments of the Patriarchs – Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov from whom every Jew descends.

Noach’s Level of Faith

After the 120-year project of building the Ark was complete, the Torah states;

“And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood” Bereshit - Genesis 7:7 (JPS).

Over the course during the long period whilst Noach was building the - “Tevah” – the Ark, people would have approached him and asked him, “Why are you building that Ark?” Noach would have responded by telling them, “Elohim will bring a flood upon the all the earth if mankind does not repent - do teshuvah.”

Then just prior to the Flood all of the species of animals, and all living creatures, began to flock to the “Tevah” – the Ark. And you would think that even seeing such a miracle the people of Noach’s generation would understand that something very strange was happening just as Noach had predicted. However, they did not take any notice. After all of the creatures were already in the “Tevah” when the rain commencing to pour down and yet the people still did not take that as an indication that the end was near as they had been told! And they were all destroyed by the floodwaters together with all existence.

Noach understood that the end was now at hand as the Floodwaters began to rise. It was his choice to process that final experience in its proper context and enter into the - “Tevah”. Unlike those who were obstinate and refused to acknowledge the Hand of .

We may experience difficult times in our lives, which could in fact be the basis for a turning point to do teshuvah. Often when a person is subjected to hardship, he or she turns to Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, and mends their ways. However, this is not necessarily the case. Many people do not recognize their shortcomings nor do teshuvah even if they have suffering in their lives. However, even if a person is forced into doing teshuvah because of their hardships, that teshuvah still has value. The reason for this is that although it is done under duress, nevertheless it is attributed to his acknowledgement and understanding that difficulties emanate from their spiritual failings. This is why the Torah goes out of its way to tell us;

“And Noah went in, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood” Bereshit - Genesis 7:7 (JPS).

It indicates that values when we do the right thing despite the fact that it is done under duress. The Kindness of is like a parent to a child. The moment the child makes a move to correct their ways, (despite the parent’s involvement behind the scenes), the parent will value the child’s teshuvah and accept him immediately.

Elohim is no ordinary parent, after creating the earth and all the beings within it and seeing what a mess we humans can make of it, He makes an amazing and brilliant parental (metaphorical) statement based on the great flood!:

“I will clean up your mess just once. Creation is a miracle and a gift to you. Whether you make the best or the worst of it, the consequences and responsibility are yours.”

A little later, towards the bottom of this page there are eleven wonderful steps of teaching that are directly related directly to Noach’s Ark.

Returning to the Animals entering the Ark:

However, I would now like to add another element which is found in this remarkable story when Elohim commanded Noach regarding the loading of the “Tevah” – the “Ark”, for you will discover something that you may find very surprising.

Most of us as Yidden tend to believe that all the Torah Mitzvot - Laws were given at Mt. Sinai, however I have always been aware that many laws were already well known from long before we entered Egypt due drought.

You may ask me, “But rabbi, how can you possibly prove that?” Actually that is rather simple, I can do that from this very scene when Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, speaks to Noach, and He clearly reveals what I am saying here!

Let us now look at Bereshit - Genesis chapter 7, verses 1 & 2, where Elohim, blessed be He, said:

1 “And said unto Noach: ‘Come thou and all thy house into the ark; for thee have I seen righteous before Me in this generation.

2 Of every clean beast thou shalt take to thee seven and seven, each with his mate; and of the beasts that are not clean two and two, each with his mate” (JPS).

Thus the question is simple, how could Noach have known that there were clean and unclean beasts if the “kosher laws was only handed out so much later at Mt Sinai? It is rather simple this truth had been revealed very much earlier, even though no one ate meat until after the flood, as is stated in Bereshit - Genesis chapter 9.

“And Elohim blessed Noach and his sons, and said unto them: ‘Be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth. And the fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every fowl of the air, and upon all wherewith the ground teemeth and upon all the fishes of the sea: into your hand are they delivered. Every moving thing that liveth shall be for food for you; as the green herb have I given you all” Bereshit - Genesis 9: 1-3 (JPS).

Like the Shabbat, this Law was given after the creation, and was upheld by mankind, and even before they arrived at Mt. Sinai, when Elohim gave B’Nei Yisrael ‘Manna’ from heaven, we know that they were not permitted to collect anything on Shabbat, as on a Friday a double portion had to be collected. Thus, there were laws that were already well known, and therefore, as many had fallen from the faith whilst in Mitzrayim (Egypt) some of the laws had to be retold whilst they were at Mt. Sinai as it would be a powerful reminder for them and this time it would become Torah Law, as at large they had not been before, except for them being remembered by the elders of the faithful.

Eleven steps of teaching found in Noah’s Ark

1 … The first and most vital lesson is - Do not miss the boat.

2 … Remember that - we are all in the same boat.

3 … Plan ahead - for it was not raining when Noach was building the Ark for 120 years.

4 … Stay spiritually fit - study the Torah and keep the Mitzvoth. When you are 60 years old, someone may ask you to do something big, possibly become a rabbi, or even build something big?

5 … Do not listen to critics and those who are negative - just get on with the job that needs to be done.

6 … Build your future on high ground - and continue to “love Elohim with all your heart, all your soul and all your being!” Thus remaining on safe ground!

7 … For safety’s sake, travel in pairs - Study the Torah together.

8 … Speed is not always an advantage - Snails were on board as were the cheetahs. Pray for understanding what you are saying! Do not rush things, all will be achieved.

9 … When you are stressed - float (rest) a while in His care.

10… Remember, the Ark was built by an amateur - whilst the Titanic was built by professionals. The Torah was given by Elohim to a man, to Moshe Rabeinu.

11… No matter the storm for when you trust in Elohim - you will know there is always a rainbow waiting. He alone provides the reward to His Children!

In Conclusion:

The COVID-19 pandemic with its variant’s and severe weather conditions are now to be found all over the globe, etc, and it is making life so much harder for many, yet it gives us all an opportunity to do a mitzvah to someone who needs our help! Countries world-wide are thankfully assisting the Ukraine in their time of need against that great evil in the east!

Sadly, since the story of Noach, we have known that the world will always be a lawless place, and we do know that we live in one boat, but if we are faithful children of our beloved Elohim, blessed be He, we will always be fine!

Always remember our motto seen on the logo at the top of this page: “The More Torah, the More Life”, for Elohim, blessed be His Sanctified Name, is the one who gave us our Life!”

Rabbi Reuven Ben-Avraham.

 

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