Noach 5774 – Gilayon #819
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to Noah into the ark, two each of all flesh in which there was a breath of life.
It is a miracle that they all came to Noah, as most animals flee from man and flee
from enclosures and love freedom. It is also a miracle that only two of each species
came and not more, and that all the species came and none were missing.
Man is revealed here in his entire splendor.
All the animals came to him and to be rescued by him.
(Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, ibid)
All the flesh in which there was a breath
of life. He says here all the flesh, And also all the
flesh in which there was a breath of life. Up until this time, man was
not permitted to kill a living creation for meat. Noah was the first who was permitted.
In theory, this seemed very cruel as they were saved by Noah. Seeing that they were
saved by him, they understood that he did them a service. From being beasts of burden,
Noah elevated them to living beings with intelligence and speech. Noah was merciful
And the sacrifice of
will be pleasant and harmonious to God – In the future,
the abundance of knowledge will spread and permeate even in animals. "You
shall not defile on all of my holy mountain, as the whole earth is full of His knowledge,"
and the sacrifice then that will be the offering will be from produce, "will
be pleasing to the Lord, as in the days of old and as in former years."
(Olat Hare"yah, p. 292)
All who are thirsty, come for water
Large and small signs of
life and heralding of the seasons are encoded in the prayers of
The prayers signal the changing of the seasons, the daily times and the years and
enable those who pray to anchor themselves in a world that is felt at times perplexing.
An example of change in nature that the prayers give expression to is the division
of the Hebrew year to a rainy season and a dry season.
We have just celebrated
the Feast of Sukkot when we are "judged through water." (Rosh Hashanah
period, the rituals linked to pouring the water on the altar were the highlight
of the holiday. The ceremonies were called "The Joy of Drawing the Water."
At the conclusion of the holiday, on Shmini Atzeret, we recite the Prayer for Rain.
And thus, we have marked the beginning of the rainy season. From now until Passover
we mention the rains in the blessing "gvurot" in our prayers, and turn
to God "who causes the wind to blow and the rain to fall." Next
week or to be more exact, the 7th of Marheshvan, the hope for rain is
reinforced in our prayers and we add "request for rain", that is the request,
"and give us dew and rain for a blessing."
Many times I ask myself
what did our grandfathers and grandmothers, who asked for rain in
rainy anyway, think. Could they feel the existential angst of the composers
of our prayers for the inhabitants of the
who were dependent on the rain for their livelihood and dreaded a drought? In the
prayers for rain were said out of a real apprehension, with a worrisome peak at
the sky and the land. Rav Yehudah, one of the Talmudic scholars, expressed the importance
of rain when he said: "A day of rain is as great as the day the Torah was given."
Rabbah exceeded him by saying: "More than the day the Torah was given,"
while Rav Hunah said: "The day of rain is greater than the day of the rising
of the Dead, because the rising up of the dead is for the righteous, while the rainy
day is for the righteous and the sinners (Bavli Taanit 7:7).
In most cases, for us,
rain is a blessing, but here, too, there are floods and deluges of the
there is not much difference from the waterbeds of the Judean desert. Precisely,
this week, the time between "mentioning" the rain and "asking
for the rain "Parashat Noach is timely, where the narrative of the flood
and the description of the water that was so strong that it obliterated the signs
of life on earth is read. Although God promised not to curse the land again with
a flood, the sages also saw a need to set a textual response to the dangerous waters
in the Parsha. This response is found in the language of the Haftarah
who are thirsty, come for water!" (Isaiah 55:
water and Torah, explaining that the thirst is for words of Torah. But we can read
it as the pshat, the literal meaning for what it is, may all that are thirsty,
come to the waters and quench your thirst. Not merely are these words spoken in
the prophecy. We know that this is not such a simple thing; living waters were not
available to everyone in the past, nor are they available to everyone in the present.
This Shabbat, we find ourselves
between "the reminder" that the nature of the world in this season
is to bring rain, between the "requesting of the rain" that bears
witness to the fact that we should not take rain for granted and not always are
the rains a blessing in their season; Between the waters of the flood that punish,
destroy and kill and the waters that we ask to quench, "All who are thirsty"
– This is an opportunity to reflect on the significance of water for us.
We associate water with purity and cleanliness, but is this always the case? In
her article in the book Parshat Hamayim, the environmental quality investigator,
Mirale Goldstein writes:
in the waters of the mikveh is a physical symbol of spiritual purification. The
power of the symbol derives from the understanding that water is clean and has the
capacity to wash away contaminants. But what if we are afraid of untreated water?
We associate water in nature with a risk of disease. Most of what contaminates water
cannot be seen. Some of the causes of pollution are ancient and familiar, such as
sewage. But others, such as industrial chemicals and pharmaceuticals, are frighteningly
unfamiliar. Moreover, humans have created and disseminated these dangerous pollutants.
This state of affairs raises ancient questions about the relationship between physical
and spiritual purity to a new level. Can we be spiritually pure if our physical
surroundings are impure? Can we partake of the holiness of mikveh if we have desecrated
the waters that fill the mikveh?
This and more. If water
is linked in our religious consciousness to justice as it said, "But let
justice well up like water, righteousness, like an unfailing stream"
how can we explain the fact that more than a billion people in this world do not
have access to proper drinking water, and how does it happen in our modern era,
that millions die every year from water-borne diseases and its absence. All this
is occurring while in the wealthy countries people are wasting water every day on
Jacuzzis, sumptuous baths and on empty luxuries. It should be said, nonetheless,
that the Israeli public is significantly different from the other developed countries.
We are aware of the need to save water, many are interested in the water level of
on every drop" is not an empty slogan in our houses. But most of the big questions
connected to water and its usage beg to be answered.
Goldstein adds: "Technology
has given us the power to manipulate natural processes. With this power we adopted
an attitude that we could and should manipulate them. As a result of this attitude
we have damaged nature at every scale, from the local wetland to the global climate."
And as we all know, with a lot of power come a lot of responsibility.
Environmental groups have
set this Shabbat, Parshat Noach, as a Shabbat for public awareness of environmental
issues. It seems that the Israeli awareness of water, its availability, its quality
and the struggle to produce and acquire it, is presented in the civil discourse
more often than in other Western countries. But this awareness is not enough, neither
from a strategic perspective nor from an ethical point of view – we must remind
ourselves that water is God’s blessing; We cannot take it for granted, and if we
desire to control it, we must do this out of the recognition of the distresses that
are linked to water and the question of justice that flows from the need for it,
especially in an arid zone like ours.
Waters teach us a lesson
in modesty – such a simple substance, with no color or shape – grasps the key
to life. Water suggests an important lesson to us in gratitude and in renewing our
commitment towards God, Man and the Earth.
are you O Israel!
whom do you purify yourselves?
who purifies you?
Father in Heaven
it is said, "I will sprinkle upon you pure water
you shall be purified." (Ezekiel 36:25)
it is said, "The hope (mikveh) of
as mikve purifies the defiled,
too. The Holy blessed is he purifies
is also Rosh Hodesh, so we will read the special Haftarah from Isaiah
Dalia Marx is an Associate Professor of Liturgy and Midrash at
Feminist Commentary of Babylonian Talmud: Tractates,
Tamid, Midot, Kinim. was recently published.
The World's Existence Depends Upon Law, Morality, and Interpersonal Respect
world exists thanks to law, you can see that the flood came to the world because
they lacked law, they stole and robbed from each other, as it is written, the land became full of robbery. And if this
is so, then one who judges, upholding the law faithfully, causes
the world to persist in its existence. It is as if he becomes a partner [to the
The earth was corrupt before God: Before the great ones who were on the earth, who would take the women by force.
And the earth became full of hamas [robbery]: What is the difference between hamas and gezel [another term
for robbery]? Rabbi said: Hamas is [robbery of
property] worth [at least] a penny while gezel is [robbery of
property] worth less than a penny. This is what the people of the generation of
the Flood would do: one of them would take a basket full of lupini beans to the market. This one would come and
take less than a penny's worth and another one would come and take less than a penny's
worth, so that he [the owner] would not be able to demand legal recompense. The
Holy One blessed be He said to them: You acted improperly, so I
shall also treat you improperly and unfairly, as it is written – Their haughtiness, which is absorbed within
them-does it not leave [them]? They die, and not with wisdom (Job 4) – without the Torah's wisdom.
(Hizkuni Bereishit 6:
Now that the exile is prolonged because of our many sins, Israel must
separate itself from the vanities of the world, and must hold on to the seal of
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, which is truth; Israel must sanctify itself even by[refraining from questionable] acts which are legally permitted (Yevamot 20a); one should not lie, neither to Jew nor to gentile, and not deceive
them in anyway, as is written: The remnant of Israel will not perform iniquities
and will not speak falsely, and their mouths shall not house deceptive tongues(Zephaniah 3:
I will sow her in the land as My own(Hosea 2:25) – a person sows one kur of seed in order to harvest a number of kurim,
so The Holy One, Blessed Be He sowed Israel among the nations in order that it be
joined by converts(Pesahim 87b) As long as they [
them honestly, they will cleave to them. The Holy One, Blessed Be He, is stringent
even regarding theft from the wicked, as is written, And the land was rife with
"It once happened that Rabbi Shimon ben Shetah purchased a donkey
from an Ishmaelite. His students noticed a precious stone hanging from its neck.
They said to Rabbi Shimon: Rabbi, It is the blessing of the Lord that enriches (Proverbs
I bought a donkey; I did not buy a precious stone. He went and returned the stone
to the Ishmaelite. The Ishmaelite said of him: Blessed is the God of Shimon ben
And thus in the Jerusalem Talmud (Bava Metzia 2:5) "The elderly sages purchased wheat from the gentiles, and discovered
a hidden bag of coins, and they returned it. Proclaimed the gentiles: Blessed is
the Lord of the Jews! And so there were many cases where they returned things in
order to sanctify His Name.
Gate 23, The Truth)
Let Us Build Ourselves A City and a Tower"
The story of
the building of the city and the tower also expresses the danger inherent in the
power of man's rule, when technical achievements cease to be means and they become
the goal for which man exists. This idea is expressed sharply in a late Midrash
called "Pirkei D'Rabbi Eliezer" which states:
The tower had seven levels on its east
side and seven on its west; they would carry the bricks on this side and descend
from the other; and if a man fell and died, no one would pay attention, but if a
single brick would fall they would sit and cry: Woe unto us, when will another come
up in its place!"
This is the
meaning of the rule of technology, which puts man into a framework, a social and
civilizing assignment from he may not deviate; This Midrash describes the situation
in which man becomes an instrument, a tool for raising bricks; the technical production
becomes the goal. Therefore no tears are spilled for a man who falls from the top
of the tower, because there will always be a replacement.
(Y. Leibowitz, Seven Years of
Discussion on the Weekly Parasha, p. 33)
Sign and Memory, Covenant and Responsibility
The Holy One, Blessed Be He, did more
than promise; He established a sign and a memorial. This is characteristic of divine
supervision: The Holy One decrees signs, e.g., tefillin, Shabbat, milah, to constantly
remind one of the great truths upon which
the peace of humanity depends.
"For ageless generations":
"Doubly lacking. [Translator's note – The Hebrew dorot –
"generations" – is spelled here without the two vowel vavs] God's covenant
will exist in all situations; it will also protect the generation which is marked
by defects observable both internally and externally. In those generations, man's
heart will melt, and he may despair of ever witnessing divine justice. But the sight
of the rainbow in the cloud will remind him that God decreed a covenant with Man
and with the earth; this covenant will be in force at all times, in all generations,
and divine providence will achieve its goal – even in a flawed generation."
(Rav Shimshon Rafael
Hirsch on Ber. 9:
…in a world ruled in miraculous ways
(before the Deluge), a world whose existence is never assured, there is no place
for mitzvoth; a program of recognition of God and His service
are possible only in a world subject to natural law. Therefore, it is not a coincidence
that we read about the giving of mitzvoth only after the Deluge; Adam's first children
were not obligated with mitzvoth. Herein
lies the deep meaning of what are traditionally termed "The Noahide Mitzvoth,"
which were given only after the flood.
…It was in this renewed world –
the world destined to be our world and not in the earlier, miraculous world – that
saw the opening of the gate to the conflict between the values tikkun olam (perfection of the world) and Man, a struggle
realized in the revolutionary personality of our father, Avraham, who appears and
begins to function at the end of Parashat Noach. He is the person who takes upon
himself the mission of perfecting the world as
rather than taking the world for granted.
(From Leibowitz, "Seven
Years of Discussions on the Weekly Portion")
Tribal Morality Contradicts Absolute Morality
If they complete the tower, they
will come to think that they must forcibly prevent people who disagree with this
opinion, and that involves murder, robbery which will completely corrupt society.
The fact that they are currently in agreement will not help. Thus the Prophet Jeremiah
cried out, how skillfully you plan your
way to seek out love… on your garments is found the lifeblood of the innocent
poor – you did not catch them breaking in (2:33-4), which means that they were unified in his day and would boast that
they enjoyed love and peace more than any other people, but the prophet disagreed,
for on their garments was found the blood of innocents – not because they had committed
any theft or such, but because they did not belong to their group. So the groups
came to murder, and there is no boast of peace in that, rather only if they had
been careful to do evil against those not in their group.
Davar and Harhev Davar, Bereishit
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