“Noach followed in Hashem’s ways” (Noach 6,9). The Sforno explains the meaning of “following in Hashem’s ways” in this manner. “Noach went in the ways of Hashem to be kind to others and rebuked the people of his generation.” If Noach gave the people mussar for one hundred twenty years, why did it have no effect on them?
The answer can be found in the comment of the Sforno on the verse in Bereishis (6,8) which states, “And Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem.” The Sforno states that although Noach did reprimand the people of his generation, he did not teach them about understanding Hashem and following in His ways. This seems contradictory to the words of the Sforno quoted above, which indicate that Noach did rebuke his fellow man.
The Sforno is teaching us that even though Noach tried to convince the people to change, he based his words and guidance on logic and “doing the right thing.” In order for admonishment to be effective in convincing someone to alter his lifestyle, it must be shown that the way of life being proffered is proper because it is the derech Hashem. Even when one’s mind comprehends “the correct way of life,” if it is not divinely inspired, the influence tends to wane and not have the desired effect.
“Then Hashem said to Noach, ‘Come to the ark, you and your household, for it is you that I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation’ ” (Noach 7,1). Even though Hashem specifically commanded Noach to go into the ark with his family before the rains actually came, Noach did not enter the ark until the water left him no choice but to seek refuge in the ark. “Noach, and his sons, and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood” (Noach 7,7). It is for this reason that Rashi states, “Noach too, was one of those with little faith; he believed, yet he did not believe (fully) that the flood would come, and he did not enter the Ark until the waters compelled him to” (Rashi 7,7). How did Noach descend from being a man who “did everything that Hashem commanded him” to being included in “one of those with little faith?”
Rav Yosef of Salant zt”l in his sefer, Be’er Yosef, explains that Noach understood well that Hashem was merciful and compassionate and would not wish to deal harshly with people. This concept is found in Rashi (Bereishis 6,3) who relates that Hashem gave the people of that generation one hundred twenty years to change their ways. Even when they did not choose the option of repentance, Hashem granted them once again an additional seven days to mend their ways.
Based on Noach’s knowledge of Hashem’s merciful ways, he had every reason to believe that the flood may not happen. First of all, the possibility existed that the people would repent from their evil behavior before Hashem brought the rains upon them. Secondly, it was possible as well that Hashem would exercise great kindness and compassion and decide not to bring the flood upon the earth.
With this in mind, it is even more difficult to comprehend why Noach’s actions classify him as one of “little faith.” Even when the rain first fell, Noach had every right to assume that Hashem forgave the people and the rain was not one of a destructive nature, rather a sign of blessing.
However, Noach’s lack of faith must be understood in his not following through on Hashem’s command. Hashem had ordered Noach to go into the ark, days before the rain began falling. Even though it was possible that Hashem would retract His sentence, Noach should not have made any independent decisions contrary to Hashem’s orders.
This is the same “mistake” that Moshe made when he hit the rock instead of speaking to it. Though Moshe had good reason to strike the rock, this action did not conform to Hashem’s command. This is why Hashem said to Moshe “Because you did not believe in Me” (Chukas 20,12).
In stating that Noach “believed, yet he did not believe,” Rashi means that Noach believed that Hashem was compassionate and merciful and because of this did not believe fully that Hashem would actually bring the flood. As a result, Noach failed to carry out Hashem’s exact command and therefore is termed as one of “little faith.”
FROM THE BOOKSHELF
(Thousands of seforim fill the shelves of a Beis Medrash. This section is devoted to highlighting seforim and their authors, so that every Jew can derive everlasting pleasure and benefit from the great Torah wisdom contained within them.)
“The Kehati Mishnayot
Throughout the centuries many commentaries on the Mishna have been produced with the Gemara being the central source for their explanation. Many of these commentaries, however, are only accessible to the Torah scholar.
Reb Pinchas Kehati z”l authored a commentary on the Mishna which makes its comprehension attainable to the layman as well. Although he held no Rabbinical position, his work on the Mishna has become an authoritative work for scholars and novices alike.
Though his commentary allows one to quickly access the simple explanation of the Mishna, Reb Pinchas Kehati himself stated that his work should not be the only reference consulted. Many a time he was heard to say that his commentary was not intended as a substitute for the study of other prominent commentaries, such as the Rav Bartneura or Tosfos Yomtov.
PARASHAT NOACH – D’VAR TORAH – 5779
G-d warns Noah to escape from the impending destruction:
G-d said to Noah: “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery… and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth. Make yourself an ark…” (6:13-14).
What was Noah’s response? “Noah did all that G-d told him to do” (6:22).
He did as he was told, all under G-d’s direction. No less, no more. He built the ark according to the stipulated precise dimensions. Full obedience. But no initiative. Noah did not (following the text and most Midrashim) plea for mercy, as Abraham would for the people of Sodom, and Moses would – on several occasions – for the straying Israelites.
The Midrash (Bereishit Rabbah; Noach 10) points to fundamental difference between Noah and Abraham. It compares them to a king’s two sons, one who was a child, and the other who was already grown up. The king let the adult continue walking in front him, allowing him to use his initiative based on his previous experience of what his father, the king, wanted. The child, however, had to stay with king.
Abraham was the adult: “Be wholehearted; walk before me” (17:1). Noah was the child: “Noah walked with G-d”.
Abraham, in his wholeheartedness, made his own decisions based on his understanding of what G-d wanted. When G-d told him that he planned to destroy Sodom, he approached G-d in protest: “Would You punish the righteous with the wicked?” (18:23). And G-d responded to him, even though He did not change His mind. But Noah, in similar circumstances, kept silent. The promise that the ark would save only him and his family was good enough for him.
Thus Noah was a righteous man in his generation only: in Abraham’s society, he would not have been recognized as a man of distinction (Rashi to 6:9).
The Ohr HaChayim, however, presents a different picture of Noah and his situation, which contrasts with the first explanation.
When G-d told Noah of His plans of destruction, he immediately communicated His plans for him: “I am about to destroy them from the earth, Make yourself an ark…”. The decision was made. No room for negotiations, complaints, or pleas for mercy. In contrast, G-d communicated His intentions to Abraham in less decisive terms: “There is a great outcry from Sodom and Amorah; their sin is very grave. I must go down and see whether their deeds indeed merit destruction…” (18:20-1). That indicated a possible doubt, which Abraham used as cue to protest: “Would You punish the righteous with the wicked?”
Similarly, Moses used the very situation of the Israelites after the spies as his cue to protest. In both cases, he invoked G-d’s recent great involvement with yetziat mitzrayim, the nations’ malicious joy would Israel be destroyed, and the merits and promises made to their ancestors, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. And unlike Abraham, Moses was mostly successful.
The Ohr HaChayim’s explanation indicates that as people, we should focus in engaging on projects that have chances of success and not waste energy getting involved in things that are entirely beyond our control. As theologian Reinhold Niebuhr put it:
“G-d, grant me the grace to accept with serenity the things that cannot be changed,
Courage to change the things that should be changed,
And the wisdom to distinguish one from the other”.
Reb Jacob Solomon
Pearls of Life
The Pearls of Life quote the Ohr Chaim HaKodesh explaining the words in the beginning verse; Noach, Noach. This illustrates an imaginary conversation between Moshe and Noach, based on the Devarim Rabbah 11:3. In that conversation Noach claimed to have been greater than Moshe because he was saved during the flood. Moshe retorted that Noach had not been able to save anyone other than himself, whereas he [Moshe] had saved the entire nation and generation after the sin of the golden calf. The word Ailah accordingly describes the limited value of Noach’s good deeds. They served only his needs so that he could save himself. The Verse 9:21 says that “He drank some of the wine and became drunk. He uncovered himself in his tent. When a person attains the full understanding, he attains true compassion and understands the importance of extending one’s self in self-sacrifice for others [Likutey Mosharan II, 8:3]. Noach showed his weakness by drinking wine, symbolizing limited da’at [awareness and understanding]. Though he was a great tzaddik [righteous person], Noach did not pray for his fellow man with a readiness for self-sacrifice, as Moshe did for the Jewish nation. Because Noach lacked that full understanding to rectify Adam’s sin and stop the flood, he fell down naked, like Adam [Genesis 2:25], without garments [Likutey Halakhot 1, p. 92-47a]. We learn that to the extent one is willing to go to help others is a measure of a person. Hence, the dedication for helping others is the determinative factor in measuring the level of one’s greatness.
Yeshiva Pirchei Shoshanim.
Compiled and edited
As heard from my Torah Masters