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King Shlomo writes in Mishlei (10:25), “When the storm passes, a wicked one is no more, but a righteous one is the foundation of the world.” R’ Yehoshua ibn Shuiv z”l (Spain; early 14th century) writes: A wicked person is like a storm because he damages others before disappearing without a trace. In contrast, a righteous person is solid like a foundation; not only does he have permanence, but others can rely on him.

R’ ibn Shuiv continues: Our Sages apply this verse to the generation of the flood. “When the storm passes, a wicked one is no more.” Like a storm, the generation of the flood did great damage and then met its end quickly. On the other hand, “a righteous one is the foundation of the world.” From the righteous Noach, an entire new world was built.

R’ ibn Shuiv writes further: This parashah contains several foundations of our beliefs. In last week’s parashah we learned that G-d created the world. Here, we learn that G-d continues to supervise His creation (hashgachah) and that He rewards and punishes those who do good and bad respectively (s’char va’onesh). As our Sages note, Noach himself had to learn these lessons, for even he doubted that the flood would come until the rain started falling. This is why Noach brought olot sacrifices after the flood, for an olah atones for heretical thoughts. R’ ibn Shuiv notes that the gematria of the word olot (ayin-lamed-tav) [Bereishit 8:20] equals 500, the number of years that Noach’s emunah was less than what was expected of him. [Noach was 600 years old at the time of the flood. However, our Sages say that, in Noach’s era, G-d did not count sins committed before age 100.] (Derashot R”Y ibn Shuiv)

“Noach walked with Elokim.” (6:9)

Rashi z”l comments: In contrast, we read about Avraham (17:1), “Walk before Me.” This teaches that Noach needed G-d’s support in order to be righteous, while Avraham did not.

R’ Shaul Yisraeli z”l (1909-1995; rabbi of Kfar Ha’roeh, Israel and a rosh yeshiva in Yeshivat Merkaz Harav) writes: Our Sages criticize Noach for not attempting to influence his generation. Apparently, Noach felt spiritually weak, so he protected himself by walking “with” G-d, i.e. he chose a relatively lonely lifestyle which would allow him to avoid anything that would challenge his own spiritual standing. In contrast, Avraham walked “before” G-d, i.e., he felt secure enough in his faith that he could circulate in society and speak about G-d.

This understanding, adds R’ Yisraeli, sheds light on what happened after the Flood, when Noach planted a vineyard and promptly became drunk. In the words of Rashi z”l (to Bereishit 9:20), “Noach profaned himself, for he should have occupied himself first with planting something different.” After the Flood, Noach was responsible for rebuilding society. However, because he had led such a sheltered life before the Flood, he was not prepared for the new challenge that faced him.

R’ Yisraeli concludes: Many religions have people who achieve some degree of holiness, but it is always through monasticism. The uniqueness of Judaism is that it challenges man to live a holy life within the world, not apart from it. (Siach Shaul)

“Make the tevah / Ark kinnim / compartments . . .” (6:14)

R’ Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev z”l (1740-1809; early chassidic rebbe) writes: The word “kinnim” means a dwelling place, as in “kan tzippor” / a bird’s nest. Besides meaning “Ark,” the word “tevah” can mean “word.” Thus, this verse is hinting that your dwelling place should be “built” with “tevot” / words of Torah study and prayer.

Alternatively, let your words cause Hashem to dwell in this world. (Kedushat Levi)

“Noach came, and his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the Ark because of the waters of the Flood.” (7:7)

Rashi z”l explains the words “because of the waters of the Flood”: Noach, also, was mi’ketanei amanah / of those people who are wanting in faith. He believed in G-d, yet he did not believe that the Flood would come, and he did not enter the Ark until the waters forced him to do so.

This requires explanation! Noach spent 120 years building the Ark, yet he did not believe that the Flood would come?!

R’ Yaakov Weinberg z”l (1923-1999; rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore) explains: Noach is called “wanting in faith” because, until the very end, he believed that Hashem’s Attribute of Mercy would prevail over His Attribute of Justice. True, Hashem often acts toward the world with Mercy. Nevertheless, if Hashem says there will be a Flood, it is a failure of emunah to think otherwise. (Kishutei Shmuel Yaakov)

“And Cush fathered Nimrod; he was the first to be a mighty man on earth. He was a mighty hunter before Hashem; therefore it is said, ‘Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Hashem’.” (10:8-9)

R’ Zvi Hirsch Eichenstein z”l (1763-1831; Zidachover Rebbe) writes: The Torah is eternal; therefore, there must some message for us in the fact that the Torah tells us so much about Nimrod, including what is said about him. Indeed, asks R’ Eichenstein, who is it who says, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Hashem”?

He answers: We read in Shmuel I (10:11) about the newly-anointed King Shaul: “All those who had known him from yesterday and before then saw that, behold! - he was prophesying along with the prophets, and they said to one another, ‘What is this that has happened to the son of Kish? Is Shaul also among the prophets?’ . . . It thus became an aphorism, ‘Is Shaul also among the prophets?’” R’ Eichenstein explains that upon seeing Shaul, who no one imagined had it within him to be a prophet, other people became motivated to aspire to prophecy.

Likewise - and despite the fact that Nimrod was wicked - Nimrod’s strength can be an inspiration. Thus, who is it who says, “Like Nimrod, a mighty hunter before Hashem”? It is the person who wants to be inspired to harness his own strength to serve Hashem. We read, for example (10:10), “The beginning of his kingdom was Bavel, Erech . . .” “Bavel” can allude to the Babylonian Talmud. “Erech” can allude to the trait of patience (erech apayim). Each trait of or detail about Nimrod can be applied “before Hashem.” (Bet Yisrael)

“Hashem said, ‘Behold, they are one people with one language for all, and this they begin to do! ‘V’atah’ / And now, should it not be withheld from them all they propose to do?” (11:6)

Midrash Rabbah comments: This teaches that Hashem opened an opening for them (i.e., the builders of the Tower of Bavel) to repent. Specifically, the word ‘v’atah’ always alludes to teshuvah.” [Until here from the midrash]

R’ Aharon David Goldberg shlita (rosh yeshiva of the Telshe Yeshiva in Cleveland, Ohio) explains: Rabbeinu Yonah z”l (Spain; died 1263) writes in Yesod Ha’teshuvah that a person who is mired in sin and wants to return to Hashem should start by seeing himself as a newborn who has no sins and no merits. Dwelling on the past will only cause him to become depressed and will not lead to teshuvah. While the occasional sinner’s teshuvah starts with charatah / regret and vidui / confession, the teshuvah of a habitual sinner begins with starting a new lifestyle. For such a person, addressing the past can wait until later.

This, writes R’ Goldberg, is the meaning of the midrash. “V’atah” / “And now!” alludes to teshuvah. It is a call to focus on the here and now. Don’t look back! Look forward, and begin a new life! (Meishiv Nefesh Al Yesod Ha’teshuvah ¶15)

Zemirot Shabbat

“Yonah matz’ah bo manoch” / “The dove found rest on it [the Shabbat day].” (From the zemer Yom Shabbaton)

Who is the “dove” referred to in this song?

R’ Chanoch Zundel z”l (Russia; died 1867) writes: The “dove” is the Jewish People, who find rest on Shabbat. He adds: Some say that the song is referring to the dove that Noach sent from the Ark in search of dry land, which found rest in Gan Eden on Shabbat. (Etz Yosef)

R’ Yosef Shaul Nathanson z”l (1808-1875; rabbi of Lemberg, Galicia; a leading posek / halachic authority of his time) writes: Presumably there is a source in a midrash that the day on which the dove found dry land was Shabbat. Perhaps it can be derived from the verses (Bereishit 8:9-10), “But the dove could not find a manoach / resting place . . . He (Noach) waited another seven days, and again sent out the dove from the Ark.” By using the word “manoach,” which hints at the menuchah / rest of Shabbat, the verse implies that it was Shabbat. Likewise, by saying that Noach waited another seven days, the verse hints that it was Shabbat.

R’ Nathanson continues: My great-uncle, R’ Yaakov Emden z”l (1697-1776) writes that he heard that doves do not uproot vegetation on Shabbat. If this is true, writes R’ Nathanson, it would give new meaning to the verse (8:11): “The dove came back to him in the evening – and behold! It had plucked an olive leaf with its bill!” Although the dove found a resting place on Shabbat, it waited until evening to pluck the leaf and bring it to Noach. R’ Nathanson adds: Although it is not in my style, I have recorded this thought because it is a novel idea from my great-uncle. (Divrei Shaul)