Dvar Torah Parshat Noah 5777 – Words Can Kill

Because Noach had saved the animals during the flood, Hashem gave permission for man to kill animals for human consumption. Simultaneously, a prohibition was given against spilling human blood. The Torah uses a strange phraseology in stating this prohibition. The Torah says: שֹׁפֵךְ דַּם הָאָדָם בָּאָדָם דָּמוֹ יִשָּׁפֵךְ, “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed…’. (Gen. 9,6)

The Chafetz Chaim claims that this wording is the source for a certain Rabbinic statement. Chazal said: כל המלבין פני חבירו ברבים כאילו שופך דמים , “He who publically shames his neighbor is as if he shed blood.” (BM 58b) The Chafetz Chaim reads the verse thus: Whomever sheds the blood of man, בָּאָדָם, ‘in man’, it is as if he shed blood.

Before we speak publicly we must be extremely careful of what we say lest we hurt someone. At times we do not realize that our words embarrass somebody.

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Dvar Torah Parshat Noach 5775 2014

The world has moral standards. Many of these morals are based on Biblical law. If so why is there so much immorality in the world and why is there moral corruption in every part of the world? Perhaps the answer is found the Sidra of Noach.

In Noach’s generation the world was so corrupt that Hashem had to destroy all life except for Noach and those with him in the Ark he was told to build. In what way was Noach different?

The first verse in this Sidra gives us the answer. We are told that “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations…”. (Gen. 6,9) The sentence does not stop there. It ends by saying: אֶת־הָאֱלֹקִים הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹחַ, “Noach walked with G-d”. Therein lays the difference.

The world had morality but it was a morality of its own and each individual was able to justify breaking the law to satisfy his own needs. There was nothing binding preventing him from deviating from his own standards. Noach was different. “Noach walked with G-d”. His standards of morality were based on the laws of Hashem. He walked with Hashem.

The world today supposedly has moral standards. Yet if you pick up the newspaper or listen to the news on the media, it is not hard to see the corruption and terrible behavior of a so called civil world. In every continent, in every country, you find decadence and treachery and dishonesty.

The reason is that the morals of the world today are without Godliness. They are man-made and everyone can decide for himself when it is proper to abandon them and go his own way.

Parshat Noah 5774 | Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan |

Towards the end of the Sidra we read the story of the Tower of Babel. We are told: וַיְהִי כָל הָאָרֶץ שָׂפָה אֶחָת וּדְבָרִים אֲחָדִים, “The whole earth was of one language…”. (Gen 11,1) Rashi comments that the language was לשון הקודש, the Hebrew language. The Torah was given at Mt. Sinai in Hebrew. After the Shmita Year or the Sabbatical year, the king was instructed to read parts of the Torah to the populous in Hebrew.

Given that such stress is placed on the importance of the language, the Talmud Yerushalmi states that one who speaks Hebrew is guaranteed to be worthy of Olam HaBah. (Yer. Shab. 1,3) It is often imperative to know Hebrew and its grammatical rules to properly understand certain Biblical passages. The Rambam, in giving examples of a Mitzvah Kallah or a minor Mitzvah, cites the study or teaching of Hebrew.

We, furthermore, are told in the Midrash Rabbah (Lev. 32,5) that a virtue our forefathers had in Egypt, which was one of the causes for their redemption, was: לא שינו את לשונם, they maintained their language of Hebrew.

From all these sources we see how the language of the Jewish people played such a significant role in the preservation of the Jews throughout centuries of Diaspora and persecution. At all times Jews studied Hebrew and prayed in Hebrew and read the Torah in Hebrew.

Greater effort must be made to insure that all Jews know Hebrew and help preserve the לשון הקודש, the holy language.

Dvar Torah Parshat Noach 5773 2012

Towards the conclusion of this week’s Sidra we learn that Terach, Avraham’s father, gathered some members of his family and started on a journey to a new location. Where was he headed? The Torah tells us he planned to go to the land of Canaan, the modern day Israel.

He never arrived there. Instead, he settled down in Charan. Why the change in plan? Obviously Terach was looking for a better place to live and he suspected that Canaan was that place. When he arrived in Charan he saw this was also a nice place, so he settled there.

Next week we shall read that Avraham and his family continued the journey and came to Canaan. What was his reason for leaving his father and finishing the journey his father started? His reason was entirely different from his father’s. He went because he got the call from Hashem who told him to go to the land that He will show him.

Terach went to find a better place to live. Avraham went because he was instructed by Hashem to do so.

In modern times, when we have been fortunate that Hashem has seen fit to return our people to the land He promised our forefathers and to the generations to come, Jews have been returning to Israel for the same two reasons. Some come, seeking a better place to live. They come because they were oppressed in the land they were living. Others come because a Jew belongs in this land. They may have left comfortable lives but they felt they belong in the land given to our forefathers. Whatever the reason may be, they are both fulfilling the directive given to Avraham to come to this Promised Land.

Dvar Torah Parshat Noach 5772 2011

Before the flood all mankind was descendant from one man – Adam. Human beings became corrupt and Hashem destroyed all in the universe except for Noach and his descendants. After the flood all mankind descended from Noach who himself was a progeny of Adam. (Of course, so was his wife.)

In both cases Hashem gave instructions and a blessing to the one who was to become the father of all generations. There is one difference. Noach and his offspring were permitted to use the animals and to eat their flesh, something that was prohibited to man before the flood.

Obviously it was because the animals survived through the help of Noach that this concession was granted. However, many of the Torah commentaries read another meaning into this permission. It was to distinguish between humankind and the animal kingdom. Man stands on a higher plane than animals. He has greater distinctive abilities and through his power of reasoning and understanding he can reach gigantic intellectual heights.

These abilities make it obligatory for man to demonstrate greater civil behavior. He cannot prey on other humans and act as animals act towards each other. He must use his intelligence to create a better life for himself and others. War and corruption are not the proper course to follow for they lead to the same vice and evil that brought about the flood in the first place. Then it was the flood. Today it can be a nuclear conflagration. Mankind has to learn how to live peacefully with each other. That was the intention of the Creator.

Dvar Torah Parshat Noach 5771 2010

Abaye in the Talmud says: If a scholar is loved by his people it is not because of his superiority but because he does not rebuke them in spiritual matters. (Ket. 105b) It is a known fact that the Rabbis in the Talmud disagree as to whether Noach was truly a righteous individual or did he seem so, only in comparison to others in his generation.

The reason that Noach’s righteousness was suspect was because he had no influence on the society around him. He was notified about the imminent flood and he did not try to change anyone’s behavior. The Torah says: ET HA’ELOKIM HIT’HALECH NOACH, “…Noach walked with Hashem” (Gen 6,9) He was righteous in that he walked with Hashem but he ignored the people around him upon whom he could have had a great influence for good. Noach appeared to his contemporaries as a Tzadik because he did not admonish them.

It is indeed desirable and commendable to be a Tzadik and follow the teachings of our faith meticulously. A person, however, should also be concerned about the people around him. He should also try to see that others are living ethically and righteously as well.

Dvar Torah Parshat Noach 2008 5679 דבר תורה פרשת נח

After Noach exited from the ark we are told that Hashem made a commitment to Himself that He would never again bring a flood upon the world to destroy mankind. The reason given for this assurance is because: YETZER LEV HA’ADAM RA MINE’URAV, “for the inclination in man is evil from his youth.” (Gen. 8,21) Most Biblical commentaries take this to mean that man’s inclination by nature is evil.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch, the leader of the Orthodox German community in the 19th century, had a different unique interpretation of this passage in his commentary on the Pentateuch.

He explains that the Hebrew word for youth is NA’AR. This word comes from the root which means to shake off. A young person is neither good nor evil. He easily “shakes off” impressions and does not want to be bound by duty or obligations. He “shakes off” any restrictions and that gives the impression that he is evil. As he ages he begins to learn that he has obligations and no longer casts them off.

What is implied in this explanation is that man is not evil. He may start off objecting to restrictions and obligations but as he grows he learns their need. The sooner he understands this the quicker he matures.