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הבה נבנה לנו עיר ומגדל וראשו בשמים ונעשה לנו שם

“Come, let us build a city and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves.” (11:4)

Researchers say that those who participate in extreme sports do it because they want to have a life-altering experience. They are individuals who are anything but irresponsible risk takers, but rather, highly trained men and women with a deep knowledge of themselves, who simply want to experience an activity that is life-enhancing and life-changing. For them, it is an exhilarating experience that makes them come alive, transcending everyday ways of being and glimpsing their own potential. They view dealing with death as an affirmation of life that gives it greater meaning. There are those who seek to carve out a…

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ויאמר ברוך ד' אלקי שם

And he said, “Blessed is Hashem, the G-d of Shem. (9:26)

Noach did not directly bless Shem; rather, he said that the G-d/Hashem of Shem be blessed and glorified. By saying this, Noach intimated the mission of Shem/ his descendants, of whom the standard bearer is Klal Yisrael. Their primary goal is to serve Hashem and glorify His Name in the world. Thus, when people bless Hashem, we, His children, are – by extension – blessed. Horav S.R. Hirsch, zl, points out that Hashem is the universal G-d. He is everyone’s G-d. (Indeed, when the accursed Nazi held his gun to the head of the Telzer Rav and asked, “Jew, where…

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וירא חם אבי כנען את ערות אביו ויגד לשני אחיו בחוץ

And Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his brothers outside. (9:22)

“The apple does not fall far from the tree” is a well-known maxim. Let us attempt to cultivate a picture of Cham and Canaan, his son, to better understand the flawed character manifest by Cham, which was transmitted to his son, Canaan. Canaan, whose moral degeneracy ultimately exceeded even that of his father and mentor. The Canaanite nation was a most despicable people, having sunk to such an abyss that the land/Eretz Yisrael which they had inhabited could no longer tolerate their residence. Mitzrayim, Egypt, was a cousin and paralleled Canaan in moral bankruptcy. Two apples from the Cham tree….

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והקמתי את בריתי אתך

But I will establish My covenant with you. (6:18)

Rashi explains that the covenant/promise Hashem made with/to Noach was two-fold: the food supply in the Ark would not spoil; the reshaim, evil people of the generation, would do him no harm. He would safely live on the ark. The Brisker Rav, zl, makes an interesting observation. Noach was about to enclose himself on a traveling ark with representatives of every species of animal, wild beast and fowl. One would think that this would be considered a frightening experience. These were not domesticated pets. They were vicious wild animals. Noach did not seem to be afraid. Hashem had given him…

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ויולד נח שלשה בנים את שם את חם ואת יפת

Noach had begotten three sons: Shem, Cham, and Yafes. (6:10)

Rav Daniel Yoffe, zl, was a distinguished layman who lived in Berlin (circa 1760). He contributed to the support of Torah and its disseminators. Despite his total devotion to Orthodoxy, he suffered greatly from the indignity and shame brought on him by his son-in-law, David Friedlander. Originally from Konigsberg, his son-in-law had moved to Berlin and established the Jewish Free School so that Jewish children could be schooled in secular Jewish studies as well as traditional studies. His lack of faith in the continuity of the Jewish nation, coupled with an ever-increasing attraction to Christianity and the lifestyle it inspired,…

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אלה תולדות נח. נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו

These are the generations of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. (6:9)

Noach is the first person to be called a tzaddik, righteous man. Chazal (Avodah Zarah 25נ) say that Sefer HaYashar (Sefer Bereishis) is the sefer, book, dedicated to the lives of Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. The Talmud (Taanis 15a) contends that ohr, light, is reference to the tzaddik, while simchah, joy, refers to the yashar, straight, upright person. Rashi explains that yashar is a more exalted level than tzaddik. Ohr zarua latzaddik, u’l’yishrei lev simchah, “Light is sown for the righteous, and for the upright of heart, gladness” (Tehillim 97:11). Joy is greater than light. Horav Zev Weinberger, Shlita, explains…

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על כן יאמר כנמרד גבור ציד לפני ד'

Therefore, it is said, “Like Nimrod a mighty hunter before Hashem.” (10:9)

Under such circumstances that there is no clearly-defined halachah that prohibits a certain activity, we will find a remonstrance such as: “It is not a Jewish thing,” or “Jewish people do not act in such a manner.” A point in question is the well-known psak, ruling, of the Noda B’Yehudah concerning hunting for sport. A wealthy Jew had just come into a sizeable estate, which included a large forest stocked with a variety of wild animals. The man asked the Noda B’Yehudah if he were permitted to hunt these animals on his newly-acquired forest. The Noda B’Yehudah replied that exclusive…

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וחם הוא אבי כנען ... וירא חם אבי כנען את ערות אביו ויגד לשני אחיו בחוץ

Cham, being the father of Canaan. (9:18)…Cham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness and told his two brothers outside. (9:22)

Why does the Torah find it necessary to inform us twice that Cham was the father of Canaan? Horav Sholom Schwadron, zl, explains that the Torah is teaching us the reason that Canaan was such a morally-depraved person: his father, Cham. When one has a Cham for a father, he is hard-pressed to expunge the nefarious character traits that have likely become part of his DNA. Children inherit the nature of their parents. Does that mean that a child whose parents leave much to be desired in the areas of morality, ethicality, human decency is challenged with also being a…

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וישלח את הערב ויצא יצוא ושוב עד יבשת המים מעל הארץ

He sent out the raven, and it kept going and returning until the waters dried from upon the earth. (8:7)

The dove kept on returning with nothing in its mouth, an indication that the vegetation had not begun to grow. Noach also sent out the dove (seven days later) to see whether the waters had subsided. At first, the dove found no place that was dry. The dove returned. Seven days later, it was sent out again; this time it returned with a bitter olive in its mouth. The dove was symbolically implying, “Better that my food be bitter, but from G-d’s Hand, than sweet as honey, but dependent upon mortal man.” Chazal are teaching us an important lesson: better…

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נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו כי אתך ראיתי צדיק לפני בדר הזה

Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. (6:9) For it is you that I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation. (7:1)

The Ksav Sofer notes the description of Noach, tzaddik tamim, righteous and perfect – which is found in the opening pasuk of the parsha, as opposed to the later reference to him only as a tzaddik – as he and his family are summoned to enter the Teivah, Ark. What changed from the earlier Noach to the later Noach? He explains that the transformation came as a result of his fathering three sons, one of whom was a morally reprehensible, pernicious individual, who refused to bow to authority. Apparently, a flaw had resided in the tzaddik tamim if he had…

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