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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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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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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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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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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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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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והארץ היתה תהו ובהו וחשך על פני תהום...ויאמר אלקים יהי אור ויהי אור... ויבדל אלקים בין האור ובין החשך

When the earth was astonishingly empty, with darkness upon the surface of the deep. (1:2) G-d said, “Let there be light,” and there was light, and G-d separated between the light and the darkness. (1:3,4)

In what must be the most interpreted, but yet remains the most enigmatic, ambiguous pesukim, the Torah commences with the story of Creation. It is a topic which can be studied for a lifetime and its interpretation still remains elusive, because its profundity is far above our mortal cognitive limitations. Just to give the reader snippets to think about, I cite from Kol HaTorah by Horav Eliyahu Munk, zl, concerning the phrase v’choshech al pnei sehom; “with darkness upon the surface of the deep.” The Ramban explains that darkness is not to be thought of as an absence of light,…

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וירא אלקים את כל אשר עשה והנה טוב מאד

G-d saw all that He had made, and behold it was very good. (1:31)

It was not just “good” – it was very good. Each of Hashem’s creations was good in its own right. When combined together as part of the greater creation, the totality was even better, explains the Meshech Chochmah. Horav S. R. Hirsch, zl, views this alternatively. Can we say that all of Hashem’s creations were good? Are suffering, pain, grief, temptation and death considered to be good? Surely, we could do without any of these. Rav Hirsch explains that, indeed, isolated and viewed in a free-standing context, these challenges to life do not come across as being good. As part…

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ותרא האשה כי טוב העץ למאכל וכי תאוה היא לעינים... ותקח מפריו ותאכל

And the woman perceived that the tree was good for eating and that it was a delight for the eyes… and she took of its fruit and ate. (3:6)

A horrible tragedy occurred in Telshe, Lithuania, during the tenure of Horav Yosef Yehudah Leib Bloch, zl, as Rosh Yeshivah and Rav (about one hundred years ago). A secular Jewish student with no ties whatsoever to religion rented an attic apartment in town and succumbed to the severe depression that plagued him. Following the incident, the owners of the house in which the deed was done would hear and then see plaster fall from the ceiling. The owner of the house was himself also not an observant Jew, so, at first, he ignored it. (A religious Jew takes nothing at…

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ויבא קין מפרי האדמה מנחה לד' והבל הביא גם הוא מבכורות צאנו ומחלביהן

Kayin brought an offering to Hashem of the fruit of the ground… and as for Hevel, he also brought of the firstlings of his flock and from their choicest. (4:3,4)

Kayin brought his offering, followed by Hevel’s offering. Hashem turned (listened/accepted) to Hevel’s offering, but did not respond to Kayin’s offering. On the surface, the disparity between Kayin and Hevel’s offering was quality. Hevel offered his finest, choicest, while Kayin brought what he did not want for himself. The inferior crops were designated for offering. So begins the first tragic story of brother killing brother. We understand that the Torah’s narrative is replete with powerful messages and lessons. How do we understand this incident between history’s first two sons? First and foremost: Why did Hashem not accept Kayin’s korban, offering?…

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