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וימת הרן על פני תרח אביו... באור כשדים

Haran died in the lifetime of his father… in Uhr Kasdim. (11:28)

Rashi quotes the Midrash that interprets the word al pnei as mipnei to mean “because of” Terach. Terach produced idols. His son, Avraham, saw the folly of idol worship and decided to do something about it. So, he smashed Terach’s wares. Fatherly love was trumped by both economics and fidelity to the evil king Nimrod. Terach felt that his son needed to be taught a lesson. Nimrod was only too happy to comply. Avraham Avinu was sentenced to be burned to death in the fiery caldron. Haran, Avraham’s brother, was challenged to choose between Avraham and Nimrod. Not being a…

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ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס...ויהי כל הארץ שפה אחת ודברים אחדים

Now the earth had become corrupt before G-d; and the earth became filled with robbery. (6:11)….The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose. (11:1)

Parashas Noach presents two cultures, both evil: one was destroyed; and the other was dispersed – but allowed to live. The generation of the Flood was destroyed. Although the people’s sin was not so much directed Heavenward, their base immorality, lack of ethical character, and their licentious behavior earned them such ignominious repute that they had to be destroyed. The generation of the Dispersal, however, worked together to build a world community, sow the seeds of a single culture with themselves in the leadership role. They had no room for G-d in their lives. Chazal (Sanhedrin 109a) distinguish between the…

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ויצא נח

So Noach went forth. (8:18)

The flood waters receded, and Hashem instructed Noach to leave the Ark. Chazal (Zohar 1:256) teach that when Noach exited the Teivah, Ark, and beheld the devastating destruction of humanity, he began to weep uncontrollably. He said to Hashem: “Ribono Shel Olam, You are called Rachum, Merciful; thus, You should have been merciful on Your creations.” Hashem replied, “Now you come with complaints. Why did you not issue your defense for humanity when I told you My plans to send a flood that would destroy the world? You made an Ark to save yourself and your family. Why did it…

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צא מן התיבה אתה ואשתך

Go forth from the Ark, you and your wife. (8:16)

Chazal teach that when Noach emerged from the Ark to find a world destroyed, he complained to Hashem: “You should have shown mercy on Your children.” Hashem replied, “Foolish shepherd, you should have spoken up before I destroyed the world.” Clearly, Chazal’s words are laden with profound wisdom and numerous lessons. One message that Hashem’s words immediately impart addresses the need to care for others. Noach knew that a flood would occur. He seemed to be concerned for himself and his family. At the end of his journey, when he perceived the scope of the devastation, it hit home that…

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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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