Parshat No’ach 5783: Textual Variations Upon Noach and Family Entering, Leaving the Teivah

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua No’ach is being sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas for Dov’s Father, Avraham ben Chaim Mordechai, z”l, and also for a refuah shleima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel and Shmuel ben Rivka. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat No’ach 5783: Textual Variations Upon Noach and Family Entering, Leaving the Teivah

by Moshe Burt

Early in our Parsha, Hashem speaks to Noach:

“The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery [chamas] through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth. Make yourself an ark [teivah] of gopher wood; with compartments, and tar it inside and out with pitch.” (Sefer Breish’t, Perek 6, posukim 13-14 as rendered to English in The Sapirstein Edition, The Torah with Rashi Commentary)

Rebbetzin Shira Smiles renders Rashi’s understanding of “chamas”:in Torah Tapestries on Parsha No’ach (pages 11-13):

Gezel: robbery.

Robbery is an anti-social and dishonest act. No one can live for long in a society where one’s belongings are not safe, knowing that they can vanish if one turns his back. But does the sin of robbery warrant such a severe punishment…. the destruction of the world?

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin provides context, asks questions and discusses the Torah’s textual variations regarding the entrance and exit of Noach and his family from the ark in his Sefer “Unlocking the Torah Text” for Sefer Breish’t on our Parshat No’ach (pages 47-50):

The Torah describes the entry of Noach’s family into the teivah by stating, “Noach and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark, because of the waters of the flood.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 7, posuk 7)

When Hashem commands Noach to exit the ark after the flood has ended, He states, “Go out from the ark: you and your wife and your sons and your sons’ wives with you.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 8, posuk 16)

Finally, when Noach actually leaves the ark, the text reads as follows: “And Noach went out and his sons and his wife, and his sons’ wives with him.” (Rabbi Goldin rendering to English Sefer Breish’t, Perek 8, posuk 18)

Why is the Torah inconsistent in it’s description of the order of entry into, and exit from the ark? Why…, when Noach enters the ark, are husbands and wives listed separately; when Hashem commands the departure from the ark, husbands and wives are listed together; and, finally, when the actual departure from the ark takes place, husbands and wives are again listed separately?

Initially, upon contemplating the Torah’s phraseology, this author considered the possibility that the separation of the men and women upon entering and exiting the ark could be Hashem’s prototype for future Sniyut of Am Yisrael,

Rabbi Goldin continues (ibid):

These… variations serve as a reminder that when it comes to Torah, nothing should be taken for granted. Each subtle nuance of the text carries significant lessons and ideas which are too easily missed in a less than careful reading.

[Regarding]… the separation of the men and women as Noach’s family enters the ark, Rashi states, “The men separately, and the women separately: marital relations were prohibited during a time when the world was engulfed in sorrow and tragedy.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Rashi on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 7, posuk 7)

…In spite of the unimaginable evil that caused the flood [mabul], Noach and his family are forbidden to ignore the pain and suffering outside the ark. The Torah… often indicates (as it does here through nuance) that it is immoral for man to live in a vacuum. We are forbidden to ignore the pain and suffering of others.

We can now understand why Hashem switches the familial order when he instructs Noach’s family to exit the ark at the end of the flood: “You and your wife, and your sons and their wives.” Hashem commands Noach, ‘men and women together.” The flood is over. Rebuilding civilization and repopulating the world have become the order of the day. The resumption of family relations is not only a right, Hashem states, but an obligation.

[However,] Torah indicates that as Noach’s family left the ark, men and women remain separate, in apparent defiance of Hashem’s wishes. Why is this gender separation consciously maintained by Noach’s family even now that the flood has ended?

Imagine the scene of total devastation that greets the members of Noach’s family as they begin to exit the ark. How deep their despair must have been and how overwhelming their sense of aloneness. In the face of such tragedy and destruction how could one possibly trust the future? How can one even contemplate the thought of rebuilding, of beginning again?

Noach and his children are paralyzed by the scene before them…. They do not believe that they can be successful in building a new world; and they are unable to imagine the benevolent protection of a G’d who could visit such destruction upon mankind. Men and women leave the ark separately, because they simply cannot contemplate the future.

…Hashem feels compelled to respond in a number of ways:

He promises that He will never again curse the earth because of man’s actions. (Rabbi Goldin on Sefer Breish’t, Perek 8, posukim 21-22)

He blesses Noach and his sons and commands them, not once but twice, to be fruitful and multiply. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 9. posukim 1 and 7)

He constructs and commands a series of laws, establishing a basic morality for mankind. Hopefully, these laws will ensure that the kind of evil that characterized the generation of the flood will never again mark civilization. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 9. posukim 2-6)

He establishes a visible covenant with mankind, symbolized by the rainbow, and promises that He will remember that covenant and never again destroy the world through flood. (Rabbi Goldin citing Sefer Breish’t, Perek 9. posukim 8-17)

Everything hinges on how Noach and his family respond at this juncture. The world that Hashem intends to create will depend on this last remnant’s ability to move forward.

…On the one hand, civilization continues. Noach’s children have children and the world is populated in the aftermath of the flood.

One the other hand, … Noach never moves past the tragedy of the world’s destruction… The man who saved the world at Hashem’s command is transformed into a tragic figure…

Rabbi Goldin concludes (ibid, page 50):

Noach’s struggle and failure in the aftermath of the flood should move us to consider the spiritual heroism of a generation of our times.

In the aftermath of World War II, survivors of the Shoah emerged, one by one, from ghettos, concentration camps, forests and other places of hiding to face a world similar to Noach’s after the flood. Their world had been totally destroyed, their families murdered.

How understandable it would have been had they been paralyzed, like Noach, unable to continue.

With unimaginable strength and indomitable spirit, these survivors rebuilt their worlds. They married, had children and grandchildren, and successfully created professions and careers. They refused to succumb to hatred and bitterness, all the while courageously living decent, moral lives.

The contributions made by [that] generation to Judaism at large, and to Israel in particular, are immeasurable; and the families that they built, in the aftermath of their own indescribable personal tragedies, will continue [B’ezrat Hashem] to shape the story of our people for generations to come.

Where Noach failed, they succeeded.

This author expresses the fervent hope that our generation, in spite of growing anti-semitism, woke’ism with all of its abominations, raging inflation and recession in the world economy, totalitarian governments, threats of wars on multiple fronts, that we of this generation can continue to build and enhance Judaism and spirituality in spite of the world’s many negatives. May we succeed and live up to the generation who survived the Shoah.

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them, that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes and the oft-destroyed Yeshiva buildings in Homesh be rebuilt, all at total government expense; due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now in his second year at home in Eretz Yisrael and as he embarks on a new chapter in his life. May Esther Yocheved bat Yechiel Avraham have an aliyah in Shemayim and may her spirit and memory continue to lift Jonathan to at least 120 years. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of eight years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh Tov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.