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Parshat No'ach

By: Mrs Sally Mayer

In Parashat No’ach, we read of the corruption of the world and Hashem’s decision to destroy the world and to begin again with No’ach, whom the Torah describes as a tzaddik, a righteous man. At the end of the parashah, once he emerges from the Ark, one of No’ach’s first undertakings is to plant a vineyard, whereupon he becomes drunk and lies exposed in his tent, to be discovered in that indecorous state by his son. Why does No’ach do it? Where is the righteous, perfect man described at the beginning of the parashah?

To help answer this question, let’s look at the story of the flood. Why does Hashem choose specifically a flood to punish the corrupt people of the world? Why not a plague, a fire, or any other method? It seems that Hashem did not want to destroy merely the sinful people; He was determined to wipe clean the slate of all Creation – animals, plants, and even the ground itself – and start again from the beginning. The very first day of creation saw the distinction between light and dark; in the following days, the undifferentiated water separates, leaving sky and seas; finally, the seas part to reveal dry land. All of these processes are reversed during the flood: Night and day cease; the sky opens as well as the “springs of the deep,” rejoining the heavenly and terrestrial waters; and finally, the combined waters invade the territory from which they had retreated, erasing the dry land. Hashem has decided to end this creation and to begin again with No’ach and his family.

Imagine the pressure No’ach felt when he left that teivah! It’s now all up to him; he is the first man all over again! This time, however, he understands what can happen if his descendants do not commit themselves to the morality Hashem expects.

What is his reaction in the face of this responsibility? Does he immediately set up schools to educate the children in the proper way of life? Does he establish a court system to ensure justice? Instead, No’ach chooses to escape the present, to shake loose of his crushing burdens – he runs off to get drunk. He shirks his responsibility as the new head of humanity, and loses his sense of dignity as well, as he reveals himself in his tent.

At some point, we all find ourselves in the position to make a difference in the world, in our communities, in our schools, in our homes. Our ideas and investment of time and energy could have a major influence on the character of the places in which we live, learn, and work. We must learn from the story of No’ach not to run away from and waste those opportunities, but to embrace them and use our energies and talents to bring ourselves and those around us closer to Hashem and to the Torah’s mitzvot and values.








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