Summary: Noah is the second parasha in the Book of Genesis. Ten generations passed from Adam to Noah and the world became unbearably corrupted.
The parasha contains the story of the year-long flood and its aftermath, G-d’s promise never to again destroy the world through water, Noah’s drunkenness and the curse of Cana’an, the proliferation of tribes from Yefet, Cana’an and Shem, the Tower of Babel dispersion and the genealogy of the next 10 generations from Noah to Avram.
In the first aliyah G-d informed Noah that a flood would wipe away all living beings and that, to survive, he should build an Ark (teibah, 300 x 50 x 30 amot). He was told to take his family (wife, 3 sons and 3 daughters-in-law) plus 2 of each living creature and food for them to eat.
The second aliyah contains the final week-long warning. Noah was told to take 7 pairs each of the animals that were ritually pure. G-d explained it would rain for 40 days and 40 nights. Once the waters began to appear, animals gathered of their own volition, and Naoh and his family entered the Ark. On the 17th day of the 2nd month, the waters broke loose and the rains began.
The third aliyah describes the year-long ordeal. After 40 days of rain the Ark rose off the ground to a height of 15 amot above the mountains. It floated on the water 150 days while all life was extinguished below. G-d remembered Noah in the Ark and for 150 more days the waters receded. By the 1st day of the 10th month they could again see the mountain tops.
After another 40 days Noah opened the Ark’s window and sent, successively, a raven and a dove. Unable to find a place to rest the dove returned. Waiting 7 days, he sent the dove again – it returned with an olive branch. Finally, after 7 more days the dove was sent a third time and didn’t return. On the 27th day of the 2nd month the land was dry.
The fourth aliyah describes the survivors leaving the Ark. Noah built an Altar and offered up sacrifices. G-d blessed Noah giving him dominion over all living creatures and conveying the 7 Noahide laws. In the fifth aliyah G-d promised to establish a new covenant with Noah and his family, represented by the Rainbow.
The sixth aliyah begins when Noah planted a vineyard, became drunk and was discovered naked in his tent. Ham’s behaviour toward his father lead to the cursing of Cana’an, Ham’s son. Noah died aged 950. Noah’s sons descendants were listed.
The final aliyah tells the story of the Tower of Babel, the confounding of language and the dispersion. Parshat Noah ends listing the 10 generations from Noah toAvram.
Comment: When reading the parasha, it occurred that G-d’s decision to destroy all humanity except for one representative family has parallels in Moshe’s experience after the Golden Calf. There G-d told Moshe that he would destroy the entire nation of Israel and begin again fresh with Moshe (Exodus 32:10). But in Moshe’s case, he pleaded with G-d and the threat was retracted.
Of course, more than 1500 years passed from Noah’s generation to the days of Moshe in the Midbar. And, likewise did the development of Providential history advance. Avraham, Yitshak and Ya’acob proved themselves worthy of G-d’s repeated covenants and promises. Yet, all was again on the verge of collapse in Moshe’s day.
Perhaps a few lessons can be drawn from this. First, we must not rely on the success of our forebears to protect us against our own generation’s bad behaviour. Second, it is in G-d’s nature to be intolerant of corruption and idolatry. Third, G-d will always chose someone to carry on the mission of humanity – to live a truthful, sanctified life seeking out the Divine Presence. Fourth, humans in a state of ignorance are unable to predict when such destruction might suddenly occur.
Following the logic of the above, how much more should we be striving in our own experience to be like Noah or Moshe rather than the unenlightened masses. Time is precious and constantly running out. We pray to be able to use the days given to us in an appropriate and meaningful way.[For those who requested it, a .pdf copy of Mashiach Kelaty’s Elul List for Spiritual Improvement can be found here.]