The Torah Portion of Noach 5775
Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
"These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man..." (Bereisheet 6:9)
At the time when a Tzaddik (Righteous Man) leaves this world without children, he is distressed and cries. The Holy One Blessed Be He says to him, "Why are you distressed and crying that you didn't beget any children? I have a fruit that is more beautiful than children, the Torah which you occupied yourself with." For so it is written in Proverbs (11:30): "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", and there is no tree of life other than Torah, as it is said, "It is a tree of life to those who uphold it" (Proverbs 3:18). The verse "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life", refers to Noach. Our Rabbis said that Noach did not pass away until he saw all the world resettled, ... and until he saw seventy nations who were his descendents, and none of this was remembered -- only his righteousness, as it is said "These are the offspring of Noach -- Noach was a righteous man", and it is not written Shem, Ham, and Yaphet, but rather his righteousness. You should know that this verse ( "The fruit of a Tzaddik is a tree of life" -- Proverbs 11:30) is speaking about Noach, because at the end of the verse it is written "and a wise man takes souls" (Proverbs 11:30). This refers to Noach who took souls, and would support and feed them (i.e. the other people and animals who were with him in the ark). (from Midrash Tanchuma as published by Buber)
"...and the earth had become filled with robbery." (Bereisheet 6:11)
The Sages say that the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't begin to punish people by taking their lives, but rather begins with their financial wealth. If so, why didn't Hashem first punish the generation of the Flood financially? The explanation is that the money which was in their possession was stolen, and therefore He immediately punished them physically.
"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark) ..." (Bereisheet 6:16)
There are two explanations for the Hebrew word "Tzohar"; there are those who say it means a window, and there are those who say it means a diamond. The Hebrew word "Teiva", in addition to meaning "ark" in English, also means "word" in English. Based on this, teachers of Mussar (Ethics) say that every word that you bring out of your mouth needs to enlighten, that is, one should bring out his words in Torah and prayer, and do it in such a way that those words will spread light.
"Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva (the ark or the word) and to an Amah (cubit) you shall finish it from above. The Petach (entrance) of the ark you shall make in its side; make it with bottom, second, and third decks." (Bereisheet 6:16)
It is told about the Gaon R' Yehuda Tzadka ztz"l Rosh Yeshiva of Porat Yosef, that he was always accustomed to say every blessing with three pauses, for example: 1) Baruch Atah Hashem (Blessed are You Hashem), 2) Elokeinu Melech Haolom (Our G-d King of the universe), 3) Shehakol Nih'ye Bid'varo (that everything exists at Your word). After he passed away, he came in a dream to one of his grandsons, and told him the verse "Tzohar (a light) shall you make for the Teiva...", emphasizing the interpretation that "Teiva" means "word". During a blessing, one should express his words clearly like a "Tzohar", which is related to the Hebrew word for light. An "Amah" is a Hebrew measurement which is usually translated as a cubit. The three letters of the Hebrew word Amah (Aleph, Mem and Hey) are the Roshei Teivot (beginning letters) of the Hebrew words "Elokeinu Melech Haolom" ("Our G-d King of the universe"). So the message here is that when one says a blessing, it should be with Kavana (intention) that the One he is saying it to is Our G-d King of the universe. The word "Petach" (entrance) which appears in the phrase "an entrance of the ark you shall make in its side", hints to us about the Evil Inclination, as it it written "at the Petach (entrance) sin crouches" (Bereisheet 4:7). This means that in the merit of saying a blessing properly, one can overcome the Evil Inclination. And regarding "bottom, second, and third decks", the meaning of this is that you should make three pauses in every single blessing.
"Noach did according to everything that Hashem had commanded him, so he did." (Bereisheet 6:22)
Noach didn't think to make the ark in order to save himself, but rather he only did it because of the commandment of Hashem.
"...and from the animal which is not pure..." (Bereisheet 7:8)
The Torah used an extra eight Hebrew letters in order to speak in a clean language (by saying "and from the animal which is not pure", instead of " and from the impure animal"). It has been asked, "Don't we see that many times the Torah does explicitly use the word 'impure'?" The explanation is, that when the Torah writes a Halacha (a religious law), it needs to be in a way which is clear and explicit so that we won't make any mistakes in following the Halacha, but in a story about an event, which would not cause us to err, the Torah uses a clean language in order to teach us how we should speak.
"And Haran died in the presence of Terach his father, in his native land, in Ur Kasdim." (Bereisheet 11:28)
It is written in the Targum Yonatan that when Nimrod cast Avram into the burning furnace because he didn't worship idols, Haran said "If Nimrod wins I will be with his group and if Avram wins I will be with his group". And when all the people that were there saw that the fire did not have any effect on Avram, they thought in their hearts: "Isn't Haran the brother of Avram full of magic and witchcraft? It must be that he is charming the fire so that it won't burn his brother." Immediately fire fell from the upper heavens and engulfed Haran and he died, in front of Terach his father. And in Rashi it is written that Haran sat and thought in his heart: "If Avram wins I will be with him, and if Nimrod wins I will be with him." When Avram won, they said to him, "Who's side are you on?" He told them, "I am with Avram". Then they threw him into the burning furnace and he was burnt up. There are those that question why this happened, because in any event Haran did a good deed? And the answer is that the Holy One Blessed Be He doesn't hold back reward from anyone, and his reward was that Sarah was descended from him (Iskah, Haran's daughter, is Sarah), and the rest of the Matriarchs were descended from Milcah (who was also Haran's daughter), and in addition, from Lot (who was Haran's son) were descended Rut and Naamah.
Words of Chizuk (Encouragement)
The Sages say that the Seal of the Holy One Blessed Be He is Truth. There are those that explain this by saying, that when you look at the letters and words that are on a Seal, they superficially seem to be backwards, but when you use the Seal to sign a document, the letters and words come out properly. Similarly, there are occasionally people who when they do not understand the ways of Hashem, they immediately have complaints, G-d forbid. On this we can say to them, that the Seal superficially appears to be backwards, but if we look carefully at the matter we will see that it is straight, because Hashem's leadership and Seal are precise and true and straight.
The Torah Portion of Noach has 153 verses.We take out two Torah Scrolls. In the first we ready the Torah Portion of the week, and in the second we read the Maftir, from the Torah Portion of Pinchas "U'vayom HaShabbat" until "V'Niskoh". Haftora: "Hashamayim Kis'i" (Yeshayahu 66). This Shabbat is Shabbat Rosh Chodesh Mar Cheshvan; in Musaf we say "Atah Yatzarta".We say Borchi Nafshi.
May you all have a light-filled and happy Shabbat. Shabbat Shalom.
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772