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Parshas Noach D’var Torah

The main reasons that the flood occurred is because of immorality, theft, and hatred. I remember sitting in a Rabbi’s study when he related marriage advice, it was a group for singles who were meeting, and this advice struck me as quite important and profound. I have found this advice again, in my studying of Parshas Noach and something in my soul keeps telling me to come back and to write about this advice which has profound truth. I learned recently that this advice is not the rabbi’s advice but instead commentary made by the Kli Yakar (Beautiful Vessel) on Bereshis 6:15 “This is because their licentiousness led to the profanation of G-d’s holy name Kah, which represents the intermediary that joins man and woman in a holy union. If you were to remove the Yud (Y) from Ish (Man) and the Hei (H) from Ishah woman what remains is aish (Fire) and aish (Fire), a consuming fire, as it is written for a fire that consumes until destruction. Thus, our Rabbis stated with hot water (the heat of passion they sinned, and with hot water the heat of the water from the depths they were sentenced). For they themselves ignited the fire by profaning G-d’s name with their acts.” This is a profound idea; it is the idea by which I married my wife eventually. I sought to focus on that intermediary between us, for I had learned that on a much smaller level, the consuming fire, and boiling waters of the flood are the only things that could come from a marriage rooted in anything else. If you take G-d’s name out of marriage you are left with a marriage that becomes a consuming fire, destroying smaller more important worlds in the process. We must always take to heart the lesson of the Kli Yakar, in our marriages, in our relationships with others, and focus towards being like Noach- a man who was known for being a comfort, a man, righteous, perfect in his generations, and who walked with G-d.

There is a debate regarding Noach’s status, it says in his generations he was perfect- Rashi points out that the Sages debated whether or not this was meant to be complimentary or derogatory. Rashi ultimately takes the side of the debate that he was righteous as he states “In his generations: some of our sages interpret it the word (in his generations) favorably: how much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more righteous.” This is important for living in a time where extreme wickedness ruled so much that Noach needed to be a true Talmid Chacham (Wise student). The Chassam Sofer in the previous parsha Bereshis brought out a very powerful advice to Talmud Chachamim and this must have been the case with Noach as well, he states “A true torah scholar must assume a double stance: At times he displays great humility, as symbolized by the waters below the firmament. In fact, the Talmud notes that just as the water runs downhill, the humble and downtrodden frequently emerge as Torah scholars. On the other hand, the Torah scholar must act as if he is above the firmament. In the interest of Torah he may have to ignore public opinion. He must be willing to do what is right regardless of the abuse and mockery to which he may be subjected…..A Torah leader must feel dependent on Hashem and no one else.” (Chassam Sofer commentary on the Torah Genesis 1:7) This was certainly true of Noach as well as Yeshua the Messiah. Noach stood up to his generation, he was the only one who found grace in the eyes of Hashem, and through that was able to save the world as the Or Hachaim notes “This is why the Torah immediately states but Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem, instead of first saying that Noach was a righteous person, because the meaning of the term found favor is that Noach was not saved because of his actions but simply because he found favor in the eyes of Hashem. For since the destruction was decreed in light of Hashem’s retraction from his decision regarding man’s creation, the fact that Noach was righteous would not have saved him, since as explained above all of mankind was being destroyed guilty and innocent alike. The verse therefore had to say that Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem and it is only for that reason that Hashem did not destroy him….. From this that the verse did not mention Noach’s righteousness there is no proof that Noach was not righteous because even if he was righteous, his righteousness would not have saved him from the flood as explained above….. what saved him was only the quality of ‘favor’ (Grace) that he found in the eyes of Hashem, which he acquired through aspects of certain mitzvahs….indeed his name expresses this Noach has the same letters as Chein (Grace).” The OrHachiam brings this special quality out from this teaching about Noach so how much more so about Moshiach “But our sages of blessed memory explained (Ber Rab. 33:3) that because of Noach’s righteousness Hashem transformed his attribute of justice to that of mercy and brought the flood to an end” This truly is grace. And this is a truly radical view that has changed my life, even if I were to be righteous, as righteous as Noach, or Moshe, or Avraham I would still only be saved by Grace achieved by the mitzvah of believing in Moshiach and following him wherever he may lead.

I will wrap up with a final interesting parallel I found between the idea of the flood being a mikvah (immersion) and the removing of spiritual uncleaness, as it was asserted by Peter in 1 Peter chapter 3. “For Messiah once suffered for sins also—the righteous for the unrighteous[g]—in order to bring you to God. He was put to death in the flesh, but made alive by the Ruach. 19 Through the Ruach He also went and preached to the spirits in prison. 20 Long ago they disobeyed while God kept waiting patiently, in the days of Noah as the ark was being built. In that ark a few (that is, eight souls) were brought safely through water. 21 Corresponding to that, immersion now brings you to safety—not the removal of dirt from the flesh, but a pledge to God of a good conscience—through the resurrection of Messiah Yeshua. 22 He has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels and authorities and powers subjected to Him.” This is a statement that is very powerful and that we find echoed by at least two great Torah sages. First the Kli Yakar, also compares the flood to a mikvah (Immersion) “By this the earth’s material was softened and it’s hardness removed, and from then on the earth’s material was not as bad as originally, whether because of the punishment, when it was cleansed in the floodwaters in the same way that all immersions cleanse and remove filth and impurities as in a Mikvah or whether it was the natural outcome of the ground being softened by the floodwaters and from them the earth was not as hard as before.” And also from the Last Lubavitcher Rebbe who stated this in a Sicha on Parshas Noach (Message) “The parallel between the worries and challenges a person faces in livelihood, the flood, and a mikveh can be explained as follows: the inner purpose of a mikveh is for a person to engender bittul (self nullification) within himself. Thus Rambam describes how one should immerse himself in the waters of pure knowledge. To enable this the volume of a mikveh must be 40 seah, a sufficient amount of water to encompass one’s entire body. The Hebrew word tevilah (Immersion) contains the same letters as bittul (self nullification) Through immersion in a mikveh a person cultivates an attitude of bittul. That takes him beyond his self-concern elevating him and transforming him into a medium for holiness.” This is amazing that two great Sages also are in agreement with Peter that Immersion brings you to holiness, and that the flood was in some sense exactly what immersion is.

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