Category Archives: Parshas Noach

Parshas Noach: But I Did Not Do Anything. I Only Said…

Parshas Bereshis

The Reason For It All!

“Cham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father and told it to his brothers [who were] outside.” (Bereishis 9:22)

Three women were waiting in line to speak with their daughters’ teacher on Parent-Teacher Night. One of them, Miriam, had recently headed a successful fundraising event for the school—the first time she had taken on the job—that had been very successful, in spite of frustrations along the way. Yet in her opinion, she had not been very effective. She was thinking that next year she’d ask someone else to take the reins. “Miriam, the event was amazing!” said one of the women. “It was so well thought-out and so much fun! And you got a huge crowd!” The third woman had also enjoyed the event and admired the way Miriam had produced it. But she didn’t say so. Meanwhile, Miriam was basking in the momentary glow, thinking “Maybe I will do it again next year, now that I have some experience.” Often, positive thoughts run through our minds, but for some reason, we don’t feel the need to verbalize them. If only we realized how much those words might be worth, we’d speak up loud and clear every time. We never know what insecurities our words might soothe. We never know what positive power they might unleash.

 Rav Isser Zalman Meltzer was a new bachur at the Volozhin Yeshivah. He felt lost and homesick and was ready to return home. One day, the Rosh Yeshivah, the Netziv, asked a question, and Rav Isser Zalman offered an answer that pleased him. During lunch an older bachur, Zelig Bengis, later to become the great and famous Rav Bengis of Yerushalayim, came to Rav Isser Zalman and asked him, “Are you the one whose chiddush the Netziv is talking about with so much admiration?” Decades later, when Rav Isser Zalman came to Yerushalayim, his first stop was at the home of Rav Zelig Bengis. “I owe you my life!” he told him. He then recounted how Rav Bengis’s encouraging words had restored his confidence so that he remained in Volozhin. The value of positive words is their power to make another person feel, “I have value.” And that is the foundation of everything good that a person accomplishes in life. (from the Shabbos Newsletter of the Chofetz Chaim Heritage Foundation)

The world had been destroyed by a flood. Only Noach and his family survived, in the ark that Noah had built. When Noach exited the ark, he planted a vineyard (Bereishis 9:20). Where did he get the vines for the vineyard? Rashi says that Noach had brought them with him into the ark. Targum Yonasan ben Uziel says that Noach found the vine which the waters had carried from Gan Eden. Noach planted it and the grapes grew immediately. Noach pressed the grapes and drank some wine. He became drunk from the wine. The Sfas Emes (quoted in Iturei Torah by Aaron Yaakov Greenberg) explains that Noach drank the same amount of wine that he had been used to drinking before the flood. However, man’s constitution had been weakened from the flood and that same amount of wine, now, made him drunk. In his drunkenness, Noach was lying, uncovered, in his tent. The B’chor Shor says that it was actually Canaan who had uncovered Noach. The Tur says that it was Cham who had done so. The Torah says that Cham looked and saw Noach’s nakedness. Then he derided Noach to his other brothers. The Da’as Zekanim, as well as the Targum Onkelos and Lekach Tov, say that Cham did not tell his brothers the news quietly. Rather, he stated it publicly, for all to hear. He spoke scornfully and derisively about his father.  When Cham’s son, Canaan, heard his father’s words, he went ahead and sinned terribly against Noah (see Rashi 9:22). When Noach became sober and became aware of what his grandchild, Canaan, had done, he cursed him saying that he would become slaves to Noach’s other two sons.

The Torah (9:22) says, “Cham, the father of Canaan, saw the nakedness of his father, and told it to his brothers [who were] outside.”  The Da’as Zekanim says that we already know who Cham was. Why did

the Torah feel that it was necessary now to specifically identify Cham as the father of Canaan?  The Da’as Zekanim answers that Cham is called the father of the one who sinned (Canaan) because Cham ridiculed Noach!   HaRav Henach Leibowitz zt”l asked, Cham did not do any negative ACTION. All Cham did, was to say WORDS disparaging Noach. Canaan was the one who did the terrible action. Why is the action being attributed to Cham? Why is he called the father of the sinner? HaRav Leibowitz zt”l says that we see that it was Cham’s words that CAUSED the terrible sin. Cham’s words lowered Noach’s esteem in the eyes of his son Canaan. Despite the wickedness of Canaan, he still had respect for his grandfather, Noach. Cham’s derisive words stripped away that respect. At that point, Canaan sinned so terribly.


We see two important and fundamental things from this. We see the power of speech.

Mere words said thoughtlessly can cause terrible sins.

 Cham’s words caused what happened to Noach.

We also see one’s responsibility for the words that he says.

We are held accountable for everything that results from our words.


Negative comments are divisive. The divisiveness is why our Beis HaMikdash has not yet been rebuilt. Keeping in mind what is currently happening to Klal Yisroel,

let us be especially careful to say words that unite and not words that divide.

Our positive words can transform a frown into a smile.


(Dvar Torah based in part on Chidushei Lev by Rabbi Binyomin Luban)

Parshas Noach: Long Live The Phoenix!

Parshas Noach

Long Live The Phoenix!


“The dove came back …it had plucked an olive leaf with its bill.” (Beraishis 8:11)

I read a Torah-based story many years ago, but I don’t remember all the details. Eliyahu HaNavi (or perhaps it was a Torah sage) approached two great rabbis. He said that if they would go with him right away, they would be able to bring Moshiach. One of the rabbis said that he had to leave but would return shortly. He wanted to tell his wife where he was going so that she wouldn’t worry when he wouldn’t come home on time. He quickly told his wife and returned. When he came back, he was told that it was too late; The moment in which they could have brought Moshiach, had already passed.

Should the rabbi have left immediately to bring Moshiach, even though his wife would have worried about his absence? I discussed this story with a rabbinical colleague and we both came to the same conclusion. Obviously, bringing Moshiach is very important. However, a mitzvah cannot be done in a way that ignores the sensitivities and hurts the feelings of others. It would not have been proper for the rabbi to make his wife worry, even though Moshiach’s arrival was postponed.

Meir was learning in Israel for the year. He had two other roommates in his dormitory room. Meir wanted to get the special mitzvah of davening Shacharis at the earliest possible time, k’vasikin. Meir woke up extra early. He couldn’t find his clothes in the dark, so he opened the light. The bright light woke up Meir’s roommates, but he wasn’t too concerned. He knew that they would fall back to sleep very quickly. And, after all, he needed the light to help him go to do a big mitzvah. Unfortunately, Meir did not realize that it is not appropriate to do a mitzvah in a way that causes harm to others.

The Mabul, the Great Flood, destroyed all of mankind, except for Noach and his family. After about a year in the Ark, the water receded. Noach wanted to check if the earth was dry enough to leave the Ark. First, he sent out a raven, who just kept circling around the Ark. A week later, Noach sent out a dove. There was still too much water covering the earth and the dove could not find a resting place, so it returned to the Ark. Another week later, Noach again sent out the dove. This time the dove returned with an olive leaf that it had plucked. Clearly, the land was now visible.

The Alter of Slobodka zt”l (sefer Ohr Tzafon, vol 1 page 61) discusses the actions of the dove. The dove performed a great act of kindness for Noach. It brought the good news that the water had receded, and the earth was dry. Soon, Noach would be freed from his tiresome and burdensome job of taking care of all the animals in the Ark. The Talmud (Sanhedrin 108B) quotes Rav Ḥana bar Bizna who said that Shem told Avraham’s servant, Eliezer, that they experienced great suffering in the Ark in caring for the animals. The Talmud continues Shem’s narrative. Noach found the phoenix lying in its compartment in the Ark. He was wondering why the phoenix did not ask for food. The bird replied that it saw that Noach was very busy, and it did not want to trouble him by requesting food. Noah blessed the bird with long life.

Noach blessed the phoenix for its consideration. The Alter zt”l asks, shouldn’t Noach have blessed the dove as well, for fulfilling its mission and bringing back such good news?

The Midrash (Beraishis Rabba 33) quotes the pasuk that the dove “had plucked an olive leaf with its bill”. The Midrash translates the word “plucked” as “killed” (just as it means killed in the pasuk in Beraishis 37 when it says, “tarof toraf Yosef”). Noach told the dove that had it not plucked the branch, the branch would have grown into a tree. In the midst of the dove doing a good action, it did something that was inappropriate. Therefore, the dove did not deserve a blessing from Noach, perhaps losing the blessing of eternal life.

The dove fulfilled its mission. It acted with the best of intentions when it plucked an olive branch, proving to Noach that the flood waters had totally receded. However, there was a lacking in the dove’s actions because it caused harm to something in the creation. It prevented one olive branch from growing further.

We can learn a lesson from this. Even when we are in the midst of doing a great mitzvah, we mustn’t lessen it by harming something or someone else. It is more than an act of niceness on our part.

It is an obligation to avoid harming others!