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Posted on October 20, 2023 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly portion: # 1265 – All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bracha on a Rainbow. Good Shabbos!

The pasuk in Parshas Noach says, “For in another seven days’ time I will send rain upon the earth, forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out all existence that I have made, from upon the face of the ground. And Noach did according to everything that Hashem had commanded him.” (Bereshis 7:4-5) All things being equal, our first impression would be to think that the words “And Noach did all that Hashem commanded him” means that he built the Teivah (Ark). However, that is not how Rashi explains it. Rashi interprets “And Noach did what he was commanded” to refer to the fact that Noach came to the Teivah. This is certainly not the simple way of understanding pasuk 5.

The question raised by the Ohr HaChaim is more difficult. The Ohr HaChaim asks on Rashi: We don’t need a pasuk to ambiguously allude to the fact that Noach entered the Teivah. The Torah states explicitly that Noach went into the Teivah – first in Bereshis 7:7 “And Noach came with his sons and wife and daughters-in-law with him into the Teivah because of the flood waters” and again a few pesukim later in Bereshis 7:13 “On that very day Noach came with his sons Shem, Cham, and Yefes, and his wife and his three daughters-in-law with them into the Teivah.”

Those who comment on Rashi explain that pasuk 7:5 is not teaching us that Noach went into the Teivah. That we learn from pesukim 7 and 13. Rashi is explaining that “And Noach did that which he was commanded” means he came up to the Teivah. So the question becomes, what is the big deal here? It does not seem significant that Noach came up to the door of the Teivah!

The Tolner Rebbe cites a very interesting observation from the Tiferes Shlomo, the Radomske Rebbe. The Medrash says in two places that Avraham asked Noach’s son Shem, “How were you able to save yourself from the waters of the flood, from the great wrath that was present in the world at that time?” He paraphrases the Medrash’s recording of Shem’s response to Avraham. Shem said, “I don’t know why we were saved. All I know is that the entire year of the flood, all we did was take care of the animals, night and day.”

The Medrash Tanchuma is a little more explicit: “Eliezer, the servant of Avraham, asked Shem: ‘What did you do in the Teivah?’ Shem responded, ‘Those animals that ate at night we were busy feeding at night; those animals that ate during the day, we were busy feeding during the day.’ The entire twelve months, neither Noach nor his sons tasted sleep.”

The reason Noach was saved was that he had rachmanus (mercy) on the animals. In this merit, he survived the flood. Rachmanus begets rachmanus. This also answers another question. The Talmud teaches (Bava Kama 60a) that when permission is granted to the Angel of Destruction (to destroy), there is no distinction between the righteous and the wicked. So why was Noach and his family saved? The answer is what Shem the son of Noach told Avraham and Eliezer: We were saved for one reason, and one reason only—because we had mercy on the animals.

Based on this, the Tiferes Shlomo answers another question. The Medrash says (as Rashi brings) that in the final analysis the decree was only pronounced upon the Dor Hamabul (Generation of the Flood) for the sin of theft. Certainly, the Dor Hamabul did far worse things than stealing from one another. They engaged in all sorts of sexual perversions. (I can still tell it like it is and call it perversion—even though such labeling is no longer allowed in other segments of society!)

True, theft is not a nice thing. But “and the entire earth was corrupted (by sexual perversions)” (Bereshis 6:11) to the extent that it had a corrupting influence even on the animals—that seems far worse. So when there was promiscuity, adultery, homosexuality, and all types of other sexual perversions throughout society, how is it that the final decree came down because of theft? Why is that the “straw that broke the camel’s back?”

The answer is that had they engaged in all this other terrible activity but they would have been nice to each other and have had mercy on one another, that merit of rachmanus would have saved them. Maybe it would not have saved them entirely, but the Ribono shel Olam would have meted out the punishment slowly, over a long period of time. He would not have wiped out the entire world in a matter of a year. People can do a lot of bad things, but if they behave properly with their fellow men, that goes a long way in protecting them from punishment.

The upshot of all of this is an amazing way of looking at the story in our parsha. Who saved whom in the story of Noach and the Teivah? We thought Noach saved the animals! Noach took the animals with him and saved all living things. However, based on this Medrash, the Tiferes Shlomo says that it was just the opposite! The animals saved Noach! Because he had mercy upon them and mercy begets mercy, therefore Noach was not subject to the rule that “Once the Destroyer is permitted to destroy, he does not distinguish between the righteous and the wicked.”

Based on all of this, the Tolner Rebbe says that this is what Rashi is teaching by interpreting “And Noach did that which Hashem commanded” to mean that Noach came up to (rather than into) the Teivah. Why is that significant? It is because the simple act of going up to the Teivah separated Noach from his entire generation. When he walked to the Teivah he was telling the rest of society “I don’t want to have anything to do with you.” By separating himself and preparing the Teivah, Noach accepted the task of preparing to save the world. According to Rashi, the praise that the pasuk gives Noach is: He went up to the Teivah – demonstrating his rachmanus for the future of all birds and wildlife on the planet!

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Technical Assistance by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Noach is provided below:

  • # 027 – The Abortion Controversy
  • # 069 – Ma’ariv and Mitzvos in the Land of Midnight Sun
  • # 118 – Suicide: Is it Ever Permitted?
  • # 165 – Euthanasia
  • # 211 – Animal Experimentation
  • # 255 – Preventing a Suicide
  • # 301 – Teaching Torah to Non-Jews
  • # 345 – Milah for Non-Jews: Is it Permitted
  • # 389 – Abortion to Save a Baby?
  • # 433 – Assisting in a Suicide
  • # 477 – Tzedakah and Non-Jews
  • # 521 – The Ben Noach & the Nectarine
  • # 565 – The Golam
  • # 609 – Cosmetic Surgery
  • # 653 – The Har Habayis — The Temple Mount in Halacha and Hashkafa
  • # 697 – The Case of the Fascinating Ger
  • # 741 – Your Wife’s Medical Bills: Who Pays?
  • # 785 – Spreading Bad News
  • # 829 – Bending the Truth of the Torah
  • # 873 – Stem Cell Research
  • # 917 – Did Shimshon Commit Suicide?
  • # 960 – Geshem Reigns — Mashiv Haruach U’moreed Hageshem? Hagoshem?
  • #1004 – Shinui Hashem: Changing the Name of a Choleh
  • #1048 – Zichrono Le’vracha: On A Living Person?
  • #1091 – V’Sain Tal U’Matar – Starting Too Early?
  • #1134 – Are Non-Jews Only Obligated in “The Seven Mitzvos”?
  • #1177 – Teaching Torah To A Potential Convert?
  • #1221 – Plastic Surgery for Shidduchim Purposes
  • #1265 – All You Ever Wanted to Know About the Bracha on a Rainbow
  • #1309 – Dilemma of Day School Rebbi: A Non-Jewish Child in His Class – Can He Teach Him?
  • #1353 – The Uniqueness of the Hebrew Language
  • #1397 – Must One Eat Meat on Shabbos?
  • #1441 – Backing Out of a Purchase Agreement – What Are the Consequences?
  • #1485 – I just saw a Rainbow – Shall I tell my neighbor?
  • #1529 – Teaching Torah to a Potential Convert – Is There a Problem?
  • (2022) – Changing the Name of a Choleh – How Does it Help?

A complete catalogue can be ordered from the Yad Yechiel Institute, PO Box 511, Owings Mills MD 21117-0511. Call (410) 358-0416 or e-mail [email protected] or visit for further information.