Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Parshat Noah

Thursday, October 19th, 2017

Towards the end of Bereshit we are introduced to Noah and we are told that Lemech had a son “and he called him Noah saying, this one will bring us rest from our work and from the toll of our hands from the ground which Hashem has cursed.” Rashi explains that when Adam was expelled from the Garden of Eden, Hashem told him that the ground would be cursed because of the sin of eating from the tree of knowledge and the ground would sprout thorns and thistles and – by the sweat of your brow you shall eat bread until you return to the ground. Adam had lived till this current generation (930 years!) but it would seem that just at this time he died and as it tells us above, he had returned to the ground, so the hope was that this curse would be lifted.

But why the name Noah which means comfort? Rashi proposes more than the curse being lifted Noah was to be the inventor of the plough which made working in the field more comfortable, the word Noah meaning comfort in the sense of making things easier, otherwise if it was to bring comfort to the world he would have been called Menahem.

Reading on, after the birth of Noah, the world seems to take a turn for the worse and we are told “and Hashem saw the wickedness of man was great upon the earth and the thoughts of his heart were evil all day, and Hashem reconsidered having created man on earth and he had heartfelt sadness. But Noah found grace in the eyes of Hashem.” So we seem to have reached the critical point where Hashem decides to destroy the civilization which seems to have gone wrong and start again with Noah.

Rav Avraham Shmuel Sofer, the son of the Chatam Sofer, in his work the Ktav Sofer takes an interesting approach. He notes that the Midrash tells us on the above verse “and Noah found favour in the eyes of Hashem” that Hashem was sorry that he had made the world with Noah in it. As we have been told, Noah created the plough, a technology that allowed that generation to manage the land. Till then the people had been dependent of whatever grew picking out what they could from what grew naturally on the land, so they were dependent on the goodness of Hashem to provide rain and food through the goodness of nature, and by the way we have not yet read of any famines or disasters. Now they were able to plough and manage the land and their lives and they began to forget the goodness of Hashem and felt they were in control.

So Hashem was unhappy that although Noah was righteous, through his ingenious ploughing technology he had indirectly caused that generation to turn bad. In the Ktav Sofer’s opinion this is why we are told “and Noah was righteous and whole hearted (tamim – which also means innocent) in his generation, meaning even though he was righteous, in his good heartedness he had indirectly brought about evil in his generation.

What is fascinating here is the concept of the dangers of technology, which as I discussed last year, quoting Rav Solovechik, is one of the messages of the Tower of Babel, of the people thinking that human progress and endeavour in technology is the ultimate and brings us a better world. However we need to aware of how we are changing the cosmos.

Drawing parallels to this, it is almost frightening to realize where we are today. Hashem then destroyed the world with a natural disaster of a flood. Looking around us we are suffering natural disaster after disaster, hurricanes, forest fires, tsunami waves. floods and more. Much of this, according to our scientists has been brought about through our rapid adoption of technologies, in particular the use of fossil fuels – the global warming controversy! Hashem sent the rainbow after the flood as a sign that he will not destroy the world again, but nevertheless he took action again when faced with the Tower of babel. Maybe this is the message of Parshat Noah and the signs Hashem is sending us now. We need to be careful in our bulldozing into technology, and this message for the whole of mankind, the story of Noah precedes the Abrahamic period and talks to the whole world.