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Parshah of the Week

This week’s Parashah is Noach – Shabbat 24 October 2020

While society as a whole descended into a state of anarchy and utter corruption, only Noah remained righteous and faithful to G‑d’s ways. Noah was informed by G‑d that a mabul (“flood”) will soon destroy all of civilization, and only Noah and his immediate family would survive in a teivah (“ark,” boat) that he was to build. G‑d gave Noah the exact dimensions of the teivah he was to build, and commanded Noah to bring along into the teivah specimens of every species of animal and bird to repopulate the world after the mabul, and to stock the boat with food to feed all its inhabitants.

Of kosher animals and birds, Noah was commanded to take seven pairs of each species (as opposed to one pair of all other species). Noah, his family, and the required animals boarded the teivah and the mabul began: “The springs of the great depths burst forth and the windows of the heavens opened.”

The torrential rains lasted for forty days and nights. The waters rose to great heights and covered even the highest mountains, killing all humans and animals; everything died aside for Noah and the other occupants of the teivah. After the waters raged on the earth another 150 days, G‑d caused the waters to subside. The teivah eventually rested on the Ararat Mountains, and shortly thereafter the mountain peaks came into view. Noah opened the window of the teivah and dispatched birds to see whether it was time to leave the teivah. First he sent a raven, which refused to execute its mission and just circled the ark. He then sent out a dove. On its third attempt the dove went and did not return, signalling that the earth was once again habitable. After one full year in the teivah, the earth had dried.

G‑d commanded Noah to leave the teivah, along with all his fellow teivah-mates. Noah built an altar and offered sacrifices. This pleased G‑d, who then promised to never again curse the earth as He had just done. Instead, the regular seasons (which had not functioned during the year of the mabul) would continue perpetually. G‑d then blessed Noah and his sons: “Be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” G‑d allowed mankind to eat meat, but prohibited murder, suicide, and the consumption of a limb ripped from a living animal.

G‑d told Noah that he is establishing a covenant to never again bring a flood to destroy the world. G‑d designated the rainbow as the sign of this covenant: “And it shall come to pass, when I cause clouds to come upon the earth, that the rainbow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember My covenant…”

Noah planted a vineyard, made wine, became drunk and fell into a deep drunken slumber — while naked. Noah’s son, Ham, saw his father naked, assaulted him, and informed his two brothers of their father’s state. The brothers, Shem and Japeth, modestly approached their father and covered him. When Noah awakened, he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and blessed Shem and Japeth. This section then names Noah’s seventy grandsons and great-grandsons, the antecedents of the “seventy nations,” and their adopted homelands.

This section recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. Noah’s descendants gathered in the Babylonian valley and started building a tower, in an attempt to reach the heavens and battle G‑d. G‑d disrupted their “plan” by causing them each to speak a different language, thus destroying their communications. This caused them to disperse and settle in different lands. The Torah then lists the ten generations of Shem’s descendants. The tenth generation is Abram (later to be known as Abraham), who married Sarai (later to be known as Sarah).