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The Torah's Weekly Portions
Noach - 101

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Parashat Noach encompasses Perek Vav, pasuk tet (Chapter 6, verse 9) through and including Perek Yud-Aleph (Chapter 11).  This Parashah discusses begins with a description of Noach's family, continues through the destruction of the world by flood, its repopulation, and through the failure of the dependence on one family to be the link between God and man.  The failure takes the form of the people determining that they would build and tower into the heavens, and God generating multiple languages and dispersing the people throughout the face of the Earth.  At the end of this Parashah, we are introduced to the Father of the Hebrews - Avraham Avinu. 

There is a most interesting lesson to be found in Perek Vav: 

20. Noah, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard:

21. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent:

22. Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness and told his two brothers outside:

23. And Shem and Japheth took a garment, laid it upon both their shoulders, and they walked backwards, and covered their father's nakedness; their faces were turned away, and they saw not their father's nakedness:

24. Noah awoke from his wine and realized what his small son had done to him:

25. And he said, "Cursed is Canaan; a slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers.":

The key pasuk is chav-beit (22).  Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch offers the following commentaries:

[Noach's] other sons remained respectfully outside.  But Ham went inside.  The going in, itself, to look for his farther there where he could expect not to be seen "to see his father also once drunk" already stamps Ham as a Canaanite.  Then va'ahgaid meaning to tell or relate.  Not merely v'amar (to say) but related in detail, painted the scene in words made a whole story of it, enjoyed the event he had witnessed, and believed he had something delectable to relate to his brothers.

Rav Hirsch goes on to explain…  

The whole world of humanity is built on the relation of children to their parents.

Of course parents are there for their children; the mother, the condition of their existence, the father, the one whose life should be given up to the well-being of his children.  But both are conditioned on honoring and reverencing father and mother.  Not for naught does this Mitzvah stand as the key-stone of the first tablet of the Law.  As long as children see in their parents the depository of God's mission, do not regard the bodily material, but the spiritual being in them, out of whose hands they receive their spiritual being, for so long mankind flourishes like a tree.  But, if, on the other hand, this factor is quite absent from the minds of the children, if there is a possibility that a child can find pleasure in that part of its parents' nature that is sexual, if reverence of the child for its parents is absent, then the stem is cut through which, out of the past should make the future spring forth ever nobler.  Then, the younger generation considers itself only as . . . the more vigorous, supplants the older decrepit generation and steps into its shoes to dispossess someone. . . .  In Israel, the relation is to be of one generation following the other, "a stream", a flow; there, the older generation hands over its strength and powers, its spiritual and material treasures, to the younger.  Elsewhere each fresh generation wants to start afresh, does not want to learn anything from the past, each generation is a new and different aspect of life on earth, and what the future will be remains to be seen.  There [with Klal Yisrael] the source of strength and power comes from above, the stream flows, the spiritual mission is handed over from the older, through the middle, to the younger generation.

How does this tie into the story of Noach and the disrespect shown by Ham?  Rav Hirsch continues…

So that when Israel had been led to the border of the land whose inhabitants were to be cleared out for Israel to build up a pure mode of life, degeneration and its result were shown to them, and they were told:  -- "See, this degeneration had its beginning in the first disrespect with which the ancestor of this nation behaved towards his father."

This commentary provides a most interesting approach to understanding Hashem's commandment to honor and respect, to revere, one's parents.


Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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