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Noach ~ 5774 ~ נח / Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan ~ ראש חודש חשון
G-d instructs Noach, the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption, to build a large wooden teivah (“ark”), coated inside and outside with tar. A great deluge will wipe out all life from the face of the earth but the ark will float upon the water. The ark will shelter Noach, his family, as well as a male and female of each animal species.
Rain falls for 40 days and nights and the waters churn for 150 days more before beginning to recede. The ark settles on Mount Ararat. Noach dispatches a raven from the window, and then consecutive doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.” When the ground dries completely, one solar year (365 days) after the onset of the Flood, G-d commands Noach to exit the ark and repopulate the Earth.
Noach builds an altar and offers sacrifices to G-d. G-d swears never again to destroy all of mankind and sets the rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man. G-d also commands Noach on the sacredness of life: murder is deemed a capital offense, and while man is permitted to eat the meat of animals, he is forbidden to eat flesh or blood taken from a living animal.
Noach plants a vineyard and becomes drunk. Two of Noach’s sons, Shem and Yapeth, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, while his third son, Ham, is cursed for taking advantage of his debasement.
The descendants of Noach remain a single people, with a single language and culture, for ten generations. They defy the Creator by building a great tower to symbolize their own invincibility. G-d confuses their language so “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other”. They abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
The Parashah concludes with a chronology of the generations from Noach to Abraham, and his journey from Ur Casdim to Charan, on the way to Canaan.
SHABBAT ROSH CHODESH
MAFTIR Numbers 28:9 – 15 ~ page 695
HAFTARAH Isaiah 66:1 – 24 ~ page 944
This Haftarah tells how G-d doesn’t desire the sacrifices of the wicked. Since the Temple is G-d’s resting place on earth, how dare one try to offer sacrifices that are not spiritually pure?! The prophet Isaiah predicts that Jerusalem will flourish with the ingathering of the Jewish exiles. He reminds us that Hashem wouldn’t bring us this far to let us down. In the future, G-d will punish the wicked and destroy them. The nations of the world will help bring back the remaining Jews to Jerusalem from distant lands. Isaiah concludes: all the righteous people will find comfort in the rebuilt city of Jerusalem.
Parashah Study Questions
1. Commentaries define ‘Gopher’ wood as cypress, cedar, pine, or ‘boxwood’ (6:14). What difference does it make?
2. Of all the details included and excluded in the building of the Ark, why is the date of the beginning of the flood stated (7:11)?
3. How long were Noach, his family and the animals in the ark (7:10, 7:17, 7:24, 8:3, 8:6, 8:10, 8:12)?
4. If the animals entered as couples (2×2), how did they exit as ”families” (8:19)?
5. What was the sin of the “Tower of Babel” (11:1-4)?