Imrei Shefer by R. Yehoshua Ya’akov - Parshas Noach

Why does it say “in his generations” and not “in his generation”?

(6,9) “These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations (בדרתיו). Noach went with G-d.”

Why does the posuk say that Noach was a righteous and perfect man “in his generations” (plural) and not “in his generation” (singular)?

One explanation is that it is normal for a person to see three generations during his lifetime. In his youth he sees the elders, in the middle of his life he sees the second generation - the children of the elders, and towards the end of his life he sees the third generation. Thus the Torah is telling us that Noach was righteous throughout these three generations, throughout his life - from his youth until the end of his life.

Another explanation is because the word בדרתיו contains an allusion that Noach observed the 613 mitzvos of the Torah and the seven mitzvos of the Rabbis - 620 in total, which is the numerical value (gematria) of כת״ר תורה (the crown of Torah), because the gematria of the word בדרתיו (excluding the letter ב which merely serves the word דרתיו) is also 620. Thus the Torah intimates to us that Noach was righteous because he had the crown of Torah like the numerical value of the word דרתיו.

With this gematria I explained the teaching of Chazal in the very last mishnah (Uktzin 3:12): In the future Hashem will bequeath to each and every tzaddik (לכל צדיק וצדיק‏) three hundred and ten worlds, as it says “To bequeath to those who love me there is (יש), and their treasuries I will fill” (Mishlei 8:21). Why does the mishnah say “to each and every tzaddik” (לכל צדיק וצדיק) - surely it would have been sufficient to just write “to each tzaddik” (לכל צדיק)? And what is the reason behind the number 310? Also, what does the end of the posuk “and their treasuries I will fill” mean - who made the treasuries deficient so that Hashem needs to promise that they will be filled?

But the explanation of this mishnah is that it is advising us how everyone can merit Torah learning. Because there are some rich people who are ignorant and who want to learn but do not have the ability, and there are some poor people who are clever and able to learn but are not able to learn sufficiently because they spend their time struggling to make a living. The best advice for them is to form a partnership, so that the poor person can spend all his time learning Torah whilst the rich person supplies his needs - like the partnership of Yissachar and Zevulun - and they will divide the reward for the Torah learning in the world to come equally. And since there are 620 mitzvos they will together receive 620 worlds in the future, and thus each one will receive 310 worlds. This is why the mishnah says that Hashem will bequeath 310 worlds “to each and every tzaddik”, because it means to each of these tzaddikim in the partnership.

Thus the meaning of the posuk which the mishnah brings is that Hashem says that He will “bequeath to those who love Me (and learn My Torah) something which is (יש)”, because only the world to come is called something which is, since everything in this transient world which will eventually cease to be is considered as nothing, whereas the world to come is eternal. And because the rich person might think that his money and treasury will become depleted if he supplies all the expenses of his poor partner and his household, Hashem promises “and their treasuries I will fill” - that He will fill his treasury with many times the amount that he expends for the needs of his partner. This is like the teaching of Chazal on the posuk עשר תעשר (Devarim 14:22) - “give a tithe in order that will become rich”, that anyone who lavishes his money on charity and all the more so on Torah learning will certainly have his coffers filled.

Since I am already discussing this mishnah I will explain what the Rav MiBartenura writes there, since he seems to be needlessly lengthy and repetitive. He writes: The pleasure and satisfaction that every tzaddik will have in the world to come is 310 times all [of the pleasure and satisfaction] of this world, because the whole of this world is only a 310th part of that which every tzaddik will inherit in the world to come.

What he means is that he realized that we might mistakenly understand from his initial words that the reward of a tzaddik in the world to come is only 310 times the pleasure and satisfaction that he had in this world - but that would be very little! Therefore he elaborates and says that the whole of this world, that is, the pleasure and satisfaction of all the people in this world, is only a 310th part of that which every tzaddik will inherit in the world to come.

What is the significant difference between the way one praises a righteous person and the way one disparages a wicked person?

(6,9) “These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations. Noach went with G-d.”

Rashi comments on the phrase “Noach was a righteous man” that since the Torah mentions him it relates his praises, as it says “the remembrance (זכר) of a righteous person is for a blessing, and the name (שם) of the wicked shall rot” (Mishlei 10:7). Why does the posuk in Mishlei change expressions, using the word "remembrance" with respect to the righteous person, and the word "name" with respect to the wicked?

I saw someone who explained this posuk in Mishlei according to the posuk in Shemos 3:15 “this is my name (שמי) for ever, and this is my remembrance (זכרי) for all generations”. The commentaries explain that the numerical value of the word שמי together with the letters י-ה (the first two letters of the four-letter name of Hashem) is 365, which corresponds to the number of negative commandments. And the numerical value of the word זכרי together with the letters ו-ה (the last two letters) is 248, which corresponds to the number of positive commandments.

And behold, when we praise a righteous person we don’t praise him for not transgressing the negative commandments, but for fulfilling the positive commandments which are alluded to by the word זכרי. And when we disparage the wicked we don’t do so because they do not fulfill the positive commandments, but because they transgress the negative commandments which are alluded to by the word שמי.

Therefore the posuk in Mishlei uses the word זכר with respect to a righteous person and the word שם with respect to the wicked.

Why is there a difference of opinion about the meaning of the word צהר?

(6,16) “Make a צהר for the ark, and complete it to a cubit [width] above. Make it with bottom, second and third [levels].”

Rashi explains that according to one opinion the word צהר means a window, but according to another opinion it means a precious stone which illuminated the ark.

I heard someone explain that these two explanations are in keeping with the two opinions that Rashi brings on the first posuk, that some explain that since Noach was righteous in a generation of wicked people, how much more righteous would he have been in a generation of righteous people, whilst others explain that Noach was notable for his righteousness in comparison to his generation, but if had lived in the generation of Avrohom he would not have been significant.

Now we know that when a righteous person is saved from the punishment which is being meted out to his generation, if he was saved due to his own merit he is permitted to look upon the downfall of the wicked, but if he is not completely righteous and his salvation is due to the merit of others he is not permitted to see the downfall of the wicked. For this reason the angels warned Lot and his wife not to look back when they left S’dom, because they were not permitted to see Hashem’s punishment of S’dom since Lot’s salvation was not due to his own merit but due to the merit of Avrohom. Thus when his wife looked she was punished.

Apropos, the posuk which mentions this - “and his wife looked behind him” (Bereishis 19:26) - is problematic since it would be more logical to say that she looked “behind her”. But the posuk is telling us that she was not stupid and she knew full well that she was not a righteous person and thus permitted to see the downfall of S’dom. Rather her mistake was that she considered her husband to be completely righteous, and so she thought that they were being saved due to his own merit. And since a husband and wife are considered like one entity she thought that his merit would allow her to see the punishment of S’dom, not having heard the angels warn Lot not to turn around. Therefore the posuk says that she looked “behind him” to allude to the fact that she was relying on his merit.

Returning to our main discussion, according to the opinion that Noach was completely righteous he made a window for the ark since he was allowed to see the punishment of his generation. But according to the opinion that he was not completely righteous he was not permitted to make a window and see their downfall, but rather he used a precious stone to illuminate the ark.

When you print this page. Printer Friendly Layout