SCRUTINY OF A SAGE R’ EYTAN FEINER
The corruption of mankind has spun completely out of control. Abhorrent immorality hit its nadir,
society now in dire need of a full purging process. Hence the ensuing cataclysm of the flood, the
inundating waters sent by G-d to cleanse His world of its perversion. Noach, with family in tow, is
mercifully spared as the Torah vouches for his piety with the accolades of an, “ish tzaddik, tamim
ha’yah bi’dorosav,” a righteous man, perfect in his generations.
However, as seen in this week’s haftorah drawn from Sefer Yeshayahu (54:9)- “Ki mei Noach zos li”-
and emphasized by the Zohar (Noach, 67b), the great deluge is surprisingly referred to as “the waters
of Noach,” seemingly implying his culpability in the world’s destruction. A tzaddik he certainly is, yet
we find him burdened with the onus of much blame for the flood. What exactly are we supposed to
conclude regarding the precise nature of the righteousness of Noach and the various statements of
Chazal that seem to undermine the tzidkas ha’tzaddik?
The “Keitz” Has Arrived…
Preceding the command to build an ark is G-d’s declaration to Noach that, “Keitz kol basar bah
li’fa’nai,” the end of all flesh has come before Me (6:13). The Hebrew word “keitz,” explains the Radak
(Sefer HaSharashim), denotes an act of cutting off, etymologically intertwined with the word
“ketzitza.” Man has grossly stumbled and mired himself in utter depravity, thus deserving of having
his life curtailed, cut short from what it could have been. The word generally used for “end” in the
chumash is “mikeitz” and not “keitz.” In fact, this is the only appearance in the entire chumash of the
word “keitz.” Furthermore, if we glance at Targum Onkelos, we notice that he translates “keitz” as its
Aramaic equivalent of “kitza,” apparently intending for the reader to home in on the root denoting
something being cut off. The Sha’arei Aharon adds that Onkelos invokes the very same word that he
uses to translate “kareis,” the harsh punishment that literally means to be cut off.
In contradistinction, every time the word “mikeitz” appears, Onkelos translates it as “mi’sof,” the word
plainly meaning the end, although “mikeitz,” too, happens to be tied to the same root as “keitz.”
We have become accustomed to refer to Noach as a tzaddik (and tamim), but he is also regarded by Chazal as
a chacham, a sage. See the Zohar Chadash, 22b, and the Ba’al HaTurim on the end of the first pasuk. See also
Medrash Koheles on 9:15. In addition, see the Izhbitzer’s Mei HaShiloach (vol. 1, p. 20) where Noach is
described as, “a great sage, wise in all types of wisdoms of the world.” (In truth, “chacham” also connotes one
who perfects his middos; see how the Rambam uses the term in Hilchos Dei’os (and see Ha’azinu, 32:6). As
seen from Tamid 32a (and see Koveitz MiShulchan Gavoah (vol. 2, p. 43), “chacham” can also refer to one who
anticipates future events, and such a concept could also be applied to Noach.)
Similar, in effect, to a huge mikvah- see R’ Tzaddok HaKohen’s Tzidkas HaTzaddik, #107, and his remarks in
Takanas HaShavin, p. 53a, regarding the drowning of the Egyptians. See also the Maggid from Plotsk’s (talmid
of the Gra) insights on parshas Noach, published in the Sefer Zikaron Yad Moshe Tzvi HaLevi (Lakewood), p.
325. In addition, see Torah Ohr (ba’al HaTanya), parshas Noach (“mayim rabim”), and Likutei Sichos (vol. 1,
p. 4), and see R’ A. S. HaLevi Ish Horovitz’s Naharei Aish, likutei dibburim (#42, p. 186). See also R’ Aharon
Lopiansky’s Time Pieces, p. 234.
See, however, the Radak and Targum Yonasan on the pasuk, and see Mima’amakim, p. 54, for an attempt to
explain the pasuk in a positive light. See also R’ Hoberman’s Ze’ev Yitraf, pp. 115-116.
See also R’ Danger’s Adei Zahav on the pasuk and the HaK’sav Vi’Hakabbalah on Beraishis 4:3.
See the remez of R’ Dovid Feinstein appearing in Kol Dodi: Parpi’ra’os L’Torah.
Regarding the difference in nuances between “mikeitz” and “sof,” see R’ Yonah ben Genach’s Sefer
HaSharashim (“kuf”-“tzadi”), the Malbim’s HaCarmel (p. 242), and R’ Vortheimer’s Bi’ur Sheimos
Obviously, then, Onkelos wishes to have the reader understand the message to Noach that, not only
has the mere end of mankind arrived, but it is sadly a premature end, an end that- like “kareis”-
signifies an abrupt, abbreviated end to a life that should have continued onward. This would also
explain the juxtaposition seen so often in Tanach- and here as well- of the word “keitz” to the word
“bah;” a premature end “comes upon” an individual before he would have otherwise arrived there on
his own. In a similar vein, perhaps that is why the ultimate “keitz,” the end of all ends, the threshold to
yi’mos ha’mashiach, is labeled as such: Knowing full well that this “end” has the potential to come
upon us at any earlier point preceding the actual end of the world’s preordained six thousand years, it
is thus appropriately titled the “keitz” as opposed to “mikeitz,” the word synonymous with a more
natural end to things.
“Keitz” and “Kitza”
The very same root of “keitz” and “mikeitz,” both words meaning the end, is shared by the Hebrew
word “kitza,” the act of awakening, usually from a sleeping state. How exactly are these different
ideas merged together by an identical etymological root? Perhaps we could suggest the following
explanation of the correlation at hand: Throughout our lives, as the end of a significant period of time
draws near (the end of a z’man in yeshiva, a semester in school, the years spent at home, etc.), it is
only then that we ‘wake up’ to take an honest account of all our accomplishments and failures over
the course of the passed time. What better example than the person on his deathbed who only now,
at the very end of his life, wakes up and reviews all those years that flew by oh so fast. All the myriad
achievements and countless good deeds, together with the many failings and foibles, gradually shift
into clear focus.
Somehow when the end is near, we are propelled to profound introspection, stirred often by
compunction to rectify our past mistakes and expiate our wrongdoings. The end of something
significant always seems to serve as a periodic wake-up call as waves of a newfound cognizance
descend hastily upon us. Whenever a “keitz” approaches, we are driven to “kitzah,” an awakening
that moves us to an honest accounting of our past actions.
As an interesting remez, it is perhaps for this reason that the word “keitz” consists of the mere two
letters, “kuf” and “tzadi.” The Hebrew letter “kuf” equals the number one hundred, a number that
signifies the highest sense of completion in the “Aleph-Beis.” When one approaches a sense of
completion, an end to something that he has been working progressively towards, it is only then that
he is inspired to take a look back and reanalyze his level of tzidkus. And thus, just as we encounter
the letter “kuf” and absorb its symbolism, we turn back to see the “tzadi”- its immediate predecessor-
in full view. (The letter “tzadi” is used to symbolize the tzaddik- see Shabbos 104a. See also the
Tiferes Yisroel’s introductory comments to Mishnayos Beitzah.) Hence the resulting word “keitz” (“kuf”
joined with “tzadi”) to represent the end that triggers us to carefully glance back for an accounting of
Noach’s Wake-up Call
And now we return to our parsha. G-d informs Noach that the “keitz,” the end of all human life (or, as
the Radak- in his alternate explanation- and the Sforno offer, the end of the one hundred and twenty
year waiting period), has come before Him, but Noach and family will be spared. With such a drastic
HaNirdafim (p. 290). It is also somewhat striking that Rashi waits until parshas Mikeitz to define for us the
word’s meaning although it appears on three previous occasions (Beraishis, 4:3; 8:6; 16:3). Perhaps he felt it
most appropriate to cite the Targum and translate the word when it was to be highlighted as the parsha’s title.
See especially Yechezkel, 7:6, and the accompanying comments of the Metzudas Dovid.
See Maharal, Gur Aryeh on Devarim (4:32), and Netzach Yisroel, chapter 51. The three letters above the “kuf’
are already on their way towards one-thousand, thereby detracting from any representation of completion.
end to his society in sight, it is surely an opportune time for Noach to ‘awaken’ and rectify any wrong
behavior and human failing. Remembering our quote from Sefer Yeshaya above- the pasuk
implicating Noach for the glutting waters of the flood- apparently Noach failed to awaken in time. Even
if unable to thwart the onslaught of the ravaging waters, we find no overt remorse or action on
Noach’s part pushing him to significant change. The “keitz kol basar” has sadly proven futile in
awakening Noach anew.
But there is yet another “keitz” in parshas Noach, yet another grand opportunity for change. We fast-
forward to the cessation of the drenching waters, and meet up with the text at 8:6. There we are told:
“Va’yehi ‘mikeitz’ arba’im yom,” And it came to pass at the end of forty days. And once again there is
no sign of any drastic awakening on the part of Noach. How interesting, as well, that this identical
phrase- “mikeitz arba’im yom”- appears only twice elsewhere in the chumash. In parshas Shelach,
right when the meraglim had finished spying for forty days and had decided to slander the land, we
again encounter the phrase, “mikeitz arba’im yom” (13:25). The final appearance is in parshas Eikev
as Moshe recounts the sin of the golden calf which took place just after receiving the first stone
tablets atop Har Sinai after a waiting period of forty days. For yet a third time we read: “Va’yehi
mikeitz arba’im yom…” (9:11). How terribly tragic indeed. Ostensibly, disaster seems to immediately
follow whenever we chance upon this thrice quoted phrase of “mikeitz arba’im yom.” So what calamity
might have occurred in Noach’s case?
Soon after Noach’s departure from the ark, we find him planting a vineyard: “Va’yachel Noach ish
ha’adama va’yita kerem,” Noach, the man of the earth, began to plant a vineyard (9:20). Rashi cites
the medrash (Beraishis Rabba, 36:3) that Noach actually made himself like “chullin,” forfeiting his
inherent sanctity through an insatiable craving for the lushness of wine, as his first plant is none other
than the seductive grapevine. The medrash continues (ibid., 36:6) by accenting the contrast
between Moshe and Noach. Whereas Moshe elevated himself from an “Ish Mitzri” to the revered “Ish
Elokim,” Noach faltered and his status diminished from that of an “Ish Tzaddik” to an “Ish
Ha’adama.” The righteous Noach we met at the beginning of the parsha sharing his name, apparently
shed the cherished label of an “Ish Tzaddik,” appearing now as a meager man of the earth.
It seems that indeed the “mikeitz arba’im yom” has set the stage for yet another rueful tragedy. Just
as the spies had forty days to properly scout the land and design a befitting response to the people-
and failed; just as B’nei Yisroel had forty days to prepare and elevate themselves in anticipation of
receiving the Torah- and, at the very last moments, failed miserably by falling prey to worship of the
golden calf; so it is sadly with Noach that, even after an additional forty day period to perfect any
deficiencies, Noach departs from the ark without having undergone a full awakening. He has
jettisoned his precious title of tzaddik by planting a grapevine before all else and, alas, he falls to the
level of a mere “Ish Ha’adama.”
See also the comments of R’ Shmuel Aharon Halevi Pardes in his Avnei Shmuel, p. 184.
Take note of the Ba’al HaTurim’s comment in parshas Shelach, 14:4.
He should have also gone first to study Torah—see R’ Yitzchak Volozhiner’s Peh Kadosh. See also the
question posed in Koveitz Iyun HaParsha, gilyon 15/16, pp. 68-69. For a novel explanation regarding what
exactly Noach’s intention was, see R’ A. Bazak’s Nikudas Pesicha, pp. 16-17.
See also the enlightening comment of the Rama MiPhano in Ma’amarei HaRama (Tashlum L’Asarah
Ma’amaros), vol. 1, Ma’amar HaNefesh, section 3, chapter 9. See also the Gra’s Aderes Eliyahu, Vi’zos
HaBracha, 33:1, beginning of “ofen sheini” (also brought in Yalkut Avanim (likutim from the Gra- R’ M.
Rosen’s edition, pp. 114-115).
Regarding the lowly depth of such a title, see R’ Yerucham Levovitz’s Da’as Torah, parshas Acharei Mos
(pp. 151-152), based on the Ramban, and see R’ Y. L. Chasman’s Ohr Ya’hel (new edition, p. 18). See also R’
Shach’s comments in Rosh Amanah, pp. 79-80.
And only then does he finally “wake up.” For the third time in parshas Noach, we meet up with the
root of “keitz”- this time, though, it is used with regard to “kitza,” an awakening. Noach has become
intoxicated and disheveled and his son Cham, rather than respectfully averting his gaze, proceeds to
defile his father and either castrates or sodomizes him (Rashi quoting from Sanhedrin 70a- according
to Pirkei d’R’ Eliezer (chapter 23), it was Canaan who castrated him ). It is only then that we read:
“Va’yikatz Noach…” Noach awakens from his drunken stupor to realize the atrocity perpetrated upon
him and immediately responds by cursing the wicked Canaan. He “wakes up” to finally recognize the
evil in [Cham and] Canaan and declares them to be slaves to the righteous Sheim and Yefes who
protected their father’s honor. And thus, yes indeed, Noach- at least to a certain extent- has finally
But it is too late. The damage has been done, a fourth child will never be, and, even more importantly,
his newfound awareness never manages to restore to him the honorable title of an “Ish Tzaddik.” He
has woken up, but his awakening has tragically taken place just a tad too late. He never again seems
to recapture his glorious titles of years past.
See also R’ Chanoch Zundel Grossberg’s Chayei Chanoch on 9:22.
PART II: Searching for Noach’s Flaw
What then was this deficiency that Noach seems to never have really rectified? He began a tzaddik
and only lost the appellation- according to the medrash- when he planted his vineyard upon alighting
from the ark. Still in all, it is quite clear that Noach was all along a tzaddik and, whatever his flaw or
foible, he appears not to have been robbed of the honors accorded to him at the parsha’s outset.
Wherein, then, lay his possible deficiency?
Let us return to the beginning as we navigate the murky waters camouflaging the true nature of the
lone man in his day to find favor in G-d’s eyes. Our journey takes us first to Rashi’s citation of the
Medrash Rabba and Tanchuma describing the variant opinions of Chazal concerning the word
“bi’dorosav” in the parsha’s opening pasuk. Some of our Rabbis, we read, maintain that Noach would
have been an even greater tzaddik had he lived in Avraham’s generation, while others interpret the
superfluous word in a pejorative fashion, claiming Noach to be a tzaddik only when matched up
against his own contemporaries.
All must agree, however, that the Torah itself clearly testifies to the righteousness of Noach. The
Arvei Nachal is even perturbed how- regardless of the source- anyone can claim that Noach would
not have been a tzaddik in Avraham’s time. If the Torah declares him to be a tzaddik, then there is
no room to start deeming the word to be merely relative. We even find medrashim (see Tanchuma
Yashon) comparing Noach to Avraham! Furthermore, the Brisker Rav has us take a look at the
Targumim who write that Noach was not just a tzaddik but a “tzaddik gamur,” a full-fledged tzaddik,
Why interpret the explicitly stated righteousness of Noach in a negative way at all is a question that has
especially perplexed later commentators: See Maharshal (quoted in Sifsei Chachamim); Be’er Sheva
(Sanhedrin, 108a); R’ Y.D. Zintzheim’s Shlal Dovid; Pardeis Yosef; R’ Ruderman’s Sichos Levi; R’ Y.
Kaminetzky’s Emes L’Yaakov (and see R’ B. Simon’s Imrei Baruch); the Apta Rav’s Oheiv Yisroel; R’ Y. Y.
Shapira’s Emes L’Yaakov (Koshnitz); Nesivos Shalom; R’ S. Z. Broide’s Sam Derech; Ohel Kedoshim
(Kanner); R’ A. L. Baron’s Misamchei Lev, siman #44, p. 128; Pe’ulas Gaver; Di’var Tzion; Di’var Torah
(Abraham); Likutei Sichos (#25, p. 19), among others. See also the Torah journal, Kol HaTorah, Tishrei 5768,
#64, pp. 270-271. See also the Maharitz Chiyus on Sotah 36b (regarding Yosef), citing a Shu”t Ralbach, #126.
A previous Amshinover Rebbe (cited in Iturei Torah and Chiyucha shel Torah) even noted- amusingly- that
Rashi only uses the term “Raboseinu” to refer to those who interpret the pasuk in a positive light.
As possible sources that might have led the dissenting opinion towards a pejorative interpretation, see
Maharshal (see also Duda’ei Reuven (Mandelbaum) and Bikurei Aviv)- based on the ending of the pasuk; Sam
Derech- based on the ta’amei ha’mikra; Torah Temimah (and his lengthier comments in his Baruch She’amar
on tefilla- tefillos of Rosh HaShana, pp. 355-356)- based on the nusach in Zichronos; R’ C. Z. Grossberg’s
Chayei Chanoch and R’ Meshulam Gross’ Nachalas Tzvi- based on the missing “vav” in “bi’dorosav”; R’
Yisroel Peretz’s Mishkenos Yisroel- based on the repetition of Noach’s name according to R’ Yochanan’s own
opinion in Bava Kamma (92a) regarding repetition; and R’ Eliezer Friedman’s Hadras Yirmiya- based on the
introductory letter “vav” connecting the pasuk to last week’s harrowing details of mankind’s decline. See also
Koveitz Iyun HaParsha, gilyon 15/16, pp. 65-66.
Regarding the description of “tamim” that accompanies “tzaddik,” see, however, the interpretation of R’
Kanovitz in Divrei Yosef.
For a plausible interpretation, see R’ Dessler’s Michtav Me’Eliyahu, vol. 2, p. 157.
Chiddushei HaGriz (and also cited in Shai L’Torah, vol. 1, p. 9) - see an elaboration in Chochmei Lev on
Chullin/Makkos, p. 523, and see Kevoda Shel Torah quoting Mutzal Mei’aish.
able therefore to avoid being swallowed up in the harsh judgement of the rest of the world. If Noach
was thus indisputably righteous, then how are we to understand the latter opinion in Rashi?
It is precisely because of the above reasoning that manifold commentaries concur that the dispute
among the sages is predicated solely on how to explain the superfluous word “bi’dorosav.” Everyone
is in agreement that Noach’s tzidkus is not up for contention- he is surely a respectable tzaddik- the
only question being how much greater he could have been had he been surrounded by other pious
colleagues. Even those commentaries opting for a different approach to explain the dispute still
concede that Noach’s righteousness remains irrefutable.
Quite comfortable now with the general understanding that Noach at least began the parsha as an
undeniable tzaddik, we fast-forward to 7:7 and run into problems. The Torah informs us that Noach
and family entered the ark, “mipnei mei ha’mabul,” because of the waters of the flood. The
implication, Rashi points out (based upon Beraishis Rabba, 32:9), is that even Noach was “me’kitanei
emunah,” from those with imperfect faith, who was “ma’amin vi’aino ma’amin,” believed and did not
believe, that the flood would actually arrive until the rising waters compelled him to seek refuge. But
are we not dealing with Noach the tzaddik? To describe him as sorely lacking perfect faith seems to
readily undermine the piety that we have just become accustomed to.
We can take several routes out of our quandary. The Radak is also troubled by the medrash,
expressing his astonishment at the apparent contradiction to Noach’s label as a tzaddik. He therefore
argues with the opinion quoted from the medrash and avers that “mipnei mei ha’mabul” simply means
that he entered BEFORE the actual descent of the waters. The Ramban explains the pasuk
Albeit with various nuances, see Mizrachi, Gur Aryeh, Livush HaOreh, Maskil L’Dovid, Alshich, Peninim
Me’shulchan Gavoha quoting R’ Shimon Shkop, R’ Chaim Kanievsky’s Ta’ama Dikra quoting the Chazon Ish,
Michtav Me’Eliyahu” (vol. 2, p. 157), Emes L’Yaakov, Yismach Moshe, and R’ Shimon Diskin’s Maseis
HaMelech. See also R’ Kitov’s Sefer HaParshiyos, p. 121.
See the Taz’s Divrei Dovid on Rashi, the commentary of R’ Yaakov Kanizel on Rashi, Malbim, Maharik,
Divrei Shaul, Nachalas Yaakov, Panim Yafos, R’ Yitzchak Blazer’s Kochvei Yitzchak, ma’amar 12, and
Ma’aglei Tzedek. See also Birchas Shalom (R’ Ashleig’s ma’amarim- 5745, ma’amar 4). For an approach
focusing on the attitude that drove Noach to espouse the path of righteousness, see the Alter of Novardhok’s
Madreigas HaAdam (tekufas Noach- and R’ Avraham Yafin’s HaMussar Vi’Hada’as, vol. 1, p. 40), and a very
similar understanding in R’ Baron’s Misamchei Lev, siman 44, pp. 108-109. Their approach adds yet another
understanding, perhaps, to the name “Noach”= “nach,” at rest, not wishing to strive to further heights… See
also the approach of the Tzror Hamor and Nesivos Shalom regarding “yir’ah” vs. “ahava.” In his Ya’aros
Devash (vol. 2, drush 6), R’ Yehonasan Eibshitz propounds an entirely novel approach to the question of
Noach’s tzidkus being only in his generation.
See the Torah Temimah who posits that Rashi’s statement is a quote from R’ Yochanan’s words in the
medrash, and R’ Yochanan is the same figure who explained “bi’dorosav” in a negative light. Hence, not all
sages need agree to R’ Yochanan. However, besides the fact that Rashi regarding “bi’dorosav” was clearly
quoting the opinions cited in the medrashim (as opposed to R’ Yochanan’s statement in Sanhedrin 108b), we
have already seen that most commentaries concur that Noach was indeed a true tzaddik. Inadequate faith on his
part would seem to run contrary to such an assertion. See, however, HaK’sav Vi’Hakabbalah who also learns
that Rashi here is only in accordance with the earlier opinion that interpreted “bi’dorosav” negatively.
See also the Ralbag and the Akeidas Yitzchak. R’ Shimon Kasher (Peshuto Shel Mikrah) cites Parchon
(machberes ha’aruch, “pineh”), who also claims that “mipnei” could mean “me’lifnei,” as we find in Tehillim,
See also the Yavin Shemuah (authored by the Shemen Rokeach).
literally, asserting that Noach did precisely as he was told. The Ramban understands that G-d had
commanded Noach to enter only when the rains would begin to fall and Noach the tzaddik followed
His instructions exactly. What are we to do, though, with Rashi and the medrash he quotes from?
R’ Avraham Yafin (HaMussar Vi’HaDa’as), the Steipler Gaon (Birchas Peretz), and R’ Henoch
Leibowitz (Chiddushei HaLev), claim that Noach surely believed in the flood’s imminent arrival, but it
was a conviction rooted only in his intellect and not felt in every fiber of his being- an “emunah
sichlis,” not an “emunah chushis.” He knew intellectually that the flood was coming but did not feel it
as a full reality with all his senses. However, several commentaries reject this theory based on the
following premise. A navi who receives his information directly from G-d, by definition senses the
veracity of the prophecy in every iota of his being. It is impossible for a true prophet to express even
the slightest inkling of skepticism concerning the certain actualization of G-d’s message after hearing
it from G-d Himself.
R’ Yerucham Levovitz (quoted in R’ Shimshon Pincus’s Tiferes Torah- see also R’ Yerucham’s Da’as
Torah), R’ Eliyahu Meir Bluch (Peninei Da’as), R’ Shlomo Volbe (Alei Shor, vol. 1, p. 219), R’ Simcha
Zissel Broide (Sam Derech, p. 211), and R’ Meir Bergman (Shaarei Orah) opt for a different line of
reasoning. They all contend- albeit with slight nuances- that Noach’s insufficient faith was manifest in
his entering the ark also because of the actual downpour. Noach certainly believed wholeheartedly
that the flood was imminent; he should have therefore entered the ark solely because G-d had
instructed him to do so— plain and simple. Noach’s deficiency was that he went in, not only because
of G-d’s command to do so, but because of the falling rains as well. Complete faith in G-d must
translate into an altered perception of reality. If G-d says that a flood is about to come, then
regardless of any visual raindrops, it should be in one’s eyes as if the downpour has already begun.
And thus, although a tzaddik, Noach displayed an inadequate level of emunah and is appropriately
considered a “ma’amin vi’aino ma’amin.”
The Ever Delicate Comma
My dear grandfather, Mr. Joseph Russak, is fond of pointing out that if we simply move the delicate
comma ever so slightly, we can easily resolve the difficulty. Rashi would then be saying that, “Af
Noach me’kitanei emunah haya ma’amin,” even Noach had faith in those [of his generation] who
possessed inadequate faith (believing that they would ultimately repent), “vi’aino ma’amin she’yavo
ha’mabul,” and [therefore] did not believe that the flood would really come.
In truth, even if we were to leave the comma in place, myriad commentaries opine that this idea was
precisely what drove Noach to vacillate outside the ark. Surely Noach had no doubts regarding the
See also Koveitz Ma’amarim (p. 35) and Ohr Yechezkel (Emunah, p. 26), both of which write of this
differentiation. See also the Maharsha’s Chiddushei Aggados to Yevamos (62a) and the comment of the Sefer
Ha’ikarim (4:15) that he quotes.
When privileged once to drive my Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Yaakov Weinberg, zt”l, to a wedding around the time
of parshas Noach, I cited the opinions wishing to differentiate between the various levels of emunah. He
strongly opposed its application to Noach who, as a prophet, could not possibly have entertained even an ounce
of doubt- even in all his senses- regarding the utmost certainty of the flood’s arrival.
In addition, see Kedushas Levi and Oheiv Yisroel for alternative explanations of Rashi’s remarks.
Subsequently, I found the vort articulated by R’ Yitzchak from Vorki, who is quoted in Pirchei Rashi,
Mayana Shel Torah, Rishpei Torah, and Chaim She’yaish Bahem; see also Iturei Torah. The obvious difficulty
with such an approach is that it then should have read, “bi’kitanei emunah.” Interesting to note, though, is that
we do find elsewhere that a slight movement of the comma can drastically alter the intent of the statement,
mi’katzeh li’katzeh- see the Alshich and the Malbim’s remarks on Esther, 8:8.
message that he had received directly from G-d. However, knowing full well that sincere teshuva-
even at the very last minute- could prevent the descent of the glutting waters, he still had faith that the
people would repent. The gemara in Sanhedrin (108b) records that G-d, in fact, held the flood back
until after the seven day mourning period for Misushelach to allow for an additional inspiration to
repentance. Even if the people would fail to heed the call of teshuva, G-d is infinitely merciful,
Noach reasoned, and in His infinite compassion would certainly never destroy all of mankind. It
simply could not, and would not, happen. Even after all the warnings, the kindness and mercy of G-d
will ensure that He will never really wipe out his creations through a vicious flood. Noach’s error was,
ultimately, in not obeying G-d’s command immediately. Once G-d instructs Noach that he is to enter
the ark, then there is no more room for vacillation regardless of how warranted it might seem.
Noach’s job is to do as he is told, leaving any last minute decisions purely up to G-d.
Tzidkus with a Small Touch of “Katnus”
Regardless of which explanation in Rashi one advocates, the upshot remains that there was indeed a
slight lacking in Noach. The deficiency implied by his “katnus emunah” need not, though, contradict
his title of an “Ish Tzaddik.” In fact, the gemara in Sotah (48b) clearly indicates that one could
simultaneously be a tzaddik and possess imperfect faith, thereby dismissing outright any
contradiction in the first place. The gemara cites R’ Elazar who questions the cause of why the
tzaddikim might receive incomplete reward in the future. He then answers that is their “katnus”- which
Rashi defines as “katnus emunah”- that is to blame. Hence, although this inadequate faith
understandably detracts from their ultimate reward, it clearly does not rob them of the “tzaddik”
Furthermore, the Brisker Rav (Chiddushei HaGriz) points out that any insufficiency in Noach’s
emunah- as expressed in Rashi’s, “haya ma’amin vi’aino ma’amin”- obviously was not deemed
significant enough to contradict the Torah’s own testimony that, “Noach did according to everything
that Hashem had commanded him” (7:5). Rashi, again based on the medrash, notes that this
compliment is referring to Noach’s entering the ark, precisely the time in which we encounter his
“katnus emunah.” Finally, the very same R’ Yochanan upon whom the Rashi regarding Noach’s
emunah is based, is the one who, earlier in the Medrash Rabba (30:8), avers that Noach was a
“tzaddik from beginning to end.” Hence, it is quite evident that, although we have isolated a slight
deficiency in Noach’s faith, it is not at all a deficiency that could have resulted in Yechezkel’s
reference to the flood as “the waters of Noach.”
The Failure to Administer Tochacha
In his Ma’aseh Hashem (ma’asei Beraishis, chapter 24), R’ Eliezer Ashkenazi infers from the close of
our parsha’s opening pasuk- “Noach walked with G-d”- that the devout Noach indeed walked with G-d
but only with G-d, to the exclusion of everyone else. Other commentaries as well interpret this
pasuk pejoratively, affirming that Noach failed to “walk” with the people of his generation, not wishing
to reprimand them for their corrupt ways. If we advocate such a reading and accept this notion that
Noach failed to censure his compatriots, then we clearly understand why the ravaging flood is
See R’ Michal Birnbaum’s Sichos Mussar, vol. 1, p. 30.
With subtle variations, see R’ Ovadiah from Bartenura’s Amar Ni’keh on Rashi, the Eitz Yosef commentary
on Medrash Rabba, Yavin Shemuah (by the author of the Shemen Rokeach), Sheim MiShmuel (p. 51), R’ Yosef
Salant’s Be’er Yosef, Me’am Loez, R’ Pincus’s Tiferes Torah (see also his collected sichos on Galus
V’Nechama, p. 203), R’ Feldman’s Hadras Yirmiya, R’ Nachum Mordechai from Chortkov’s Doreish Tov, and
R’ Menachem Brody’s Be’er Menachem.
See the Alshich, Shlah HaKadosh, Ohr HaChaim, and Sifsei Chachamim- see also R’ Shlomo Kluger’s
Chochmas HaTorah, p. 60, and Rishpei Torah quoting the Maharsham.
attributed to him. Anyone who fails to criticize a wrongdoing and thereby prevent possible punishment
is treated as if he, too, is culpable.
Perhaps that is why Noach needed the isolated journey in the ark- it was to be the beginning of his
tikkun. He failed to chastise the people for their immoral conduct and instead remained apart from
society, aloof to their evil ways. G-d highlights this liability by having Noach build an ark in which he is
to sequester himself for an extended period of time, forced to endure observing all of society fade
hastily from his midst.
Expounding on the medrash quoted above delineating Noach’s fall from an “Ish Tzaddik” to an “Ish
Ha’adama,” the Meshech Chochma writes that Noach fell primarily because he did not rebuke the
people for their wrongdoings. However, based on the medrash (Beraishis Rabba, 31:3) and the
gemara in Sanhedrin (108b), the Sforno posits that Noach did care for the welfare of society and
indeed chided the people for their perverse ways. The Sforno even learns that Noach’s rebuke of
others is, in fact, included in the complimentary pasuk that, “Noach walked with G-d.” In his
commentary on the following pasuk, the Sforno adds that precisely on the heels of his willingness to
reprimand was Noach rewarded with children. Apparently, then, the issue of Noach’s involvement in
administering harsh rebuke is up for debate.
However, while the gemara’s blanket statement is indicative of general criticism, a closer look at the
medrash yields the conclusion that Noach only scolded the people for their idol worship and nothing
else. Therefore, suggests the Binyan Ariel, Noach was held liable for not having given tochacha for all
the other vices his wicked contemporaries were mired in. In his Emes L’Yaakov, R’ Yaakov
Kaminetzky echoes this idea somewhat, claiming that Noach only rebuked them for idol worship while
ignoring their illicit relationships, the cardinal reason why they espoused idolatry in the first place. He
might have given tochacha- perhaps even on the ideal level- but he missed the real focus. The Sforno
himself agrees that Noach, while actively castigating the people, could still have given over more to
society. In his Ohel Moshe (p. 10), R’ Moshe Freund suggests that Noach criticized the people too
harshly, even ridiculing them at times, and thus failed in his attempted tochacha.
While Noach surely benefited society in a physical sense- after all, he invented crucial plowing tools
for farming (Tanchuma, #11) and, as noted by Rabbeinu Ephraim, he even gave much tzedaka in
private - he seemingly failed to do his utmost in the realm of the spiritual. Besides the
See the Pri Megadim’s Teivas Gomeh on chumash, p. 7.
I subsequently found that the Alshich makes the same point.
See also Mishnas Rav Aharon, vol. 1, p. 168. The Maharal, however, treats “Ish Ha’adama” in a positive
light- see Nesivos Olam, chapter 15. See also the Ibn Ezra, and see the Targum Yerushalmi (and see R’ Yisroel
from Chortkov’s Ginzei Yisroel).
See also Drashos Rabbeinu Yosef Mi’Slutzk, p. 165, and see R’ Avraham Yafin’s HaMussar Vi’Hada’as, vol.
1, p. 43.
Others also view the pasuk in a purely positive fashion- see the Chida’s Chomas Anach and see the sefer
Tapuchei Chaim, p. 7, quoting the Tikkunei Zohar. See especially the work of the Chida’s grandfather, R’
Avraham Azulai’s Ba’alei Bris Avram, in which he claims that it was precisely Noach’s hisbodidus highlighted
by this pasuk that precluded all harmful influence, ensuring that he would not fall prey to sin.
See, however, the Sforno’s own comments at the close of parshas Beraishis (6:8).
See, however, Medrash Tanchuma,” end of #5, and the commentary of R’ Rabinowitz’s Da’as Sofrim on the
See also Medrash Hagadol, Medrash Aggadah, and Seder Eliyahu Rabba, chapter 16.
aforementioned opinions concerning Noach’s lax involvement in administering tochacha, we now
must address what appears to be his chief liability.
The Lack of Prayer for Salvation
Back to our opening Zohar. Yes, we have scrutinized a sage and tzaddik, ultimately having reached
the conclusion that Noach’s minor deficiencies are highly debated. There is one criticism, however,
which appears indisputable, and therein seems to lay Noach’s primary failing. The Zohar (Noach,
67b; Vayikra, 15a) writes that the flood is named after Noach because Noach should have prayed
vehemently for the salvation of his generation. Quite sadly, he failed to do so. At least not until
after the mass destruction of the flooding waters had already transpired. When the flood ceased, the
Zohar relates in a different passage (Zohar HaShmatos, Beraishis, 254b- see also Zohar Chadash,
23a), Noach came before G-d in supplication, eliciting G-d’s amazement as to why he waited so long,
why he failed to beseech from G-d before the event rather than after.
So why did Noach not pray for the salvation of his compatriots? Why were only Avraham (concerning
Sedom) and Moshe (on several occasions) able to commiserate for their respective generations in
contrast to their predecessor Noach? In the words of the Zohar, Noach simply said to himself:
“Perhaps I won’t escape.” And therefore?
The question, in fact, is one that has troubled numerous commentaries. The Tiferes Yehonasan
(beginning of the parsha), Kedushas Levi (7:7), and the Sheim MiShmuel (p. 44), all propound in
defense of Noach that he felt far too inferior to be worthy of saving all of mankind. His humility, most
unfortunately, was such that he sulked in self-abrogation, having no faith in his ability to rescue such
a depraved people, and consequently gave up before even trying. R’ Yosef Karo, in his Drashos on
Chumash, provides three answers to explain why a righteous Noach remained seemingly insouciant
to the salvation of his generation and opted not to daven for them. Whatever the reason, Noach
certainly had the ability to daven on their behalf and successfully nullify G-d’s decree, and yet a
See R’ Yitzchak Isaac Sher’s Leket Sichos Mussar, vol. 1, p. 31, contrasting the physical chesed of Noach
with the spiritual chesed of Avraham.
See also R’ Y. L. Chasman’s comments in his Ohr Ya’hel (new edition, p. 16).
See especially Bi’mechitzas Rabbeinu (R’ Yaakov Kaminetzky), pp. 196-197.
See also R’ Meir Reiss’ Tznif Milucha, siman 22, #1.
See R’ Chaim Shmuelevitz’s Sichos Mussar, parshas Noach (5733), ma’amar 5. See also 5732, ma’amar 4,
and R’ Nebenzhal’s Yerushalayim BiMo’adeha: Pesach, p. 260. In addition, see Sefer Sarasi (Weinbaum), pp.
38-39, and Remazim B’Torah (Goldfarb), p. 20- based on Kedushas Levi.
See also R’ Avraham Pinchas Grodzinsky’s Me’Bais Avraham on the parsha and R’ Dovid Kronglass’ Sichos
Chochma U’Mussar, vol. 2, ma’amar 45, pp. 153-154. See also Ohr Yechezkel, Middos, p. 110. In addition, see
R’ Nosson Vachtfogel’s brief comments appearing in Leket Reshimos on Chanukah, p. 14. See Mivaser Tzedek
and R’ Deutch’s (talmid of the Chasam Sofer) Imrei Shefer on Brachos (7b) who discuss Noach’s belief- in line
strictly with Hashem’s “midas ha’din”- that his generation was deserving of annihilation. See also R’ M. Y.
Weinstock’s Divrei Ya’ir, p. 10. In addition, see Kerem Tuvia, p. 51 (and see Menachem Tzion, vol. 1, p. 33).
See also R’ Tzvi Hirsch from Liska’s Ach Pri Tevuah discussing this and other reasons for Noach’s abstention
from prayer, and see R’ Nissan Alpert’s Limudei Nissan. However, see the Ohr HaChaim’s comments on 6:13.
See also the interesting approach appearing in Beis Shmuel Acharon, p. 10.
See R’ Pincus’s Tiferes Torah.
sense of bland apathy is all we observe. This is why the ensuing inundation is burdened upon his
shoulders and forever will be named after him.
From Noach to Moshe: The “Tikkun”
There was, however, a tikkun for the righteous Noach. It would begin in the ark as we find Noach
compelled to tend to the diverse needs of even the lowly animals, thus engendering continuous
involvement in caring for another. But it would not end there. No, the full tikkun would only come
when the illustrious Moshe Rabbeinu first arrives on the scene.
The Arizal states that Moshe was a gilgul of Noach, a reincarnated spark of his predecessor’s soul.
Moshe would thus complete that which Noach left deficient, thereby bringing the latter’s soul to its full
tikkun. Just like Noach before him, Moshe too resided (albeit very temporarily) in a teivah, and the
gemara in Chullin (139b) informs us that Moshe is even hinted to first in the Torah within the story of
The archetypal leader, Moshe time and time again prays wholeheartedly on behalf of his people. He
best personified his boundless concern when Klal Yisroel was headed towards annihilation on the
heels of the sin of the golden calf. It is only then, writes the Arizal, that Noach’s soul was rectified.
Moshe requested to be blotted out of the Torah if G-d would not heed his heartfelt supplications to
save the Jewish People. His utter self-sacrifice was thus manifested by the famous words, “Mi’cheini
na me’sifrecha,” erase me now from Your book (Ki Sisa, 32:32). The Hebrew word “mi’cheini”
consists of the very same letters comprising the words “mei Noach,” intended to illustrate that
Noach’s responsibility for the flooding waters was finally cast aside.
It comes as no surprise, therefore, to turn quickly to the medrash (Beraishis Rabba, 26:6) where we
find that, “even Noach was not worthy [of being saved from the flood], but G-d saw that Moshe would
ultimately issue forth from him…” Noach’s rectification only arrived when his descendant, Moshe,
ascended the Torah’s stage to sacrifice himself on behalf of his nation.
The sefer Shiluv HaMasores further highlights this sense of tikkun, pointing out that the Hebrew word
“va’tanach,” and it came to rest, appears only twice in all of Tanach. The first mention is in our
parsha (8:4), describing the ark of Noach coming to a rest upon the mountains of Ararat- “Va’tanach
ha’teivah…” Its second and final appearance is in parshas Beha’aloscha (11:26), as we read of
Moshe’s spirit of prophecy descending upon others besides himself- “Va’tanach alei’hem ha’ruach.”
The Torah is masterfully alluding to this very same point once again: The ark of Noach, the soul of
Noach that was trying for so long to find balance in rocky waters, finally settled when Moshe wished
for his prophetic spirit to descend upon others as well. Noach’s “teivah” truly came to rest only when
Moshe longed for his spirit of prophecy to rest upon others, thus rectifying Noach’s lack of
wholehearted concern for the welfare of his contemporaries.
Perhaps this is also the basis for the Medrash Mishlei (chapter 31) that explains the pasuk of Sheker
ha’chein…” to be referring to the “false” favor that Noach found in G-d’s eyes.
See especially R’ C. Y. Goldvicht’s Asufas Ma’arachos, parshas Noach (p. 111), and on Purim (pp. 89-92).
Sha’ar Pesukim, Beraishis, drush 4- also quoted in the Chida’s Nachal Kedumim, R’ Yehuda Ya’aleh As-
had’s Divrei Maharia, and in Kedushas Levi.
See Maharal, Gevuros Hashem, end of chapter 23.
See also the Ba’al HaTurim’s comment.
Perhaps we could extend the thought yet a bit more, as we return to connect the end of the essay to
its beginning. Noach shed his title of tzaddik when he alighted from the ark to first plant a vineyard
that would bless him with savory wine. His quick pursuit of the lush taste of wine was also what led to
the horrible act committed against him. Noach, the medrash then told us, fell from the lofty plateau of
an “Ish Tzaddik” to a meager “Ish Ha’adama.” When did this downfall begin? With the word
“va’yachel,” the word, that Rashi explained, signified Noach’s loss of sanctity- and a word which
happens to be spelled exactly the same as the very word that Moshe used to begin his famous plea
that saved the Jewish People. “Va’yichal Moshe…” (Ki Sisa, 32:11). It was only through Moshe’s
“va’yichal” that Noach’s tragic “va’yachel” arrived at its ultimate tikkun.
And so we have reached the end of our journey into the nature of a somewhat enigmatic Noach.
Moshe Rabbeinu, in fact- according to Rabbeinu Yoel’s Sefer HaRamazim- even vouches for Noach’s
active role in delivering reproof to his wicked compatriots. How understandable it truly is, now that we
have discovered that indeed they share sparks of an identical soul. But Moshe knows quite well that it
was only he who was able to save his generation through self-sacrifice and heartfelt prayer, and thus
only he who could rectify the deficiency of Noach and help bring his soul to its much anticipated
That is why at the close of the Torah, the medrash (Devarim Rabba, 11:3) relates a fascinating
dialogue between Moshe and Noach in which Moshe- although the paradigm of humility- succeeds in
convincing Noach that the former was greater precisely because of his ability to save not only himself,
but his entire generation along with him. And thus we, too, close our thoughts on the parsha named
for Noach with the knowledge that Moshe had indeed corrected Noach’s basic failing by showing us
all the profound potency of powerful prayer.