Parashas Noach

This week’s parashah describes the great flood through which Hashem destroyed the entire world except for the righteous Noach and his family, and some animals He told Noach to take with him. Near the end of the parashah, after the account of the flood, the Torah recounts that Noach planted a grapevine, got drunk from the wine he made from its grapes, and disgraced himself. The Torah begins its account of this episode as follows: “And Noach, the man of the land, started off (vayachel), and he planted a grapevine.” The Midrash, making a play on the word vayachel, remarks (Bereishis Rabbah 36:3):
Noach was profaned (nischallel), and turned mundane (chullin). How? By planting a grapevine. He did not think to plant something else, something constructive – not a fig sapling and not an olive sapling – but rather a grapevine. … On the very day he planted it, he drank and he disgraced himself.
The Maggid explains the above Midrash as criticizing Noach for ruining a golden opportunity. The Maggid links this Midrash to a Midrash about the blessing that Hashem bestowed on the seventh day (Bereishis 2:3). The Sages teach (Bereishis Rabbah 11:1, expounding on Mishlei 10:22, which I render in line with the Maggid’s interpretation):
Hashem’s blessing is what brings riches – this refers to the Sabbath day. Let it not bring along with it an increase of grief – that is, mourning.
The Maggid explains this Midrash with a parable – one his most famous ones. A man went on a trip, and on the way he met a saintly sage whom he knew had the power to give people blessings. He asked the sage to bless him. The sage replied: “May it be Hashem’s will that, when you return home, the first thing you do will develop into a thriving success.” The man decided that when he got home, he would immediately take out his money pouch and start counting and weighing his money, so that the sage’s blessing would take effect on the money and make him rich. And so, the very second he got home, he called to his wife: “Quick! Bring me the money pouch!” The man’s wife, who had no idea why he made this abrupt request, concluded that he had been stricken with a fit of insanity and refused to give him the pouch. He proceeded to yell at her, and she, in turn, proceeded to curse him. The quarrel escalated further and further, ultimately developing into a great “success” – for it was the first activity the man engaged in when he got home, and it was thus on this squabbling that the sage’s blessing took effect.
Shabbos is like the sage in the above parable – as the Zohar teaches, Hashem established Shabbos as the fount of blessing. This special power is what the Torah is referring to when it says that Hashem bestowed blessing on the seventh day. The Zohar elaborates, teaching that all blessing within the universe depends on Shabbos, both in heaven and on earth. It is the blessing which flows from Shabbos that brings forth all the good we receive during the week.
Every activity a person engages in on Shabbos is infused with a special blessing, and this blessing causes the activity to thrive during the upcoming week. Thus, Shabbos is called the “treasure of days” – all the other days of the week, so to speak, treasure and yearn for Shabbos, for it is from Shabbos that they receive their blessing. It therefore behooves every Jew, in a God-fearing spirit, to spend every moment of his Shabbos wisely. He should engage in spiritual pursuits, so that, in the upcoming week, he will achieve success in these pursuits. And he should honor Shabbos properly with fine food and drink, so that the upcoming week will bear for him a goodly measure of material sustenance. Moreover, in all our Shabbos activities, we must take extreme care to keep what we are doing completely free of anything that produces grief, for the generative power of Shabbos will boost this grief and cause it to thrive throughout the upcoming week.
With this, the Maggid turns to the Midrash about Noach’s grapevine, and explains the strong criticism leveled against Noach. After the flood, Hashem brought into the world a wondrous flow of blessing, so that the world could be fully re-established and restored to its former state. Thus, the world was poised in such a way that the first activity that Noach engaged in would be invested with an extraordinary power of growth. Noach should have taken advantage of this awesome opportunity by engaging in an activity that would contribute as constructively as possible to the restoration of the world. But, instead, he planted a grapevine, and it was on this inferior planting that the extraordinary power of growth took effect. On the very day Noach planted it, the grapevine matured and produced grapes, and Noach turned these grapes into wine, drank, and disgraced himself. It was a classic case of profanation – taking potential for lofty achievement, and wasting it on the pursuit of the mundane.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

Leave a comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.