Raboyseyee and Ladies:
We begin with yet another mazel tov shout out to Dana Berg upon her upcoming marriage this coming Sunday to the ever romantic Itai Abelski. Four day before her wedding, Dana found time to email her guests alerting them about marathon Sunday, and for them to time their travel accordingly; no one like to miss a good shmorg! Go Dana! Mazel tov Dana and Itai; may you be in love forever! Mazel tov to our friends Howie and Naomi Berg, to the extended Berg/Bell families, and to Mr. and Mrs. Solomon and Anna Belski and their extended family.
Noiach, A Bum Rap
Let’s start with a brief introduction to PTSD. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), the l health professionals tell us, is a mental health condition that’s triggered by a terrifying event — either experiencing it or witnessing it. In plain English: PTSD (Posttraumatic Stress Disorder) is essentially an anxiety disorder. It develops in response to traumatic or life-threatening experiences such as war, sexual assault, accidents, or natural disasters. Shoin, let’s read a few more facts. The term “posttraumatic stress disorder” came into use in the 1970s in large part due to the diagnoses of U.S. military veterans who served in the Vietnam War. It was officially recognized by the American Psychiatric Association in 1980 in the third edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-III). According to The National Center for PTSD (a division of the US Department of Veteran Affairs), roughly 5% of men and 10% of women living in the United States will develop PTSD at some point during their lifetime. This accounts for 6-7 million adults in the United States today that suffer from PTSD, nebech!
Is that emes? Were war veterans the first to suffer from PTSD? Not! Who was? We shall find out below ober a war veteran he was zicher not. In fact he was a Toirah personality. Mamish? The Oisvorfer has told you over and again that the heylige Toirah contains every subject matter. And if you can’t find it in the heylige Toirah, you can rest assured that the heylige Gemora has a few, or more words to say. And if, on a rare occasion, it’s not to be found in the heylige Gemora, rest assured that at least one midrashic exegete imagined it and reduced it to writing. Who was the first person ever to have suffered from PTSD? When was he diagnosed? What were his symptoms? What stress factors was he a party or witness to? And what has PTSD at all to do with this week’s parsha? Let’s find out, ober erhstens (firstly)….
The story of Noaich and his famous teyvo (ark) is of course one of the most well-known and written about myse-she’ho’yos (true story) in the entire heylige Toirah. Books, songs, themed clothing, movies, Broadway productions, and more, are all Noiach inspired. Moreover, Noiach was no ordinary Joe. He wasn’t a Joe at all. The heylige Toirah tells us that Noiach found favor in the eyes of the RBSO. These were the last words in last week’s parsha just as the RBSO decided that man was bad and that He felt bad for having created him. Noiach was the exception. It was through Noiach that the RBSO planned to repopulate the world He was about to destroy. He was a good man and so the heylige Toirah explicitly tells us. He was an “ish tzadik,” a righteous person. In fact, Noiach is the only Toirah personality who carries that appellation. As we make our way through another cycle of Toirah readings, we will of course meet many people the RBSO liked. Some were chosen to be our forefathers and foremothers, others were selected to be tribal leaders, and yet others like Bitzalel and Pinchas, were given unique and honorable assignments. One, a shepherd by the name of Moishe, was chosen to lead the Yiddin. Oh, and let us not forget how the RBSO so liked Yoisef (Joseph), one of everyone’s favorite Torah personalities, though He let him linger in prison for ten years. Is that how the RBSO treats those He so likes, ver veyst? Something to ponder on, if you chap. Ober, none carried the appellation “ish Tzadik” (man of righteousness). And yet, despite all his good and the hundreds of years of service to the RBSO –he was 600 years old at the time of the flood- an incident which took place following the great flood, resulted in many an exegete excoriating and besmirching Noaich’s good name, say it’s not so but it is.
In the textbook case of ‘what have you done for me lately,’ they seem to have forgotten how he spent 120 years trying to persuade people of his generation to cut out the orgies they were willing participants in, and try tshuva instead, how he labored and built the teyvo by hand -zicher a Jew he wasn’t- how he took care of and fed the animals for 377 days. Orgies? Well, Rashi doesn’t use that word, ober he does tell us that man became corrupt, that man –and mistama woman as well- were engaged in depraved sex acts. Moreover, they began stealing from one another. Our sages also forgot how Noiach refrained from sexual activity while on the teyvo. As an aside, the medrish infers from a verse in the parsha and its unique wording, that sex was forbidden -even with his own wife, while aboard. Why was sex forbidden? Efsher too much rocking of the boat would have tipped it over, ver veyst. In any event, the man so admired, the man chosen to rebuild the world, seems to fall out of favor as we get to the shishi reading (Bereishis 9:17) in this week’s parsha. What happened?
Shoin, let’ go back and review some history. In the year 1657 (2104 BCE), immediately after the Mabul (Great Flood) and the RBSO’s promise not to flood the world again, Noiach and his family, sole survivors of over 1,500 years of human history, exited the Teyvo with the task of regrouping, rebuilding and repopulating a desolate earth. The heylige Toirah describes the first event to occur after the RBSO promised never to flood the world again. And to chap what went wrong with Noiach, and why the sages took liberties by disparaging him, let’s read a few pisukim innaveynig. Says the heylige Toirah (Bereishis 9:20-25), azoy:
“And Noiach, man of the earth debased himself and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. And Chom (Ham), the father of K’nan, saw his father’s nakedness, and told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Yofes (Japheth) took the garment, and placed it on both of their shoulders, and they walked backwards, and they covered their father’s nakedness, and their faces were turned backwards, so that they did not see their father’s nakedness. And Noiach awoke from his wine, and he knew what his small son had done to him. And he said, “Cursed be K’nan; he shall be a slave among slaves to his brethren.”
Noiach did what? He planted a vineyard, had a few drinks of wine, became drunk and uncovered himself in his tent? That’s it!? That is his big sin and fall from grace? Did he wake up in someone else’s tent? Not. Did he uncover anyone else while inebriated? Also not. What’s pshat he uncovered himself? Cham saw his father’s nakedness and that’s it too? Have you ever accompanied your father to the mikveh? Did you not see him naked? What terrible sin did he commit to be so cursed? Ober, what really flummoxed our sages were these words: “And Noiach awoke from his wine, and he knew what his small son had done to him.” What was done to him? And how is what was done to him related to his planting, drinking and drunkenness?
Seemingly it’s that one sentence that caught the attention of our sages and gave them license to connect the dots. Said they: a man chosen by the RBSO to be the father of all mankind, someone who was, in the Toirah’s words, “a righteous man” and “perfect,” was taking to the bottle like some degenerate in a corner pub? We’re talking about a man the RBSO communicated with directly. We’re talking about a man the RBSO selected as the most eligible of all his peers to save humanity. What’s taka pshat? A number of reasons are offered to justify Noiach’s inebriation.
Says the Seder Hadoirois (page 25), azoy: as a young man, Noiach once watched a goat munching on grapes. And? It became giddy and cheerful. Nu, what’s good for the goat was zicher good for Noaich and shoin; looking for some happiness, a shtikel pick-me-up after witnessing the obliteration of civilization from the face of the earth, Noiach took to the bottle. Grada an excellent reason for a li’chaim and more.
Ober says the Medrish Rabbah (Rabba 36:3; see Eitz Yosef): goat, schmoat! Noiach, efsher the first ever vintner, chapped the cognitive powers that could be harnessed through alcohol, and wanting to broaden his horizons in the study of the heylige Toirah, decided to drink. He wanted to study the Toirah? Ober,was Noiach a Jew? Was there a Toirah back then? Also not! The heylige Toirah was still 500 years from, being revealed and gifted to the Yiddin as part of their marriage vows. How does this pshat make sense? And the answer: it’s none of your business! We don’t argue with the medrish. If that’s how they envisioned the facts, why not, and who are you to argue? Ober, is that what pushed him to drink? So far so good; a number of sages gave him a pass, ober zicher not all. If fact, it’s punkt farkert (the opposite is true). Many paint him with an ugly brush and tell us that Noiach wasn’t trying to imbibe spirits to lift his own. He wasn’t looking to drink in moderation to jump-start his brain. Noiach’s plan from the beginning was to go all-in, to get completely under-the-table, stripped-down-to-the-flesh shikker. And whether he meant to be stripped down or not, ver veyst, ober the heylige Toirah goes on to tell us that taka at some point –already inebriated- he was taka stripped down and that’s when his son and grandson may have gone in, if you chap, and proved once and for all that they were a cut above. More precisely, they –according to at least one exegete- they took a cut from below, if you chap, which you will if you continue reading. They did what?
What exactly did Chom do to Noiach? The heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 90a), records a machloikes (dispute) between Rav and Shmuel as to whether Chom castrated Noiach, or, but sexually assaulted him, if you chap. A certain Acroin, if you chap, suggests that this is the classic example of the kri and kisiv: shout out to chaver Bruce Mael. Says the Maharal: the text itself intimates that Chom did more than merely embarrass his father. The use of the phrase “what his young son did to him” hints that Chom performed a physical act. In other words, he more than saw his nakedness. In any event, elsewhere in the heylige Toirah, the words seeing nakedness, refer to sexual activity. It does? Let’s skip ahead and read this posik from the heylige Toirah Vayikro 20:17) which confirms that “seeing nakedness” is a euphemism for sex. OMG!
|וְאִ֣ישׁ אֲשֶׁר־יִקַּ֣ח אֶת־אֲחֹת֡וֹ בַּת־אָבִ֣יו אֽוֹ־בַת־אִ֠מּ֠וֹ וְרָאָ֨ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתָ֜הּ וְהִֽיא־תִרְאֶ֤ה אֶת־עֶרְוָתוֹ֙ חֶ֣סֶד ה֔וּא וְנִ֨כְרְת֔וּ לְעֵינֵ֖י בְּנֵ֣י עַמָּ֑ם עֶרְוַ֧ת אֲחֹת֛וֹ גִּלָּ֖ה עֲוֹנ֥וֹ יִשָּֽׂא:|
“If a man has sexual intercourse with his sister, whether the daughter of his father or his mother, so that he sees her nakedness and she sees his nakedness, it is a disgrace. They must be cut off in the sight of the children of their people. He has exposed his sister’s nakedness; he will bear his punishment for iniquity.
Our sages who avada knew the entire heylige Toirah correctly conflated the deeper meaning of seeing nakedness and chapped that when Chom saw his dad’s nakedness, the term refers to some form of incest or other prohibited sexual activity. The bottom line: we cannot look at any once incident and make a judgement, instead we need to know the entire Toirah before we pass judgment. We must chap that seeing nakedness is more than meets the eye. Says the heylige Toirah (Leviticus: 18:6):
ויקרא יח:ו אִישׁ אִישׁ אֶל כָּל שְׁאֵר בְּשָׂרוֹ לֹא תִקְרְבוּ לְגַלּוֹת עֶרְוָה…
None of you shall come near anyone of his own flesh to uncover nakedness. Shoin: Chom did a nasty.
Says the medrish (Bereishis Rabba 58, 36), azoy: other details in the parsha indicate that Chom prevented Noiach from having any future children. Those details for another day. Says Rashi: “there are those rabbis who say that Chom emasculated Noiach, and there are those who say that he had homosexual relations with him. And to make matters worse –what could be worse?- the opinion in the heylige Gemora which holds that Cham but or butt violated his father with rear entry, also agrees that he emasculated him. Such nachas; no wonder he was bummed out, if you chap. And our rabbis blame Noaich? What’s pshat? Then again, soon enough we’ll be reading how Loit’s two daughters raped him on consecutive nights and how our sages blamed Loit while giving the givaldige daughters a pass. How all that makes sense, ver veyst?
Ober, what’s wrong with wine? Was Noiach prohibited from drinking? He was not! Says the Radak: before the flood, people ate grapes but wine had not yet been invented. Rashi may have been a famous vintner but it’s efsher Noiach who invented winemaking? The story of Noiach getting drunk from drinking wine he produced, as well as the aftermath, warns us to be careful when drinking wine as one can lose their mind while drunk, become confused and act crazy.
Said Shlomo Hamelech (King Solomon) in Mishlei (Proverbs 23:20-35) “Do not be among the guzzlers of wine…Whose eyes are red. Those who linger over wine, those who come to inquire over mixed drinks. Do not look at wine becoming red, for to one who fixes his eyes on the goblet all paths are upright. His end is like one bitten by a snake, like one dispatched by a serpent. Your eyes will see strange things and your heart will speak duplicates. And you will be like one who sleeps in the heart of the sea, like one who lies on top of a mast. In your drunkenness you will say: “They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me but I was unaware. When will I awaken? I will continue asking for more wine!”
And says the Radak veyter, azoy: both Yishayahu and Amos (Prophets) spoke out against people who drink too much and get drunk. He concludes with this: the heylige Toirah negatively recounts Noiach’s wine drinking and drunkenness in order to warn us about the dangers of drinking too much. Was Noiach the first person to drink wine, get drunk and confused?
Ober…said Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sedugora of Ukraine (1820-1883, and years before Hunter Biden became a consultant), azoy: at times, the imbibing of wine is taka a mitzvah, but one must be careful not to overindulge. This mitzvah –as do many others- comes with the prohibition of “bal tosif;”, it is forbidden to add to the mitzvah. To further confuse us, says the heylige Gemora (Pisochim 109A): “No rejoicing before the RBSO is possible except with wine.” On the other hand, says the medrish (Bamidbar Rabbah 10:8): “As wine enters, each and every part of a human’s body, it grows lax, and his mind is confused. Once wine enters, reason leaves.”
Yet another medrish (Midrash Tanhcuma, Noiach,13) tells us azoy: “When Noiach began planting, the Soton (Satan) came by, stationed himself before him, and asked, ‘What are you planting?’ Noiach: ‘A vineyard.’ Soton: ‘What is its nature?’ Noiach: ‘Its fruit, whether fresh or dried, is sweet, and from it wine is made, which gladdens a person’s heart.’ Satan: ‘Would you like the two of us, me and you, to plant it together?’ Noiach: ‘Very well.’ What did Satan do? He brought a ewe lamb and slaughtered it over the vine; then he brought a lion, which he likewise slaughtered over the vine; then a monkey, which he also slaughtered over the vine; and finally a pig, which he again slaughtered over the vine. And with the blood dripping from them, he watered the vineyard. “ The charade was Soton’s way of saying that when a person drinks one cup of wine, he acts like a ewe lamb, humble and meek. When she drinks two, she becomes as mighty as a lion and proceeds to brag extravagantly, saying, ‘Who is like me?’ When he drinks three or four cups, he becomes like a monkey, hopping about, dancing, giggling, and uttering obscenities in public, without realizing what he is doing. Finally, when she becomes blind drunk, she is like a pig; wallowing in mire and coming to rest among refuse.”
Which medrish are we to follow, ver veyst! The bottom line: let’s recall that at times, when faced with a host of complex questions in a biblical narrative, commentators resort to midrashic sources that enhance the story with facts – they at times imagine- that are absent from the original text.
Why did Noiach get drunk? Why was getting drunk the first thing he did after the flood? Says the Abarbanel: “Before the Flood there were vines for eating, but not vineyards with rows upon rows of vines for wine production. Noiach took saplings that he had kept on the Ark, planted them in rows to make wine. Maybe this is due to the fact that he gave up on life after the Flood, desiring to drink wine rather than water (reminiscent of the flood waters) so that he would never see water again!” Was Noiach traumatized?
Was Noiach, the “designated survivor,” the only male whose rear end was saved (until Chom came along), the first person ever to suffer from PTSD? Perhaps. And were the symptoms of his PTSD what then caused him to become a man who planted a vineyard, and drink himself silly? The Oisvorfer would argue that although the official term came about only in the 1970’s, Noiach was clearly the poster man for PTSD? We cannot refer to a man 600 years of age as a poster boy. Was Noiach suffering from the effects of PTSD? He lived through and witnessed first-hand the first ever natural disaster, the great flood which wiped out humanity as well as the animal kingdom, save a number of each that Noiach brought on board at the RBSO’s request. Rashi, commenting on the words “ki hishchis kol bosor” (for all flesh had become corrupted), again quoting medrish (Medrish Rabbah 28:8) tells us that not just were the people bad –having become involved in sexual debauchery, but that the animals too got into the swing of things, if you chap.
Was a traumatized Noaich suffering from the after affects of the mabul, also enduring survivor’s guilt? And did such emotional distress play a significant role in his drinking and subsequent sexual assault? Not by his own yeshiva rebbe, camp counselor or pirchei/NCSY leader, but at the hands and other parts of his own son and grandson? Could very well be! In other words, Noaich was the victim of three of the four PTSD triggers mentioned above and in scientific articles. He was zicher a good candidate and efsher with that backdrop, we can chap how he went from being the “designated survivor,” itself a trigger at times for PTSD, to a man who planted a vineyard, drank himself silly and then –in a drunken stupor was either castrated and or sexually assaulted by an attack on his member by one or more members of his own mishpoco. What’s pshat? Is this why the RBSO saved him? Does he not deserve a pass? Says the Oisvorfer: yes he does! Ober is this but dass yochid (the opinion of one man)? Not!
Says the heylige Zoihar (Zoihar Chodosh 1, Noach 38, 1): “Rav Yehudah said, Noiach’s mind was addled when he left the ark, where he lived with animals and insects and vermin, and because he drank a little bit of wine, he got drunk and was exposed.” With these few words the Zoihar connects Noiach’s subsequent behavior to the trauma he underwent residing in what was little more than a floating cage he shared with every animal in the world for over a year. Such an experience, along with the weight of the responsibility for the continued existence of the world that was placed on his shoulders, led to Noiach’s eventual drunken collapse and exposure. His behavior reflects a loss of stability; he has lost his tether to rationality. In plain English: Noiach was suffering from an addled mind, apparently a result of his frustration, and loss of his self-respect and human dignity. PTSD? Oh, and let’s not forget that he also endured 377 days without sexual activity; how much can one man endure? Rachmono litzlon (heaven forbid).
Ironically, it took a rare visit to his rear to awaken him from his stupor both physically and emotionally. And as they say, at times, a person needs a good kick in the tuchis to wake up and smell the coffee. A Noiach inspired line?
A gittin Shabbis-
The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv