Good guy or maybe not so good?
As Parshas Noiach approaches, I went back into my archives to see what the Oisvorfer wrote last year. Was there a topic not adequately covered? Could I give an overview without mentioning the perversions and depravity of his generation? I read and re-read the heylige Toirah and decided that it’s mamish perfect as is. I was thinking that fsher I should just resend it and have a relaxing week….. Ober (however), I knew that I would hear from the misoinenim (complainers,) not to be avada confused with the oininim, if you chap, and decided to add a bit, edit somewhat and repackage. Here we go.
Parshas Noiach begins by describing his superior character contrasted with the wickedness of his generation. Of course, even back then, people were jealous imfarginners (insanely jealous) and many a commentary discus Noiach’s true character. Was he really a good guy or was he just good compared to the other deviants of his generation. And it taka always bothered me why the great majority of Medroshim and other Rabbinic literature treat Noiach so harshly. Doesn’t the heylige Toirah (6; 9) itself tell us that Noiach was “Ish Tzadik”, a righteous individual- a good guy? Yes it does! Who are we to argue with the RBSO and His written word? Yet the first Rashi and many commentators raged a debate over his true character. Is this not the classic case of loishon horo? Ver veyst?
Says Rashi: there are those who say that had Noiach lived in the times of tzadikim (better people), he would also have been considered righteous. In other words: he was truly a good guy. Others say farkert (opposite): had he been living in other times he would have not been such a tzadik.
Anyway, the people around him were bad. How bad? Nu, I’m, glad you asked. Sexual deviances of every variety, including those you chazerim order and watch on pay per view, chas v’esholom and cholila even worse, pay handsomely for, were commonplace. Moreover, while the people were in a state of nakedness, others were rifling through their wallets; the world was full of robbery and thievery, raincoats went missing in Shul and the RBSO was quite mad. How mad? We’ll let’s go back and review last week’s Parsha of B’reishis. And taka why not? Did you listen to laining last shabbis or were you still too bloated from stuffing yourself like a kishka for three days and took the day off? Were you shuled out? Nu, who can blame you?
Last week we heard the big news: The RBSO created the world in six days, rested on the seventh; hence we have the concept and observance of Shabbis forever. The RBSO created man, blew up his nose, took a side order of rib and made the first ever eishes chayil (Chava or Eve). They were created in His own image and placed into Gan Eden (Garden of Eden), all in one very busy week. Odom has but one restriction: refrain from consuming from the Eitz Hadaas. Along comes that one-eyed nochosh (snake) and the rest is history. Chava can’t resist the snake, what else is new? Odom can’t resist his wife: taka why? Mistama, because she was the only thing around. Shoin! Guilty as charged but not before they all rat on each other, oy vey. That slithering snake seems to be the root cause of trouble throughout the millennia. Odom, thinking with his, avada partook but blamed the eishes chayil, a minhag (custom) a great majority of men have adopted ever since. The bottom line: people enjoy forbidden fruit as the heylige Gemora tells us “mayim ginuvim yimtoku” (forbidden waters are sweet): indeed they are. The RBSO is not at all tzifridden (satisfied) with their behavior and metes out swift punishment. They are removed from the paradise of Gan Eden and forced into exile to live in places like Flatbush, the Five Towns, Englewood, Beverly Hills, and other such neighborhoods.
After relocation with the help of Moishe’s Movers and after settling in suburbia, their first two sons, Kayin (Cain) and Hevel (Abel), each bring a Korban (offering) to the RBSO. Hevel’s offering is accepted by the RBSO while Kayin’s is rejected. Kayin responds by killing his brother Hevel. Shoin! One big empty world, two brothers and one murder, the first ever recorded in the annals of history The RBSO sends Kayin into exile to wander the face of the earth. He too moves to the burbs.
At the end of the first Parsha in the heylige Toirah we are given a genealogy of the first ten generations of the world, beginning with Odom, his son Shays (Seth), and leading up to the birth of Noiach (Noah) and his three sons. Disgusted by Man’s wickedness, the parsha ends with the RBSO expressing His “regret” for creating the world and His vow to destroy every living thing, except for the righteous Noiach and his mishpocho (family). And with that background, let’s get on deck with Noaich and his adventurous boat ride.
The most famous boat story since Gilligan’s Island, only without Ginger and Marianne, is the subject this week’s parsha but without those two, or at least Ginger, is there any reason to study the Parsha? Other than recalling the Tayva, and that Noiach and his family were on it, did you remember the facts leading to the Mabul (flood)? Mamish aroisgiforfine gelt on the part of your parents who slaved and toiled for you to become a mentch while in yeshiva. Did you learn the miforshim, the medrash, the Zoihar hakoidesh or at least the Rashi? What about the Zohan? Of course not! Why not? Because you were a bum and still are; lucky for you the Oisvorfer dedicates precious time each week, time away from his eishes chayil, to sit and hurrava (think and toil) about how to teach you the weekly parsha so that you’ll never again forget it.
The Lord said to Noiach: The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the Earth is full of violence on account of them. I am prepared to destroy them with the Earth. (Beresheis 6:13) Our first question: What was the terrible sin of Noah’s generation that God sought to destroy them? What was so giferlich about that generation that angered the RBSO? The Talmud (Sanhedrin 57a) tells us that the world was immersed in jealousy, greed, theft, violence, lying, intolerance, deception and fraud.
And who but Rashi to further illuminate by explaining that the Flood generation was guilty of three crimes. Ershtens (firstly): The people had adopted avoido zoro (idol worship), a central theme and crime we’ll be hearing throughout the entire Toirah. They had abandoned all parameters of proper sexual conduct, even incestuous relationships were common. For some that wasn’t enough and they experimented with bestiality. Rashi doesn’t get into much detail here, the heylige Gemora more so and avada you chazerrim can get a visual. On the other hand, was there a sex manual at the time? Efsher they were just experimenting and being creative? Something we don’t find at home, nebech. Nu, veyter! Not just were they depraved sex maniacs but Rashi points out that they were also ganovim (robbers). Theft accomplished by force and violence was common.
Businessmen were surfing porn on their blackberries while listening to Hespeidim at Levayas. Children were discussing sports during Mincha in yeshiva. People were parking in handicapped spots, even the Rabbis were caught stealing each other’s sermons. In fact, Rashi tells us that they were finally doomed because of the crime of violent theft. Efsher the sex part would have been forgiven; ver veyst? Another pshat: Ibn Ezra tells us that the worst of all transgressions was that the people exploited one other sexually, also in groups.
Says the RambaN: that the significance of violent robbery was that it demonstrated that humanity had degenerated to an extent that virtually precluded its rehabilitation. In other words, although humanity was engaged in a variety of other depraved behaviors, these activities allowed for the possibility that humanity might realize its failings and reform itself. Seemingly there’s a shtikel hope for some of you. Ok- veyter (let’s move on.)
What did the RBSO do? Did he sit by and watch this unfold without a response? Absolutely not, or maybe yes. Maybe both? First He let them enjoy themselves for 120 years and that’s what I call a party. Can you imagine a 120 year orgy? Who had koiach (strength) for all these activities? Seemingly they did which avada proves the point that one doesn’t tire if some creativity is involved. Not just can you imagine, but I happen to know that many of you are jealous and wish you could have partaken! Avada it’s understood by the RBSO that living only with the eishes chayil, beautiful as she is/was before years of potato kugel, ice cream and cake took their toll on those hips nebech, could leave one with machshovos (thoughts) that are not in accordance with our teachings, or are they? Perhaps chas v’sholom you were nichsol (fell in) and even participated in such minuvildike acts- cholila. I admit that in a weak moment I too have from time to time (ok- daily) conjured up such machsovois- the RBSO should surely forgive me. In thinking about the pre-mabul chevra (gang) I am reminded of the movie “Caligula” and the pritzus I saw on the screen. I recall with clarity how I mamish walked out (after the fifth viewing). Was I so bad? I was, after all, but in high school and there with my Rebbe- oy vey. Anyway, eventually the RBSO got pissed off and mad as hell (in fact, this scene is the genesis of the expression, not Peter Finch in “Network”) and brought the big one. Veyter.
Noiach is told to enter the Ark along with all the animals. On the 17th of Cheshvan, 1656 years from creation (October 27, 2106 b.c.e,) the flood began. For 40 days and nights the waters increased, destroying all living things. The water raged upon the surface of the earth for 150 days, and then diminished for the next 150. On the 17th of Nissan, Noiach’s Ark rested upon Mount Ararat. Exactly where that is, has been the subject of debate ever since. Noiach sends out the Raven and then the Dove, and on the 27th of Cheshvon, exactly 1 solar year after it began, the earth was dry.
Raboyseyee: let’s skip straight to shishi (sixth aliya for you early Kiddush club members) and learn what happened next. The emes (truth) is that the Oisvorfer is a shtikel embarrassed to discuss this subject matter but in the interest of education, just like the heylige Gemora lehavdil, I feel it’s my tafkid (duty) to teach and inform so that you can discuss these words at the shabbis tish. Mistama this is a case where one should describe the events bloshoin sagi-nohor (whitewashing), ober, this is what the heylige Gemora and others teach us went down.
Noiach is amazed by his good fortune. A shtikel nauseous from the ride and the stench the animals made during the year, but otherwise ok. His spirits are uplifted, but he recognizes that the world as he knew it was over. What to do? He become a gardener, plants a vineyard, drinks from its produce, and becomes drunk. In his intoxicated state, he shamefully uncovers himself in his tent. Exactly what that means is avada (certainly) the subject of much debate. Some say that while naked, Noiach’s son, Chom (Ham by the goyim), over 100 years old at this time, saw his father naked, assaulted him, and informed his two brothers of their father’s state. Rachmono litzlon- what could be worse? The brothers, Sheim and Yophes, modestly approached their father and covered him. When Noiach awakened, he cursed Cham’s son, K’nan, and blessed Sheim and Yophes.
What’s wrong with walking around the house naked? Were the neighbors going to see him? Ver veyst? Some say that while in this state, his grandson- K’nan the minuvil had a sexual encounter with his grandfather. Others say it was Noiach’s 3rd grade Rebbe. Ver Veyst? Whatever, Noiach was bummed out, if you chap and not a happy camper. When Noiach recovers and pieces together what took place behind his back, if you chap, he bentches (blesses) Sheim and Yophes, and curses Cham, his other son and his grandson K’nan. No surprises here. Say it’s not so, please ober seemingly it is.
Nu, are you thoroughly disgusted? Only my Pirchei leader and 4th grade Rebbe who tried to emulate this lifestyle at the mikveh and in the yeshiva dormitory would enjoy reading this story, this ugly chapter in our history.
Rashi references two descriptions of Cham’s sin. 1. He castrated Noiach; 2. He sodomized Noiach. Both explanations are distasteful and demand further clarification. Piqued your interest, did I, you minuval? Look it up for yourself and here’s where. “Noiach, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. He became drunk and uncovered himself in his tent. [His son] Cham saw his father’s nakedness…” (B’reishis 9:20-22)
What happened here? The world was destroyed; even the foundations were gone after hot lava wiped all away and Noiach made wine? Wasn’t he in the mood for sushi? Isn’t everyone? The RBSO just told him he could have chicken and even steak and he wanted wine? What gives here, what’s p’shat? By the way, it’s taka emes that following the Mabul, Noiach was given permission to enjoy meat. And what’s p’shat that Chom saw his father’s nakedness; didn’t you ever go to the mikveh with your dad when you were a kid? Didn’t you ever see your dad’s nakedness? Did you ever think about sodomy and worse? Is this the storyline here?
Oy Raboyseyee, p’shat according to the heylige Gemora is worse than you think. Says the heylige Gemora (Sanhedrin 70a) azoy (like this): When Noiach emerged from the Ark and saw devastation heaped upon the world, he knew deep down that he had selfishly stood by and watched it all happen. Depressed and disappointed, he got drunk. Then “Cham saw his father’s nakedness,” meaning that Noiach’s son either sodomized or castrated him. What???
Avada (of course) what all this means is the subject of yet another famous machloikes (dispute) between Rav and Shmuel, who else, as when it comes to matters of sex one can always find that Shmuel character. B’kitzur (in short): one said that Chom castrated Noiach and the other that he only sodomized him- mamish a tzadik; can you imagine a better son- such nachas! The Gemora says that both Rav and Shmuel were inebriated when they argued p’shat here and states empathically that both happened. Cham the minuvil mamish sodomized and castrated his father. Nice! And my father A”H wasn’t happy because I didn’t finish smicha?
A Medrish relates that Cham and his wife were the only couple, human or animal, to cohabit while on the Tayvah. Mistama she like seamen, if you chap. All the other “survivors” remained celibate until emerging from the Tayva one year from the start of the Mabul. Furthermore, K’nan was conceived during that year while on the Tayva, talk about rocking the boat. Another helyige Gemora in Sanhedrin (108b) states that the previous medrish is not the entire story: that three copulated in the tayva and all were punished. Taka who? The dog, the raven, and Cham the minuvil. How the heylige Gemora knew that the dog and the raven had relations in the Teyva, nu, this I don’t know; was the raven ‘singing like a bird’?
Chazal in Brayshis Rabba states that Cham’s descendants were the original tinkele (colored people), ver veist? The miforshim add that Cham’s punishment was a darkening of the skin. Can you imagine such a gifeliche (terrible) punishment? How many hours have you laydigeyers (oisvorfs) sat in the sun schmearing lotions all over yourselves trying to darken your skin? This was the punishment for having sex in the tayva? Oif mir gizugt. Nu, if only tanning was so easy.
And just when you thought things couldn’t get any worse and perhaps safe to go back into the water……. in the very next aliya we read the story of the Tower of Babel. Noiach’s descendents gathered in the Babylonian valley and started building a tower in an attempt to reach the heavens and battle the RBSO. What were they thinking? The RBSO wasn’t at all happy with their behavior and again meted out swift punishment. He confused their language so that “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other,” causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
Alas all is not lost. As Parshas Noiach concludes, Avram (later Abraham), is introduced and the tide begins to turn for the better.
And before I go…an excellent vort the Oisvorfer heard some years back but can’t recall the source. Rashi, in discussing whether or not Noiach was a truly righteous person states azoy: Yesh Meraboysaynu (a number of Rabbis) state the he was really a good guy- V’yesh shedorshin Oisi lignay (others say he wasn’t all that good.) Notice the words: when it mentions that he was good, the words used are Yesh Meraboysaynu- a number of our Rabbis. The word Raboysaynu is missing when it mentions that ‘others’ say that Noiach wasn’t all that good. Said my chaver: those speaking loshoin horo about Noiach are not called Rabbis! If only that was emes…
A gitten shabbis- happy sailing!