This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein in Z’chus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandfather Moshe Ben Breindel, and my grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Zalman Michael Ben Golda Mirel
-Ariella Golda Bas Amira Tova
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
הַפְטָרָה שֶל פַּרָֺשַת נֹחַ ֺ
“Deeper than the Waters of Noach”
The most obvious tie between Parshas Noach and its well-known Haftarah from Yishaiyah [54:1-55:5] is the reference which the Navi here makes to the flood during the times of Noach, “Ki Mei Noach Zos Li…”-“For this is [as] the Waters of Noach to Me…” [54:9], that just as Hashem swore to never flood the world again, so too, His anger won’t forever flare at His people. There is only one other passage in Navi which mentions Noach explicitly and it’s a vague one in Yechezkeil [14:14-20], so our passage from Yishaiyah fits the role easily.
Now, perhaps some might ask a fair question as to whether or not the passing reference to Noach in this passage is enough to justify making the entire passage the Haftarah for Parshas Noach. Indeed, perhaps a fair Haftarah would be one that fundamentally captures and reiterates the story and lessons of Noach to compliment it. For example—although not the best example, Sefer Yonah shares a lot of thematic and moral parallels with Noach. Yonah is obviously an integral Haftarah on Yom Kippur and is read in close enough proximity to Noach. But, even if there are other stories in Tanach that somehow capture Noach’s story well, perhaps a fair counter-argument is that Noach is explicitly referenced here, and so, that connection should reasonably win out.
However, what if I told you that Noach was not just a passing reference point in this Haftarah? And what if I told you that in this Haftarah’s connection to the larger “Parshas Noach” is deeper than the “Waters of Noach”? In other words, beyond that one line that explicitly references Noach’s story, there are important key references that bring out a larger and more fundamental lesson of Parshas Noach as a whole.
Well, where are these other “Parshas Noach” references? And what is this larger and more fundamental lesson?
In order to answer those questions, we’ll obviously have to see some more text from the Haftarah. But, we’ll also have to consider the following question: What is role does Parshas Noach play in our Torah? We know that the Torah does not merely tell us history because “it happened.” We also know that the no “Sidrah” exists in a vacuum. Each Sidrah exists in a larger context of our Torah. Where does Parshas Noach take us?
Before we see the text, let’s talk about this question. If we consider the spiritual decline that occurred towards the end of Bereishis, we can understand that Noach serves as Hashem’s “plan B” for the world. Hashem seeks to “start over,” so that through Noach, He can further fine-tune and develop mankind. But, after the Dor HaMabul (Generation of the Deluge/Flood), we know that Noach briefly and quite unceremoniously exits the scene, and then generations later, there is another flawed Dor HaFlagah (Generation of the Dispersion). Apparently, Noach’s “hurrah” was short-lived and perhaps fundamentally lacking. This might in part explain why Chazal famously view Noach as having lacked something. But, indeed, what is clear is that although “Parshas Noach” is most certainly about Noach’s contribution, it does not end with Noach. With whom does it end? To whom are we introduced at the end of “Parshas Noach”? What is the point of continuity between “Parshas Noach” and the rest of the Torah?
Avraham Avinu and Sarah Imeinu! Then, obviously, they went by “Avram” and “Sarai.” Thus, Parshas Noach serves to segue from the wicked generations of the Deluge and the Dispersion to the righteous Avraham and Sarah, the forerunners of Hashem’s chosen nation. In this light, we might suggest that no differently than the way history is really the origin of Hashem’s people, Parshas Noach is really the origin of Avraham and Sarah as we will shortly see from this Haftarah.
With this in mind, let us see some text, beginning with the opening of the Haftarah [Yishaiyah 54:1]: “Rani Akarah Lo Yaladah Pitzchi Rinah V’Tzahali Lo Chalah…”-“Sing, O barren one who has not given birth, break out in song and be jubilant, she who has had no labor pains…”
Whom do these words remind you of? Who is the barren one who has not given birth? Obviously, that is Sarah Imeinu! This verse directly parallels our verse at the end of Noach [Bereishis 11:30], “Vahtehi Sarai Akarah Ein Lah Valad”-“And Sarai was barren, she had no offspring.”
What is quite fascinating is that the Navi is telling her to sing and be jubilant. Why? Apparently, as sad as being barren is, the Navi foresees hope. Thus, the Navi continues to reassure the barren one, in the simple context, the city of Yerushalayim, telling her to “broaden her tents” because she will not remain desolate, that but that her offspring would spread forth and ultimately inherit the nations [Yishaiyah 54:2-4]. But indeed, this too, sounds like a reference to Avraham and Sarah. They dwelled in tents and broadened those tents to accept guests, and as a result, they would ultimately bear offspring who become Hashem’s treasured people!
Now, if we continue through the Haftarah, the parallels to “Parshas Noach” run further. For example, the Navi continues to say that although mountains move and hills falter, Hashem’s Chessed (kindness) endures forever [54:10]. Now, last time I checked, mountains don’t move, at least not visibly. Perhaps, over thousands and thousands of years, they shift slightly. And it could be that that is the Navi’s point exactly, that even mountains shift ever so slightly, Hashem’s Chessed, whatever it means, does not shift (even if it appears to). And there is undoubtedly an important lesson there regarding the eternality of Hashem’s Chessed. But, you know what? In the times of the Flood, mountains might have shifted rapidly. We know that the highest mountain of the time, Har Ararat, was completely submerged in the flood waters. But at the end, the destruction stopped and it was Hashem’s Chessed that allowed the world to start up again.
In the next verse, we have another nice flood reference as the Navi reassures the “Aniyah So’arah”-“Storm-Afflicted one” that there will be good to come [54:11].
But, then, the Navi seems to possibly take us back to Avraham and Sarah as it assures that “V’Chal Banayich Limudei Hashem V’Rav Shelom Banayich”-“And all of your children will be students of Hashem, and abundant peace will [ultimately] be for your children” [54:13]. Whose children are the true students of Hashem if not those descended from and “converted” by Avraham and Sarah. Indeed, Chazal tell us to read “Banayich”-“your sons” as “Bonayich”-“your builders” [Brachos 64A], which is reminiscent of how Sarah actually gives a handmaiden to Avraham with the intentions of being “built up” vicariously through her [Bereishis 16:2]. We know that Sarah does not get built up through that union, and that Avraham and Sarah’s true legacy gets built up by the true “builders,” their shared progeny who learn Hashem’s ways!
As we’ve now seen a couple of key parallels between the Sidrah and its Haftarah, we might be bothered by a new question. If these references are indeed speaking to our Sidrah, why then is the Haftarah continuously switching back and forth between Noach and Avraham?
And the following answer, if it is correct, is monumental. Noach was a Tzaddik (righteous individual), undoubtedly. The Torah tells us that. But, he is not the forerunner of Klal Yisrael. Chazal and all of the commentators talk about what it was that Noach lacked and many even contrasted him specifically from Avraham, but the point is that Avraham and Sarah, not through mere righteousness, but through their exemplary toil for Chessed and outreach, end up taking the reward for the generations that preceded them and the leave with the lasting legacy. Perhaps the back-and-forth in this Haftarah alludes to that contrast.
Now, if we continue to consider the contrast between the Noach and Avraham eras that are possibly being referenced, the following verse takes on new significance:
The Navi declares [55:1], “Hoy Kal Tzamei Lechu Mayim Va’Asher Ein Lo Kasef Lechu Shivru VeEcholu Ulechu Shivru BeLo Chesef U’VeLo Mechir Yayin V’Chalav”-“Ho, all who are thirsty, go and drink water, and whoever has no money, go and buy bread—and go buy it without money, and without barter [exchange], wine and milk.” On the one hand, we have a reference to water, but not waters of destruction. It is healthy water of kindness. Moreover, there is no robbery as in Noach’s era. Rather, there is apparently rampant Chessed, generous giving, the quality Avraham is most noted for. Here, the two eras meet and it is clear where one lacked and where the other thrived.
If all of the above is true, there is a yet another monumental takeaway from this Haftarah and the contrast between Noach and Avraham. Parshas Noach begins: “Eileh Toldos Noach”-“These are the progeny of Noach” [Bereishis 6:9]. Ultimately, Noach has progeny, and he has progeny with some degree of ease. Noach’s progeny ultimately branch out into three legions of nations. On the contrary, as we’ve mentioned earlier, when we’re introduced to Avraham and Sarah, they were desolate and barren. Everyone who preceded Avraham and Sarah had children, but at the same time, they all failed G-d and were dismissed. Their children had no relevance. Their legacies were all lost.
And yet, even in their barrenness, Avraham and Sarah begin to forge a legacy that surpassed that of everyone before them. Yes, they ultimately had children later, but they didn’t need offspring to begin that mission! That’s why the Akarah, the barren one, can sing! Indeed, when describing Noach himself, Rashi tells us that it is the “Ma’asim Tovim”-“good deeds” that are a person’s main offspring [to Bereishis 6:9, citing Tanchuma 1 & Bereishis Rabbah 30:6]. Certainly then, G-d’s mission can be accomplished by all, even the “desolate” and “barren.” And as exemplified by Avraham and Sarah, we see that sometimes, the “desolate” and “barren” can thrive where even the fertile will not.
We might conclude that there is certainly a lot beneath the surface. Parshas Noach, certainly, is deeper than the “Waters of Noach.” When we learn it, we cannot ignore its role in the larger context and the lessons implied therein. It is the groundwork for the main characters, a man and his wife, an Akarah, who set out on a larger than life mission, forge a larger than life legacy, and teach us some larger than life lessons.
May we all be Zocheh to toil for Chessed and Avodas Hashem, make an impact on everyone around us, and Hashem should allow us to see and bear the fruits of our labor both on a mirco-scale, and on macro-scale with the coming of the Geulah in the days of Moshiach, Bimheirah Biyomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂