The New Heavens and the New Earth...
By Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom
For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain
before me, says Hashem, so shall your seed and your name remain. (Yeshaya
WHAT WE DID LAST WEEK...
In last week's shiur, we discussed and analyzed the question attributed to
R. Yitzhak, cited by Rashi in his opening comment on the Torah:
The Torah should have begun with "This month is unto you the first of the
months" (Sh'mot 12:2) which is the first Mitzvah by which Yisra'el were
In providing an expansive approach to R. Yitzhak's answer, we raised, inter
alia, the thorny issue of the timing of Sefer B'resheet. Three potential
times were suggested for the original Divine presentation of Sefer B'resheet:
A. Har Sinai (depending how we understand the reference to Sefer haB'rit in
B. Arvot Mo'av (as that is the first time that we encounter a [presumably]
complete Sefer Torah)
C. Pre-Sinai (in Egypt) - as we found in the Midrash (see also the comments
of R. Bahya ibn Pakuda in Hovot haL'vavot in this regard)
(to clarify one point from last week's shiur - regarding the Pre-Sinai
"Revelation" of Sefer B'resheet: According to the simple reading of the
cited Midrash - Sh'mot Rabbah 5:22 - the narratives found in B'resheet were
accessible, in written form, to the slave-nation of the B'nei Yisra'el
while in Egypt. That does not mean that the entire Sefer was not
"re-revealed" to Mosheh [somewhere between Sinai and Arvot Mo'av]; as
indicated last week, there is an explicit comment of Rashi in BT Hullin that
gives Mosheh an editorial hand in the formation of Sefer B'resheet. Besides
that, since all of the Torah is regarded - Halakhically as well as
Hashkafically - as Torat Mosheh, reflecting that unequaled level of
prophecy, it follows that Mosheh must have received it at some point during
his career as a Navi. Nevertheless, it may very well be that the entire
Sefer, including all of the critical narratives, was accessible in its
"pre-Mosaic" form to his brothers and sisters in Egypt.)
In last week's shiur, we reviewed the ten major narratives of Parashat
B'resheet from the putative perspective of the earliest potential audience
of the Sefer (the slaves in Egypt) - with an eye towards responding to R.
Yitzhak's challenge by finding a meaningful message in each of these
narratives for that target readership.
...AND WHAT WE'LL DO THIS WEEK
Although we will take a somewhat similar approach to Parashat Noach, the
nature of the Parashah and its overwhelming emphasis on the flood and its
aftermath dictates a slight variation on last week's analysis.
[Although it would be intriguing to compare the "Generation of the Flood",
their indictment and sentence with those of the "Generation of the 'Palagah'
(dispersion)", we will have to leave that for another year]
We will analyze some significant features in the description of the flood
and its eventual subsiding, then take note of how these features would have
impacted on each of the three possible original target audiences of Sefer
As pointed out last week, understanding how the message was heard by the
original audience is always helpful in learning how to "hear" the narrative
in contemporary terms. This is a well-worn, tried and true path of the
Hakh'mei haM'sorah, Rishonim and Aharonim alike - and we will not hesitate
to tread, warily yet confidently, in their footsteps.
THE FLOOD - A SECOND CREATION
The world which God created, as presented in B'resheet 1:1-2:3, is markedly
similar to the world which was redeemed after the flood. Even a cursory look
at the description of the "new world" of Parashat Noach reveals numerous
literary associations with the creation of Parashat B'resheet. [This
comparison itself does not represent an innovative approach - see Rashi's
comments at 7:11]
Here is a comparison of the major stages of Creation, as presented in the
first chapter of B'resheet - and the significant stages of "re-creation" (or
"restoration) of the post-flood world as outlined in Chapter 8 of B'resheet
(I am indebted to R. Joshua Berman's illuminating and enlightening
presentation in Megadim 9:9-14 - highly recommended):
Day 1: "...and a wind from God moved upon the face of the waters" (1:2)
After the Flood: "God made a wind to pass over the earth" (8:1)
Day 2: " 'Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it
divide the waters from the waters' " (1:6)
After the Flood: "The fountains also of the deep and the windows of
heaven were stopped, and the rain from heaven was restrained" (8:2)
Day 3: " '...let the waters under the heaven be gathered together to one
place, and let the dry land appear...' " (1:9)
After the Flood: "...in the tenth month, on the first day of the month,
were the tops of the mountains seen." (8:5)
Day 3: " 'Let the earth bring forth grass, herb yielding seed, and fruit
tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the
earth...' " (1:11)
After the Flood: "And the dove came in to him in the evening; and, lo, in
her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off; so Noach knew that the waters were
abated from off the earth." (8:11)
Day 4: " 'Let there be lights in the firmament of the heaven to divide
the day from the night; and let them be for signs, and for seasons, and for
days, and years...' " (1:14)
After the Flood: " 'While the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and
cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.' "
(8:22) - [note also that in 8:12, the dove comes to Noach "in the
evening", the first mention of any distinct time of day after the flood;
evidently, night and day were blurred during the entire cataclysm]
Day 5: " '...let the waters be filled with many kinds of living
creatures, and birds that may fly above the earth in the open firmament of
heaven.' " (1:20)
After the Flood: "And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the
dove; which did not return back to him any more" (8:12 - i.e. the dove
returned to its earlier station as a "bird that flies above the earth")
Day 6: " 'Let the earth bring forth all kinds of living creatures,
cattle, and creeping things, and beasts of the earth after their kind; and
it was so...let us make man in our image, after our likeness...'...and God
blessed them, and God said to them, 'Be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth, and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the
sea, and over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves
upon the earth.' " (1:24,26,28)
After the Flood: " 'Go out from the ark, you, and your wife, and your
sons, and your sons' wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing
that is with you, of all flesh, both of bird, and of cattle, and of every
creeping thing that creeps upon the earth; that they may breed abundantly in
the earth, and be fruitful, and multiply upon the earth.' " (8:16-17)
(note that here, unlike the "first" creation in B'resheet, Mankind comes
before the animals; we will address this below.)
Besides these fairly clear parallels, the denouement of the first Creation
is, of course, the institution of Shabbat. Even though there is no explicit
parallel in the Noach narrative, the final phrase of Chapter 8 - " 'While
the earth remains, seed time and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and
winter, and day and night shall not cease' " - uses the same root -
(Sh*B*T*) as does the word used twice in the Shabbat narrative (2:1-3) to
describe God's ceasing creative activity.
All in all, the Torah does seem to be telling us that the world which Noach
re-entered was a re-creation of the first world, a world which became so
polluted and corrupt that it was sentences to an Orwellian "non-worldhood".
Here we pose two questions:
A) How was this world different from the first - what would guarantee its
B) What possible import could this message contain for each - or any - of
the three generations who first read Sefer B'resheet?
VIOLATIONS AND LIBATIONS
Before addressing these two questions, I'd like to raise a [seemingly]
irrelevant question as a challenge to two comments of Rabbenu Ovadiah
S'forno in later Humashim.
The Torah refers to the daily Korban Tamid as "a continual burnt offering,
which was performed at Mount Sinai for a sweet savor, a sacrifice made by
fire to Hashem." (Bamidbar 28:6). In other words, the daily Tamid is a
reminder/reexperience of the offerings brought at the foot of Sinai in the
wake of the Revelation. S'forno notes that although there were no libations
("N'sakhim") or meal offerings ("M'nachot") brought with the original
offerings, they were commanded as part of the Korban Tamid:
"And a tenth part of an ephah of flour for a meal offering, mixed with the
fourth part of a hin of beaten oil....and the drink offering of it shall be
the fourth part of a hin for one lamb..." (ibid. 5,7)
S'forno is also sensitive to the fact that the command regarding bringing
N'sakhim and M'nachot to accompany personal offerings is presented in the
Torah directly in the aftermath of the sin of the scouts (Bamidbar 15:1-16)
He sees these two introductions of the obligation of N'sakhim and M'nachot
as more than coincidental: Until the sin of the Golden Calf, there was not
Divine intent to have N'sakhim (nor M'nachot) brought with any offering;
subsequent to that grievous transgression, we were commanded to bring
N'sakhim and M'nachot to accompany communal offerings (such as the Korban
As a consequence of the sin of the scouts (and the people's rejection of the
Land), God commanded us to bring N'sakhim and M'nachot with personal
offerings as well.
Our third question is one of cause and effect:
Why does the S'forno align these particular sins with the increased
obligations regarding wine and meal offerings? In other words, what is the
relationship between the sin of the golden calf and the obligation to bring
N'sakhim and M'nachot with communal offerings - and what is the relationship
between the sin of the scouts and the obligation to bring N'sakhim and
M'nachot with personal offerings?
We will return to this question after addressing our first question - how
was this world different from the recently destroyed "first" world?
THE "TEIVAH" EFFECT
As several commentators have pointed out, the timing scheme in the flood
narrative is arranged in a chiasmus, as follows:
A (7 days): " 'Come you and all your house into the ark; for you have I seen
righteous before me in this generation. Of every clean beast you shall take
to you seven pairs, the male and his female; and of beasts that are not
clean one pair, the male and his female. Of birds also of the air by seven
pairs, the male and the female; to keep seed alive upon the face of all the
earth. For in another seven days I will cause it to rain upon the earth.' "
B (40 days): "And the rain was upon the earth forty days and forty nights."
C (150 days): "And the waters prevailed upon the earth a hundred and fifty
C' (150 days): "And the waters returned from off the earth continually; and
after the end of the hundred and fifty days the waters were abated." (8:3)
B' (40 days): "And it came to pass at the end of forty days, that Noach
opened the window of the ark which he had made" (8:6)
A' (7 days): "And he stayed yet other seven days; and sent forth the dove;
which did not return back to him any more. And it came to pass in the six
hundredth and first year, in the first month, the first day of the month,
the waters were dried up from off the earth; and Noach removed the covering
of the ark, and looked, and, behold, the face of the ground was dry. And in
the second month, on the twenty seventh day of the month, was the earth
dried. And God spoke to Noach, saying, 'Go out from the ark, you, and your
wife, and your sons, and your sons' wives with you.' " (8:12-16)
When the Torah presents a chiastic structure, whether in narrative or
legalistic text, it does so in order to highlight the "center" (see our
discussion at http://www.torah.org/advanced/mikra/5757/sh/dt.57.2.04.html).
What sits at the center of this "reversed chiasmus" ("reversed" because the
movements described in the first set of verses - entrance into the ark and
the onset of the flood - are reversed in the second)? In other words, what
changed to allow Noach to come out and to allow the world to be restored?
One of the significant differences between the "old world" and the
post-flood world is the introduction of a covenant - Adam had no covenantal
relationship with his Creator. God blessed Man, provided him with all of
his needs, commanded, chastised, punished and exiled him - but, at no point,
was Adam a "covenantal partner" with God. Indeed, there is very little
(aside from naming animals and siring the next generation) that Adam "does"
which is productive. Adam is presented in the Torah chiefly as the passive
recipient of Divine favor.
No member of humanity is any different - including Noach. (The one
exception may be the offerings brought by Kayyin and Hevel). This is true
only up until the time of the flood (I am following S'forno's interpretation
at 6:18). Note what has changed between the first set of verses, where
Noach enters the Ark, and the second set, announcing his impending exit:
Whereas, in the first set, we are told that "...Hashem closed him in"
(7:16), in the aftermath of the flood we read: "...and Noach removed the
covering of the ark..." (8:13). Noach, who had entered the Ark not of his
own volition (see Rashi at 7:8) and who was sealed in by God, suddenly
becomes an active participant in his own rescue, opening the cover of the
Ark. Note that the Hebrew word used to describe God's sealing him in -
S*G*R - is a direct antonym of the word used for Noach's opening of the
cover - P*T*Ch.
"AND IT WAS VERY GOOD..."
At this point, it is prudent to note one more similarity between Creation
(Chapter 1) and re-Creation (Chapter 8). Both narratives end with a
description of God's pleasure:
Day 6: "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very
good. And there was evening and there was morning, the sixth day." (1:31)
After the Flood: "And the Lord smelled the pleasing odor; and the Lord said
in his heart, I will not again curse the ground any more for man's sake; for
the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again
destroy every living thing, as I have done." (8:21)
Note, however, a significant difference between these two:
In the first narrative, the Divine affirmation of Creation comes after His
blessing to Mankind (1:28); after the flood, God takes pleasure and "removes
the curse" from the earth - and only after that blesses Mankind: "And God
blessed Noach and his sons, and said to them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and
replenish the earth." (9:1) (note the strong similarity between this
blessing and that given to Adam in 1:28).
Again, we see that it is Man's role in the creation - which comes along with
the first covenant (9:9-17) - which is cause for his blessing. Unlike the
first creation, where blessings were part and parcel of the Divine mandate
and were, perforce, unearned by the recipient of that blessing, the
antediluvian world is built on a covenanted relationship where Man "earns"
God's favor and blessing.
How was that accomplished? What did Noach do - besides taking his own steps
to leave the Ark - to gain Divine favor?
KORBAN - THE SYMBOL OF MAN'S ROLE IN THE COVENANT
"And Noach built an altar to Hashem; and took of every clean beast, and of
every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar." (8:20)
Noach's response to salvation was bringing offerings to God. Although
Kayyin and Hevel already offered up sacrifices, this is the first instance
where an offering is presented as emblematic of a relationship that the
Makriv (one bringing the offering) has with God. Noach's reaction to being
saved, to weathering the ordeal of the flood and to being given a second
chance was to offer up some of his bounty to God.
This offering motivated God's blessing for Noach, his descendants and his
"And Hashem smelled the pleasing odor; and Hashem said in His heart, I will
not again curse the ground any more for Man's sake; for the imagination of
Man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living
thing, as I have done." (8:21)
Since Noach has assumed a measure of responsibility for his relationship
with God, there is now room for a covenant - which "obligates" God to
maintain the world, its seasons and its inhabitants.
BACK TO THE S'FORNO
We can now understand the S'forno's cryptic comments regarding the
introduction of libations and meal-offerings as accompanying offerings.
When the people sinned by constructing and worshipping the golden calf, they
were blemished as a nation and sentenced to die (see Sh'mot 32:10). After
Mosheh begged, negotiated and demanded God's forgiveness, it was necessary
for the people to demonstrate a greater level of involvement in their own
side of the covenant. A symptom of that greater involvement was the
innovation of the "Second Tablets". Unlike the "First Tablets", given at the
end of the first set of forty days at Sinai, this set was carved by Mosheh.
The human engraving of these second tablets, so much inferior to the Divine
inscription on the first set, has its own glory. Man's greater role in
maintaining his own "side" of the covenant insures an adherence to that
covenant commensurate to the greater investment on the part of the people.
The added offerings of N'sakhim and M'nachot, just like Noach's offering at
the genesis of the new world, are a reflection of a greater level of
commitment and investment in the covenant on the part of the B'nei Yisra'el.
However we understand the sin of the golden calf, it is abundantly clear
that the sin of the scouts (Bamidbar 13-14) is deliberately portrayed as a
"sister sin" to it. Note, for example, how Mosheh utilizes the Divine
attributes of compassion - first revealed in the aftermath of the calf
episode - in his plea for Divine forgiveness of the sin of the scouts
(compare Sh'mot 34:6-7 with Bamidbar 14:17-18).
If the nation sinned as a whole at Sinai, worshipping the golden calf, their
crime was much more personal and private when they wept "on that night"
after hearing the report of the scouts. Although the nation congregated, the
Torah portrays their fears and weeping as private and individualistic, in
contradistinction to the communal "celebration" around the newly constructed
It stands to reason that if the Torah's antidote to the communal sin of the
golden calf was the addition of the N'sakhim and M'nachot to accompany
communal offerings, that the appropriate response to the (mass) private sin
of the scouts was to add the obligation of N'sakhim and M'nachot to private
(We will address these comments of S'forno again, taking a more detailed
approach to the relationship between these particular sins and the wine and
meal offerings. Look for it later in the year.)
Now that we understand the S'forno's explanation of the relationship between
Korbanot and increased responsibility on the part of the Makriv, we can
explain the difference between the world which Noach left when he entered
the Ark and the one he rebuilt when he exited.
In the antediluvian world, Man was the beneficiary of God's bounty and
blessing (which is why Mankind is introduced after the animals - he is the
ultimate creature, but no more than a creature).
On the other hand, the postdiluvian world presents Mankind as invested in
the survival and success of this venture. This is the essential difference,
first alluded to in Noach's behavior inside the Ark. Note that when Noach
opened the cover, the Torah tells us that he " looked" - Hebrew *Vayar'* -
the exact word used to describe God's observations of the antediluvian
world. (compare with B'resheet 1:4,12,18,21,31 and, most significantly, 6:5
We are now in position to properly address the second question above:
What possible import could this message contain for each - or any - of the
three generations who first read Sefer B'resheet?
For the generation of slaves in Egypt: Their oppressed existence, suffering
under the heel of a foreign power, will ultimate end, as did the unjust
world before the flood. They must understand, however, that the "new world"
awaiting them beyond the Reed Sea, will be one which obligates them to play
a more active role in their covenantal relationship.
For the generation at Sinai: The "fall" in the shadow of Sinai, that
terrible crime which sullied the pristine purity generated by the Revelation
(see BT Shabbat 146a), impacted on the rest of their existence, as well as
the rest of Jewish history (see Sh'mot 32:34). For this generation, the
message of the flood and the "new world" is that they would have another
chance, but that they would have to bear an increased share of the
responsibility for the covenant with God (note how closely the "post-Egel"
covenant is linked to scrupulous observance of God's command - cf. Sh'mot
For the generation at Arvot Mo'av: The message of the flood and its
aftermath would have the most significant impact. Subsequent to the many
failures during their sojourn in the desert, the story promises the
possibility of building a new world once they enter the Land - but
concomitantly commits them to assuming a greater sense of responsibility for
the success of their national endeavor, to build a "kingdom of Kohanim and a
Text Copyright © 2013 by Rabbi Yitzchak Etshalom and Torah.org. The author is Educational Coordinator of the Jewish Studies Institute of the Yeshiva of Los Angeles.