Introduction to Parashat Noach from Midrash Hagadol
by R' David ben Amram z"l (Aden; 14th cent.)
"With the permission of the One who resides in the awesome
heavens - / He is Holy and Sanctified in the heavens and the
earth, / He does kindness and justice and charity on earth. / He
summons the waters and pours them upon the face of the earth
[Amos 5:8], To make it known that there is a G-d Who judges upon
the earth. / For the one [i.e., Noach] who walked
straightforwardly before Him, He fulfilled [the verse (Yishayah
57:13), `The one who trusts in Me will have a portion in the
world.' / He called him [Noach], `The restorer of paths' and the
`repairer of the breach' [see Yishayah 58:12]. / So may He
fulfill [His word] in our day and grab onto the corners of the
earth [to gather in the exiles], / For Your nation is entirely
righteous, forever they will inherit the earth.
"Blessed is His Name, He Whose strength makes the world tremble,
/ Together, all His troops acknowledge Him and with their mouths
speak of Him. / He chooses His people from among the seventy
nations, / And He distinguishes us for His honor from those who
wander in confusion. / He has given us that which lights up the
eye [i.e., the Torah], a faith which gives pleasure, / He has
made us so fortunate as to find salvation through it [the Torah],
/ As was written by the noble among the shepherds [i.e., King
David, (Tehilim 1:1)], / `Fortunate is the man who has not walked
in the path of the wicked'."
"Noach walked with G-d." (6:9)
The Aramaic translation Targum Onkelos comments: "Noach walked
in [the path of] the fear of G-d."
R' Eliezer David Gruenwald z"l (1867-1928; prominent Hungarian
rabbi) explains Onkelos' statement: The gemara (Yoma 86a)
interprets the verse in Shema (Devarim 6:5), "You shall love
Hashem, your G-d," to mean: "You shall cause G-d to be loved by
others." How is this implied in the verse? R' Gruenwald
explains by contrasting a person who serves G-d out of love with
one who serves G-d out of fear.
One who serves G-d out of fear attempts to perfect himself so
that he will not be punished. Then he asks himself, "Will I be
punished if those around me do not serve G-d properly?" He
concludes that he will not be punished, and he makes no effort to
cause others to improve themselves.
On the other hand, one who serves G-d out of love is not
content unless everyone loves G-d. Therefore, he tries hard to
cause others to behave properly.
Chazal criticize Noach for not rebuking, or at least praying
for, his generation. It seems that he was not concerned with
whether they served Hashem properly. Why? Onkelos tells us:
"Noach walked in [the path of] the fear of G-d."
The midrash relates that Noach prayed (in the words of Tehilim
142:8): "Release my soul from confinement to acknowledge Your
Name; on me, the righteous will be a crown, when You bestow
kindness upon me." R' Chanoch Henach Dov of Alesk z"l (see
biography below) explains:
Sometimes, when a person does not merit to reach a particular
level or to experience a miracle, Hashem bestows a kindness upon
him and joins the souls of tzaddikim to his soul so that he will
have additional merits. This is what happened when Hashem wanted
to extract Noach from the ark - He "crowned" Noach with the souls
of other tzaddikim so that their collective merit would stand in
good stead for Noach.
R' Chanoch adds: This is alluded to by the phrase (Bereishit
8:4), "va'tanach ha'taivah" / "The ark came to rest." The word
"va'tanach" appears one other time in the Torah, in the verse
(Bemidbar 11:26), "The spirit rested upon them." Noach, too, had
a new spirit rest upon him at the time he was rescued from the
(Lev Sameach: Derech Ha'tefilah p. 45)
"They departed with them from Ur Kasdim to go to the land of
Canaan; they arrived at Charan and they settled there."
R' Moshe Yehoshua Hager shlita (the Vizhnitzer Rebbe in Bnei
Brak) related: A chassid of R' Dov Ber, the Maggid of Mezeritch
(died 1772), devoted his entire life to strengthening Torah
observance in his community. In his old age, he decided to
retire in Eretz Yisrael and devote his last years to his own
spiritual growth. Telling no one, lest his rebbe object, he sold
all his belongings and, together with his wife, left town.
Arriving at the port of Istanbul, the last stop before Eretz
Yisrael, he began to have second thoughts. "What if I cannot
find like-minded Jews in Eretz Yisrael with whom to study?"
"What if I end up having to find a job to stay alive?" Bothered
by these thoughts, he wandered the streets of Istanbul.
Suddenly, he met another Jew, and as they talked, they realized
that they were both chassidim of R' Ber. The second chassid
said, "I still remember the last Torah lesson that I heard from
our rebbe. It was Parashat Noach. R' Ber asked, `If Avraham was
on his way to Eretz Yisrael, why did he settle in Charan? Also,
why was a command from Hashem [in next week's parashah] necessary
to get Avraham to finish his trip?'
"Our teacher, R' Ber, answered: `Rashi teaches that Avraham and
Sarah used to proselytize monotheism among their neighbors, and
they were very successful at this. The yetzer hara could not
stand this, so he said to Avraham, "Why don't you settle in Eretz
Yisrael?" Avraham listened, not realizing that it was the yezter
hara giving him this advice. However, once Avraham had left home
and could no longer influence his neighbors, the yetzer hara was
satisfied, and the urge to go to Eretz Yisrael left Avraham; he
settled in Charan. Therefore, Hashem came along and told Avraham
to finish the trip. "This is My will as well," Hashem told
The chassid who was on his way to the Holy Land realized that
this was a message for him also, and he finished his trip.
(Quoted in Otzrot Tzaddikei U'Geonei Ha'dorot)
"If someone is running [in a public place] and another
person is walking there, and the one who is walking is
injured by the one who is running, the latter is liable to
pay damages, for he has no right to run [in a public place].
When is this true? On an ordinary weekday. However, on
Erev Sabbat / Friday bein ha'shmashot / in the twilight, he
is not liable for he has permission to run."
(Shulchan Aruch: Choshen Mishpat 378:8)
The source of this halachah is Tractate Bava Kamma 32a-b, which
states: "What is the nature of the permission that he has? This
follows the teaching of Rabbi Chaninah, who said, `Come! Let us
go out toward the bride, the queen [i.e., Shabbat]'." The gemara
concludes that the sage Rabbi Yanai used to wrap himself in his
cloak and walk out, saying, "Bo'ee kallah! Bo'ee kallah!" /
"Enter, O' bride! Enter O' bride!"
There appears to be a disagreement among poskim / halachic
authorities in what circumstances a person who is running on
Friday afternoon or evening is exempt from paying for damage that
R' Moshe Isserless z"l ("Rema"; 1525-1572) states that we
presume that a person who is running is doing so to prepare for
Shabbat. However, if we know that he is taking care of his
personal business at that time, he is liable for damages that he
R' Yehoshua Falk Katz z"l (Sefer Me'irat Enayim or "Sema"; died
1614) quotes Rambam who states that one is permitted to run so
that he will not be busy when Shabbat arrives. This implies,
writes Sema, that even if one is running to finish up his own
work before Shabbat, he still is not liable.
R' Meshulam David Soloveitchik shlita (the Brisker Rosh Yeshiva
in Yerushalayim) suggests that there is no disagreement; rather
Rema and Rambam are addressing two separate time slots.
Specifically, Rema's halachah applies all of Friday afternoon,
the time when the most intense Shabbat preparations take place.
During that time, one who is running in connection with Shabbat
preparations is not liable for damage that he causes, whereas one
who is taking care of his own business is liable. However,
Rambam is speaking of late on Friday afternoon, near twilight,
when people are usually preparing themselves for Shabbat. (This
is implied by Rambam's language: "so that he will not be busy
when Shabbat arrives.") At that time, even one who is running to
finish up his personal business is not liable, for that is part
of his personal Shabbat preparation. This is because proper
Shabbat preparations require that one be finished in sufficient
time that he can sit, dressed in his Shabbat attire and with a
proper, serious frame of mind, waiting for the Shabbat Queen to
(Me'orai Ha'moadim Vol. II, p.4)
R' Chanoch Henach Dov Maier z"l
R' Chanoch Henach Dov was born in 1800. At age seven, he
visited the "Chozeh" of Lublin, who predicted a great future for
the lad. For his part, R' Chanoch said that he kept the visage
of the Chozeh in his mind's eye for the remainder of his life and
was inspired by it.
R' Chanoch married Frieda Rokeach, daughter of the first Belzer
Rebbe, R' Shalom. R' Chanoch testified that he and his father-in-
law stayed awake together studying for more than 3,000 nights.
Frieda engaged in the rag trade to support her husband's Torah
study. Once, she visited R' Yisrael of Ruzhin, one of the
leading chassidic rebbes of the day, and he said to her: "You are
worthy of being a rebbe in your own right, and you are selling
Following the death of R' Berish Flam, R' Chanoch was elected
rabbi of Alesk. There, he began conducting himself as a
chassidic rebbe, and many stories are told of the miracles he
performed. Some of the leading rebbes of the next generation
were influenced by him including R" Yechezkel Shraga Halberstam
of Shiniva and R' Chananiah Yom Tov Lipa Teitelbaum of Sighet.
R' Chanoch passed away on 1 Elul 5644 / 1884. It is said that
he knew that his end was near when he did not have the strength
to serve as mohel and sandek simultaneously, as was his custom.
He left behind a number of works, a number of them entitled Lev
Sameach. One of these is on the subject of prayer, a form of
Divine service in which R' Chanoch was known to have excelled.
(Source: Encyclopedia L'chachmei Galicia p. 862)