Parshat Noach is the 2nd parsha in Sefer Bereshit (also known as Genesis).
This parsha is verses Genesis 6:9 – 11:32, or a total of 153 verses.
Here is a brief summary for each aliyah.
Before we start, let’s clarify this man’s name. Should it be spelled Noah or Noach?
Well, in Hebrew it’s only two letters: nun – chet. The letter chet has a guttural sound like the CH in Johann Sebastian BaCH or LoCH Ness monster.
Therefore, the best transliteration into English is Noach.
Aliyah 1: Genesis 6:9 – 6:22, 14 verses
The Torah recorded the birth of Noach near the end of Parshat Bereshit. Our parsha informs us that he was a righteous man, perfect in his generations, and he walked with God.
He had three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth. (The name Ham is also two letter in Hebrew: chet – mem. So it should probably be presented in English as Cham. However, it’s almost universally spelled Ham in English bibles.)
God tells Noach that mankind is too corrupt and He will remove them from the earth. He is going to bring a flood on the earth and, therefore, commands Noach to build an ark.
The ark, as described in these verses, was shaped like a shoe box with three floors inside it. God told him to make it 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide, and 30 cubits high.
We don’t know the exact length of the biblical cubit. Most estimates range between 1.5 and 2 feet.
Let’s use 2 feet for ease of computation. Then the ark was to be 600 x 100 x 60 feet.
The upper roof was slanted from the middle of the ark down to sides. This was so rain water would flow off of it.
God told Noach that He would make a covenant with him. The people who would be saved in the ark were Noach and his 3 sons and all of their wives, 8 people total.
There would also be saved in the ark two of each animal – a male and a female. Noach was to build the ark and gather the food that every critter would need.
Aliyah 2: Genesis 7:1 – 7:16, 16 verses
God tells Noach that the flood is coming in 7 days. So Noach, his sons, and the wives go into the ark.
Noach is commanded to bring into the ark 7 pairs of every “clean” animal and bird. The “clean” animals and birds means those that in the future the Jewish people will be permitted to eat and to bring as offerings in the Temple.
As for the “unclean” animals, the original command to bring into the ark a male and a female of each one was still in effect.
God tells Noach that the rain will fall for 40 days and nights.
We also learn that the waters of the flood were a combination of rain water and water gushing forth from springs in the earth.
The flood began when Noach was 600 years old. It started on the 17th day of the 2nd month. There is a dispute in the Gemara about which month is meant.
The opinions are (a) the first month is Nissan and the second month is Iyar, and (b) the first month is Tishrei and the second month is Cheshvan.
Choice (b) is the one that is usually accepted to calculate the dates concerning the flood.
Aliyah 3: Genesis 7:17 – 8:14, 22 verses
This reading takes us through the year of the flood. As we saw in the Parshat Bereshit, Noach was born in the year 1056. The flood came when he was 600 which is the year 1656.
Here are all of the dates mentioned in the Torah:
- 17 Cheshvan 1656 – the flood begins. Rain for 40 days and nights.
- 28 Kislev 1656 – waters increase for another 150 days.
- 1 Sivan 1656 – waters start to recede.
- 17 Sivan 1656 – ark comes to rest on Mount Ararat.
- 1 Av 1656 – the tops of the mountains become visible.
- 10 Elul 1656 – Noach opens the window and sends out the raven.
- 17 Elul 1656 – the dove is sent out.
- 24 Elul 1656 – the dove is sent out a second time.
- 1 Tishrei 1657 – the dove is sent out and does not return. Noach removes the ark cover.
- 27 Cheshvan 1657 – the earth is completely dry.
The above calculation of dates is based on the numbers given in the verses along with Rashi’s commentary.
Aliyah 4: Genesis 8:15 – 9:7, 15 verses
God commands Noach and his family to leave the ark. They are also told to release all of the animals and let them thrive on the earth.
Noach built an altar and offered as burnt offerings (totally consumed by fire) some of the clean animals and birds he had brought on the ark.
God promised that He would not again destroy the world and that the normal seasons would continue.
God blessed Noach and his sons. He commanded them to have children and fill the land. He assured them that the animals would have an intrinsic fear of people.
Noach and his descendants were given permission to eat meat. Adam had been given permission to eat fruits and other plants.
God gave mankind permission to kill and eat animals. But a person who murders another person or commits suicide will be held accountable for that sin.
The commandment to multiply and fill the earth with humans has not been revoked. We should not try to limit the human population of the earth.
Aliyah 5: Genesis 9:8 – 9:17, 10 verses
God makes a covenant with Noach, his sons, their descendants, and all of the animals. He promises to never again destroy all living beings with water.
God declares that the rainbow is to be the sign of this covenant. God says that when He brings clouds into the sky, He will see the rainbow and remember His covenant.
We can learn a couple of important lessons from these verses.
1. A covenant can be made with future generations who are yet to be born. This concept also applies to the covenant between God and the Jewish people made at Mount Sinai.
2. A rainbow is beautiful, but it carries with it a bit of a warning. The rainbow assures us that God will not destroy the entire world with water. However, there is also a hint that God is only withholding a devastating flood because of this covenant.
Aliyah 6: Genesis 9:18 – 10:32, 44 verses
After they left the ark, Noach became a farmer and plated a vineyard. He drank the wine from the vineyard and got drunk.
Noach was abused by his son (Ham) and grandson (Canaan). The written Torah does not clarify exactly what happened to Noach and the commentators suggest several possibilities.
His other sons, Shem and Japheth, covered their father without adding to his shame.
Noach lived 350 years after the flood. He died when he was 950 years old in the year 2006.
Noach did not have any more children after the flood. The offspring of his three sons are listed in Chapter 10.
According to Jewish tradition, these offspring represent the 70 principle nations of the world.
About the only person that we learn any details about is Nimrod. He is described as a “mighty man” and a “mighty hunter.”
These descriptions may make us think Nimrod is being praised. However, most commentators take the approach that “mighty hunter” means he deceived people with his clever words. He became a dictatorial king and subjugated his people.
Bottom line, Nimrod was not a good person. Naming your child after Nimrod is the same as naming a child after any of the tyrants of the past 100 years.
Aliyah 7: Genesis 11:1 – 11:32, 32 verses
The first 9 verses of Chapter 11 are the incident of the Tower of Babel.
God commanded Noach and his family to settle the entire world. See Genesis 9:7.
In this reading we learn that the people had come to the land of Shinar and built a city there. In other words, they settled in one area and did not settle the whole world.
They also started building a tower with the intention of making a name for themselves so that they could not be dispersed.
God stopped their plan by introducing a multitude of languages so that people could no longer understand each other.
The next section of this reading gives us more details about the descendants of Shem. Shem was 100 years old when his son Arpachshad was born.
Here are the descendants of Noach and Shem that the Torah focuses on:
- Noah 1056 – 2006, 950 years
- Shem 1558 – 2158, 600 years
- Arpachshad 1658 – 2096, 438 years
- Shelah 1693 – 2126, 433 years
- Eber 1723 – 2187, 464 years
- Peleg 1757 – 1996, 239 years
- Reu 1787 – 2026, 239 years
- Serug 1819 – 2049, 230 years
- Nahor 1849 – 1997, 148 years
- Terah 1878 – 2083, 205 years
- Abram / Abraham 1948 – 2123, 175 years
Verse 10:26 tells us the dispersion from Babel happened during the lifetime of Peleg. Based on Jewish tradition, the dispersion was in 1996, the year Peleg died.
The last few verses of the parsha introduce us to Abram / Abraham and his immediate family. Abram married Sarai who was barren.
The Torah has written the highlights of the first 2000 years of human history since the creation of man in less than 300 verses! Starting in Parshat Lech Lecha the Torah focuses on Abraham and his family.
Ashkenzic tradition: Isaiah 54:1 – 55:5
Sefardic tradition: Isaiah 54:1 – 10
God assures the Jewish people that He will never destroy them. They may deserve to be punished, but God’s kindness and covenant of peace are permanent.
Here’s an article that looks at Noach and obeying God’s commands.
A note about the images
We don’t know what the ark looked like. The image at the top of this article is clearly not accurate, but it’s instantly recognizable.
The darker image in the middle of this article is undoubtedly more accurate, but still lacking. I think the upper story would stretch the entire length and width of the ark.