The Flood

Genesis 6:9-8:22

Last week’s portion reported that God was dismayed with the deterioration of mankind. He opts to wipe out His creation and start again, selecting the righteous Noah as progenitor. He commands Noah to build a three-story boat of gopher wood and fill it with animals — one male, one female of each, and seven pairs of each clean animal — as well as food for everyone. He tells Noah that He will make it rain for forty days and forty nights and flood the Earth, wiping out all life outside the ark.


The rain begins to fall in Noah’s six hundredth year of life. The waters fill the Earth, covering the mountaintops, and remain there for 150 days before beginning to recede. When Noah notices the water levels dropping, he sends first the raven, then the dove, to see if the land is habitable again. The raven returns from its fruitless search, but the dove brings back an olive branch, now a symbol of peace, from its first foray. On its second trip, it does not return, and Noah realizes it is safe to leave the ark. All told, the family spends one year and ten days aboard the ark.


Upon leaving the ark, Noah makes a thanksgiving offering, and God decides never to wipe out all life again.


The Sages teach that during the flood, the Land of Israel had a special status, which the Israel Bible details. Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi explains that the purpose of the flood was to purify the land, but Israel is inherently pure, and does not need such purification. Although the waters rose over the mountaintops, covering Israel as well, it did not rain there, since the purity of the Land of Israel can never be contaminated. As such, the trees there survived the flood, allowing the dove to return with its olive branch. In addition to the dove being an image of peace, it represents the Jewish nation. Just as the dove found no rest on its first foray into the world, so, too, the Jewish people will never find rest in exile. Like the dove returning to the ark, the Jews will always come back to Israel.


Virtual Classroom Discussion

We are told that Noah is “righteous and whole-hearted” in his generations. (Genesis 6:9) This has prompted rabbis throughout the centuries to argue over the significance of the qualification “in his generations”. What do you think this comment says about Noah’s righteousness?


Comments ( 28 )

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  • Lavinia

    No Ham went in saw his father naked n yes drunk n just covered his father …that was the shame noah felt his son saw him naked … you got big imagination for the story you have just wrote n at the end you admit it …you dont know good one

  • Rory Lennox

    The most important work of Noah is the building of the Ark. If he had been slack in its construction it might have ended humanity. While Noah worked on the construction he also warned all who came within ear shot, concerning the coming flood and showed the people he spoke to that the Ark was the only way to maintain their life. The issue of his over indulgence seems to me is a case of not realizing the purity of the wine that caused it to be stronger that he anticipated.

  • Damian Sco

    Minor correction. It was not Ham that was cursed but Hams offspring Canaan was to serve his 2 brothers forever.

    So either we assume Ham went into his father's tent in order to uncover his father's covering OR to sleep with Noah's wife (which according to Leviticus creates the act of uncovering your own father's nakedness) , OR he saw something Noah did to someone else.

    I guess the final question is, which is further out of character, that a drunk Noah simply went to sleep, then Ham snuck into his tent in order to simply pull the covers off his own father, OR Ham went into his fathers tent to sleep with his own mother. And perhaps with a degree of less possibility, Ham discovered Noah's attempt to sleep with one of his own son's wives before he passed out. I concur, this is the least likely since one of the brothers probably would have reacted to that in a big way. Given the punishment that was NOT TAKEN OUT ON HAM DIRECTLY, I guess I am left with simply not knowing for Ham would not have bragged about committing incest, nor pulling the covers off his father. I give up!

    • Ellie

      Noah did not have a wife at that time.

      • Karen Speller

        Noah did have a wife at the time. Genesis 7:7 says And Noach went in, and his son's and his wife, and his son's wives with him, into the ark, because of the waters of the flood. Then in Genesis 8:15-16 it says And God spoke unto Noach, saying: 'Go forth from the ark, thou, and they wife, and they son's wives with thee.
        And Ham did not uncover his father, his father passed out naked and Ham saw it. You don't just burst into someone's dwelling without knocking or checking first that they are decent. And they be humiliated and embarrassed his father. His brothers covered him and walked in backwards so as to not embarrass him.

  • Damian Sco

    It occurred to me that the word צָדַק is more often used not as "perfect/sinless" or even "righteous" BUT as " justify (used 23x), vs. used only as righteous (10x),).

    רָאִיתִי צַדִּיק לְפָנַי בַּדֹּור הַזֶּֽה for thee have I seen "Justified" before me in this generation.

    Justification is another whole ball game. I don't think our focus should be on whether or how much Noah attained the high mark of being sinless/perfect, since as I said before only the Meshiach and Melchizedek arrived at that pinnacle. HOWEVER, with the word translated as JUSTIFIED, I think we come even closer to the true meaning of the Ark. That the justification of our People will come through the Meshiach as His blood was spilled for us, since without blood there is no forgiveness of sin in His eyes. This Ark was simply a forerunner of what the Meshiach was about to do for us. The focus is not on how good Noah was but on the role of the Ark to justify man's existence on the New Earth HaShem was about to create, just as He created a New Man by the name of Meshiach to carry us through the waters of sin to our Promised Land!

  • Damian Sco

    Noah plants a vineyard, makes wine and becomes intoxicated and falls asleep, naked, in his tent. His youngest son, Ham, sees his father and calls to his older brothers to humiliate Noah. Shem and Japheth instead cover their father out of respect. When Noah awakens, he realizes what his youngest son has done, and curses him to be subservient to his brothers for all time. Meanwhile, he blesses Shem and Japheth.

    And Ham saw what exactly? I have a hard time believing it was purely the nakedness of his father. Where is it written that looking upon your father in the nude either humiliating or a sin? There was some evidence of something else that is not mentioned that must have caused Shem and Japheth to, upon merely the telling of what Ham saw, to induce them to enter the tent backwards.

    Yes, Noah he had fallen asleep drunk. Was being drunk a reflection of the sin of lack of temperance? Since mortal sins are different from the 7 deadly sins (pride, lust, greed, gluttony, envy, sloth, and wrath) I suppose we need to look at the deadly ones for how much humiliation would be caused by the mortal ones. So that tends to focus on either gluttony (which is usually directed at food rather than drink) or LUST? Is it possible to assume there was evidence of another woman in the tent with Noah? Hmmmm… That would tend to touch on being drunk, perhaps, or so I am told. I really can't think of anything else that rises to such a high standard, and well, since Noah's son's were all wed, that would suggest Noah committed the sin of adultery. Of course I am guessing, and if wrong request forgiveness, but with no mention of any fects and having created such a huge negative moment merely by Ham's reporting of WHATEVER he saw, I have to believe it was quite something indeed!

    • Damian Sco

      In lev. 18;7 there is the act of UNCOVERING your father's nakedness, something HAm did NOT DO , at least directly.

      You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father, which is the nakedness of your mother; she is your mother, you shall not uncover her nakedness.

      HOWEVER< in verse 8 it states" 8 You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father's wife; it is your father's nakedness."

      Not to put too fine a point on this, but I wonder if Ham's lifelong punishment comes out of this verse. IF Ham slept with his own mother, that constitutes uncovering Noah's nakedness

      The punishment for this is in v 11 "11 If a man lies with his father's wife, he has uncovered his father's nakedness; both of them shall surely be put to death; their blood is upon them. 12" It strikes me as the only alternative to all this uncovering however, with Ham knowing the punishment as well as Noah would have instructed him , I doubt if he went about bragging to his brothers of the sin of …incest. So I am left with the original interpretation I suggested , which is in Noah's intoxicated state, he simply did not go to sleep naked, for then Noah would have no reason to punish Ham, after all Ham did no uncovering. And if the act of telling his (Ham's) brothers that he has seen, by accident, his father's nakedness without expressly UNCOVERING Noah's body from its covering, I fail to see how this would bring on the DEATH sentence for Ham. Would seeing his father naked be less worse than telling his brothers? If he kept it to himself, would he be suffering a guilty conscience. The ACT of UNCOVERING seems to be the sin, not simply viewing the result or even stating what he has seen, for, as his brothers did, they entered backwards and sinned not at all.
      I repeat, what was the big tsuris about since merely seeing or telling did not rise to the level of Ham's impeachment!

  • Herman Arentsen

    "In his generations" – his generations had been sinful. Seeing them Noah remained faithful to HaShem.
    But also when his generations were righteous, Noah would have been an outstanding person, setting example in joining faith and deeds (obedience) in doing what was commanded. In acting this way he saved mankind.(his generation and more)

    • Damian Sco

      Does the covering of Noah by his two (out of three) sons point to a sin that may have been obviously committed by Noah, thus lending itself to his "humiliation" as our narrator suggests?
      Hashem would not speak of any man as perfect, so righteous by definition must include sin. The Meshiach would be the only sinless man, unless we include Melchizedek. So "righteous within his generations" I believe could be translated as a comparable term as opposed to "completely righteous" or perfect, hence the inclusion of the modifier. Just a thought!

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    "Make thee an ark of gopher wood; with rooms shalt thou make (Aleph/Tav) the ark, and shalt (pitch) it within and without with (pitch)." Gen. 6: 14, The Israel Bible
    The sages say there is nothing redundant within Torah. If something is repeated within a statement, there is usually something of deeper meaning beneath the surface. Such is the case with "pitch" in the above verse.
    For the first "pitch", we find the Hebrew word, "kaphar". It means "to cover", specifically with bitumen/coating. In the figurative sense, it means expiate/condone, placate/cancel, make an atonement–forgive, mercy, pardon, reconcile.
    For the second "pitch", we find the Hebrew word, "kopher". It also means "to cover". Literally, it means "a village covered in bitumen/coating. Figuratively, it means "a redemption price, ransom, or satisfaction.
    Put the two together and we see the ark as an "atonement, a reconciliation of man (Noah & his family), mercy, and forgiveness. We also see the ark as "a redemption price or ransom, an account of sin settled.
    There is one final point of interest in this verse. The "Aleph/Tav" symbol is placed in conjunction with "the ark". The symbol would represent Messiah's atonement for all our sins, accidental or willful. It would also represent His hand of protection as we, the faithful, go though trials and tribulations, especially the tribulation about to come upon us in these end times.

    • Doreen Poole

      Another great lesson. I enjoy your comments and find them so helpful.

    • Damian Sco

      Concerning the word pitch:

      Yes the verb to pitch ( atonement (used elsewhere 71x), purge (7x)) vs. the noun apply the pitch ( ransom (8x), satisfaction (2x)) do indeed seem to point to the End Times appearance of the Meshiach when such a trouble would not have been seen on the planet except during the Time of Noah!

      Used in conjunction with אֵת meaning " with, near, together "certainly tends to confirm your suggestion. I concur.

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    "In addition to the dove being an image of peace, it represents the Jewish nation. Just as the dove found no rest on its first foray into the world, so, too, the Jewish people will never find rest in exile. Like the dove returning to the ark, the Jews will always come back to Israel."
    Just as a reminder of what I've said elsewhere, the patriarchs were NOT Jews. They were Hebrews. Otherwise, I really like the Sages comments regarding Gen. 8: 9. Their observation of the "Jewish" people finding no rest in exile is beautiful. Judah was exiled to Babylon, and then again by the Romans. For at least the last 100 years, they've been returning to the Land. Nearly 70 years ago, they became an independent nation for the first time in over 2500 years.
    However, I must remind everyone Judah and Benjamin were only two of the twelve sons of Ya'acov. There are still 10 more of their brothers exiled among the nations. Our brothers have found solace in the Promised Land. However, for us still out here, there can be no comfort. We languish among the evils of our neighbors. However, one day we will return to the Land, being led by our "Aleph/Tav" Messiah. Then, the two sticks of Judah and Yisra'el will become one again, to dwell together in perpetual peace and harmony.

    • Carolyn

      Actually, don't forget that the tribes of Levi and Menashe still exist and are in Israel. The B'nai Menashe lived in northern India and nearly all have emigrated back to the Land. The tribe of Levi was dispersed among all the others but always maintained its identity via the kohenim, and there are genetic markers specific to this tribe. I have not heard of the Benjamites being located.

    • Damian Sco

      Indeed, since the Noahic covenant, being only one of seven covenants given by Hashem to His People, I too believe that our return will be completed and (IMHO) imminent!

  • DannyLee ben Israel

    Isaiah says in 64: 6 that "all our righteousness is as polluted garments". Even the best of us fall woefully short of Elohim's standards. Of a certainty, He has only ONE set of rules for everyone. He doesn't "raise or lower the bar" like some school teachers do–grade on the curve.
    The phrase, "in his generation", simply means he obeyed Elohim. Because of the fact he and his family were the only survivors, it remains that those 8 people were the ONLY righteous people in his generation. None of us are qualified to judge the heart of a man. Only Elohim can look into a man's heart and judge him righteous or not. We can only look on the outside.

    • Doreen Poole

      Well put, only HaShem can judge the heart. He obeyed HaShem in the face of adversity and never gave up. That is a righteous man.

  • SueJean Heinz

    I’ve always been taught that Noach was considered righteous in comparison with the other people around him. I’ve also been told that if Noach had lived in an age where people were more righteous, he might not have looked as good as he did at that time in world history.
    That begs the question is Hashem’s definition of righteousness affected by our behavior?
    I can’t find any support for that idea in the Torah.
    Does Elohim have one set of standards/rules for one person and another set for somebody else?
    I can’t find any support for that idea in the Torah either.
    Baruch Hashem.

    • Herman Arentsen

      I think that HaShem has only one set of rules: the behaviour of the heart of man. David , a murderer and a king was judged by G-d throug Nathan, the prophet. But David is called "the man after G-ds heart", because his heart was fully committed to HaShem. He was 'open' before the Eternal One his G-d and confessed his sin. So one set of rules, but but what is turning the scale is the attitude of the heart. And only He (") knows our hearts.

  • Kara Strain

    Noah was righteous in his generations perhaps simply because the scripture says he was wholehearted toward God in his devotion. His merit of righteousness was so great because the labor to attain it with his heart in his days was so much. The sinfulness in the earth was so bad it had to be completely purged by water.

  • Shriyanee Nugawela

    I understand that God wanted to purify His Creation with Noah as re-starter. A new start for Life. A new beginning.

  • Herman

    two possible thoughts about it:
    1. Compared with his generations ( the then living peoples) he stood out in righteousness. At least he tried to live a purer life as good as he was permitted by his environment.
    2. His generations might also be the ancestors and his descendants for which he was an example. (when the accent is on “his”)

    • Ahuva Balofsky (Moderator)

      Herman, your first suggestion is one of two considered by the Sages. They debate whether the qualifier compares him favorably or unfavorably. While some argued he was righteous *even* in his generation, so how much more righteous would he have been in a worthier time, others argued he was *only* righteous in comparison to the others living in his generation.

  • Tina

    one would think that a generation is 40 years or so. Noah was 600 years old at the time the rain began which is 15 generations. it would suggest that for 15 generations he was righteous. thought: Would this be a year of Jubilee upon the release of the animals and family to dry ground?

  • Sheila

    In Gen 5 Noah’s generations record the line of Seth as Gen4:25 records that Seth was the child born in place of Abel whose offering was respected by God. Gen6:8 records that Noah found favour in the eyes of the Lord and he chose not to allow the wickedness of his day rob him of his fellowship with God and this was true of his great grandfather Enoch — Gen5:22 – 24 who walked with God — and God took him. I sense that this may have impacted Noah’s heart. Gen 6:9 declares the family records of Noah — a righteous man and blameless among his contemporaries —- and thus the generational line of Noah was preserved through the catastrophe of the Flood. The result was an everlasting covenant which the Lord made with Noah and his descendants. ——- there may be something else Ahuva that may explain this.

    • Ahuva Balofsky (Moderator)

      If I understood you correctly, Sheila, you’re saying that like the generations which spawned him (Adam, Seth, Enoch), Noah was righteous. That’s a great explanation! The rabbis had other suggestions, but let’s see what other readers have to say first.

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