Parshat Noach

Finding Comfort in the Wrong Places

The beginning of the world, of life and time, all began in last week’s parsha, Bereshit. How is it that in the very next parsha, Noach, G-d makes a flood to destroy the world? What did man do that was deserving of the destruction of the whole world? The answer Rabbi David Fohrman gives is in the name that Lemach gave to his son Noach. Holding his brand new son, Lemach makes a declaration and names his baby Noach, meaning comfort. Lemach wanted comfort from the curse of working the land that G-d gave to Adam for eating from the Tree of Life in last week’s parsha.

Just a few pasukim after Lemach names Noach, Hashem makes a declaration that He is going to destroy the world. The same four words that Lemach used in naming his son Noach, Hashem uses in deciding to destroy the world: comfort, deeds, sadness, and earth. These four words that G-d mimics will explain why He is destroying the world.

Lemach chooses the name Noach, Rashi says, because he knew that Noach would create the plow which is a tool of comfort for men working the land. A sad person finds comfort when they are able to change their perspective and see their pain in a new way. An אבל, a person in mourning, however, has a different name than someone עצוב, someone sad. The word אבל translates as but, because someone in mourning will ask how could this have happened and why did this happen? And the only answer to their rhetorical questions is but it did happen. That is the only answer to their uncomfortable reality.

Now, looking at Adam’s curse, do people really need to be comforted from working the land? Is work really that miserable and painful that it is considered a curse? Unfortunately yes, because the curse of working the land is a unique curse. G-d made it so that no matter how hard we work the land will be difficult almost to the point of futility. In fact we will cry while we eat the fruit of our labor because of the difficulty. This stress causes man to become alienated from the land and then naturally from G-d, which is exactly what G-d wants to happen.

Now for the word Earth, when G-d created people He said, “Let us create man.” The Ramban says he was talking to the land, meaning the land will supply the body and G-d will provide the soul, and this was how Adam was created in Bereshit. The curse distanced man from the two pieces that he’s made of. However, no matter how distanced one becomes from ones parent, there is a natural human nature (known as imprinting) to want to return to ones creator. This feeling extends to G-d. That despite how distanced and alienated one feels and becomes from G-d, one will always want to be close to G-d.

The reason G-d cursed us with this alienation is because He wants us to struggle with the land and get frustrated, to feel that alienation from the land and Himself. When we feel that way and need to be comforted, we should turn to G-d and connect to Him. The problem is when we become like an אבל and we find other things to distract us and comfort us from the uncomfortable reality. When we busy ourselves in distractions to accommodate our pain and forget about turning to G-d for comfort. And when we find other ways to comfort ourselves instead of G-d we find ourselves saying that we no longer need G-d.

This is exactly why God uses the same language to destroy the world as Lemach did when he names Noach. Noach invented the plow which was a comfort to man, it distracted us from the alienation and made us feel we no longer needed G-d which was why G-d destroyed the world. So today amidst all the distractions and comforts we have, we should always remember the true comfort is in finding G-d and having a relationship with Him.

Student Studying in Tiferet