Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Noach
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Cheshvan 2 5779
Noach may have the shortest name in Tanach, but, like Og - another, l’havdil, short-named fellow – he is quite a fascinating personality. The commentaries discuss at great length whether Noach was good, average or downright disappointing. He is often compared – albeit unfavorably – to both Avraham & Moshe, who are considered to be universally "genuine" heroes.

Yet the very first pasuk in the Sedra is filled with several superlatives about Noach: He is called an "Ish," (read: Mentsch); Tamim ("Perfect!"); one "who walked with G-d" & above all, a Tzadik. Pretty high praise, if you ask me.

And there is yet another compliment neatly hidden away in this first verse – do you see it? The Parsha begins: "Eyleh toldot Noach, Noach…." Noach’s name is repeated! Say the Rabbis: Anytime a name is doubled in the Torah, it indicates a very exalted, elevated Neshama. Clearly, Noach is in very good company, as we see this same name-doubling by Avraham (BR 22:11), Yakov (46:2), Shmuel (Shmuel I, 3:10), among others.

The idea represented here, by a name being repeated, is that there are actually two of each of us: The person we are, & the person we could be, if we utilize all the strengths & gifts which Hashem gives us. Indeed, says the Zohar, when we die & face the Heavenly Tribunal, we’ll be shown two pictures, or videos: One of the life we lived, & one of the life we could have lived, with all its many accomplishments, if only we had fully realized all our awesome potential. When we view that second video, says the Zohar, our neshama lets out a scream that reverberates across the Heavens.

When a person’s name is doubled in Tanach, it indicates that his actual self reached the level of his potential self, that he reached his very highest level of accomplishment; high praise, indeed. Thus Noach is in very rarified territory.

The story is told about the Netziv (Rav Naftali Zvi Yehuda Berlin) who confessed one day to his students, in a Musar schmooze, that he was a very difficult child, constantly in trouble at school. One day he overheard his parents saying that they were considering pulling him out of Yeshiva & putting him into carpentry classes, to learn a skill. Crying, he begged for another chance; he then proceeded to mend his ways & became a great student, scholar & author of many great S’forim.

One of the boys listening asked the Netziv: "Rebbe, would it have been so very terrible if you became a carpenter?! After all, the world needs skilled carpenters to make furniture!"

The Netziv replied: "You’re right, of course.; it would not have been no disgrace if I learned a trade But I was afraid that when I reached the next world, the angels would hold up a copy of the Emek Davar & ask me, ‘Naftali, did you ever read this book?’ And I would answer, ‘No, I’ve never even seen that book!" And they would say, ‘That’s because you were supposed to write it! But you became a carpenter instead, & so it never was written and all of Jewish history was deprived of it!"

Hashem & the angels will someday ask each of us, "Did you fulfill your potential? Did you use the power I instilled in you? Which You were You?"
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