(Taken from the script of my D’var Torah that I gave today. I used the “timed post” function to automatically publish it sometime after services.)
.שבת שלום לכולם
This is my fourth year, yet it is my first time giving a דבר תורה! Tonight was a great night to make this my first time, with the most obvious reason that this is פרשת נח (Parashat Noah), and the less obvious reason that it is Family Weekend, and there are several ideas about “family” in this פרשה (parashah: reading).
One of the frequently debated verses is right at the beginning of the reading. The verse, in Hebrew, reads, “נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו את האלוקים התהלך נח” The translation in Hertz reads, “Noah was in his generations a man righteous and whole-hearted; Noah walked with G-d,” whereas in the Koren Tanakh, the translation is “Noah was a just man, perfect in his generations, and Noah walked with G-d.” First, this is a challenging sentence in Hebrew as it seems to be a run-on. The fact that “Noah walked with G-d” is in the same sentence with the qualifier “in his generations” lends credence to the interpretation that despite the corruption around him, Noah was… I guess you could say the model citizen. Another comment: the use of the name אלוקים instead of השם indicates that Noah was shown justice. Further, Noah warned the people, but they chose not to listen. This led to the biggest fatherly disowning in the history of the world—from the Holy One!
This relates to Family Weekend for filial respect. Even though the people of the earth at the time did not respect G-d, G-d saw favor in Noah, and anointed him as the forefather of a new humanity. Thus, Noah was the start-over point, and set a good example for his children. Even though Cham later did not take that good example, it is a natural fact of families that there can exist outliers from the ideals. Furthermore, the connection to Noah’s family was enough to save Cham, despite the despicable act he committed.
Later in the reading, the generations of the sons of Noah are given. It appears to be a laundry list, but just like in many other פרשיות, there is significance to the listing. Many of the names are quite familiar in even modern society, such as יוון (Greece), אשכנז, עבר, and others. There are three sub-generations starting from Yefet, four sub-generations starting from Cham, and six sub-generations listed starting from Shem. From the longest enumerated chain comes two numerical ideas. From Noah to Yoktan’s children is seven generations, and seven is the number of aliyot on Shabbat, the number of days in the week, the length of Sukkot and Pesach, and more. מי יודע שבע…
Also, thirteen is the number of offspring of Yoktan. Given that Yoktan was a son of Eber, from which עברית (Hebrew) comes from, it stresses the importance of the number 13 to the Jewish culture. You knew I had to throw in some analysis of the numbers here!
Of course, genealogy is a long study. Regardless, we are all descendents of Noah, as one human family. Therefore, in closing, even if you are far away from your biological family on this Family Weekend, know that you are part of many families nonetheless. Those include the Northwestern community, the groups that you are involved in, and even Conservices!
(Today is the nineteenth day of O.C.T.O.B.E.R. That makes two weeks and five days.)