SALT - Tuesday, I Rosh Chodesh, 30 Tishrei 5777 - November 1, 2016

  • Rav David Silverberg

            The Torah tells in Parashat Noach that after the Flood that destroyed the earth, “God remembered Noach” and the people and animals with him on the ark, and began drying the world to make it once again habitable (8:1).  We make reference to this verse in the zikhronot section of the Rosh Hashanah musaf service, when we say, “You also remembered Noach with love…”  Interestingly, the author of this text added the word “be-ahava” – “with love” – to emphasize that God did not merely remember Noach, but remembered him lovingly.

            Rav Avraham Pam (Ha-metivta, 1982) explains this emphasis on God’s love of Noach in the context of a broader discussion of Noach’s character.  The final verse of Parashat Bereishit states that Noach “found favor in the eyes of the Lord.”  Rav Pam cites the work Erekh Apayim as explaining this verse on the basis of a comment of the Sefer Chareidim, “Whoever does not become angry finds favor [in God’s eyes.”  If avoiding anger is the key to “finding favor,” then this perhaps was Noach’s outstanding quality.  Whereas the people of his time were guilty of “chamas” (6:11), a term generally associated with violence, Noach was peaceful and patient, and this is why he “found favor in the eyes of the Lord” at a time when God deemed mankind no longer worthy of existence.

            On this basis, Rav Pam suggested, we might explain the reference to God’s love for Noach in the Rosh Hashanah prayer text.  The Gemara in Masekhet Pesachim (113b) lists three types of people who are especially loved by God, and the first of these groups is people who do not become angry.  It was Noach’s calm and composed demeanor that earned him God’s special favor and God’s special love.

            Rav Pam further noted the Midrash’s comment that when the Torah speaks of God “remembering” Noach, it refers to Noach’s selfless devotion to the animals in the ark, diligently feeding and caring for all the creatures.  This quality, Rav Pam asserted, closely relates to Noach’s quality of avoiding anger.  Accepting and fulfilling this awesome responsibility is a testament to unlimited patience, which is also the key to avoiding anger.  The same extraordinary discipline and patience which enabled Noach to tirelessly and selflessly care for God’s creatures in the ark for many months enabled him as well to remain calm and composed in the face of adversity and provocation.  Chazal here teach us of the importance of exerting control over our emotions, of enduring hardship and scorn with patience and serenity, without losing our temper or our composure.