Noah (Genesis 6:9-11:32)

It’s a good thing we finally got the sukkah down (mostly – just the frame and tied-on bamboos poles left).  There was a big storm around here yesterday (October 31), though the most dramatic portions came well after the trick-or-treaters and mainly affected Philadelphia and suburbs.   In Glen Mills, PA, only about 8 miles away, an EF2 tornado touched down about 11 pm, along with straight-line winds of 111 to 135 mph; no injuries there, thank goodness.  Lots of power outages still.

I don’t think the Flood story in this week’s Torah portion, Noah (guttural ‘h’ like the ch in Bach) incorporated a tornado, nor the short-term, scary winds.  But it sounds much worse.  This was not just a rainstorm:

7:11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the fountains of the great deep burst apart (“cracked open”), and the floodgates of the sky broke open. 7:12 The rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights.

7:24 And when the waters had swelled on the earth one hundred and fifty days, 8:1 God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark, and God caused a wind to blow across the earth, and the waters subsided. 8:2 The fountains of the deep and the floodgates of the sky were stopped up, and the rain from the sky was held back; 8:3 the waters then receded steadily from the earth. At the end of one hundred and fifty days the waters diminished, 8:4 so that in the seventh month, on the seventeenth day of the month, the ark came to rest on the mountains of Ararat.

Radak (Rabbi David Kimchi, Provence, 1160-1235) comments on the “fountains of the great deep” in 7:11: they began to crack open, and to emerge from below. As a result of tremendous amounts of rain having poured down from the skies, the crust of the earth was weakened, so that the waters underneath found it easy to burst forth in streams all over the place. This process, once started, continued and accelerated and even when the 40 days of rain had stopped, the waters kept rising for 150 days due to the waters coming out of the bowels of the earth.

And it took still more time (and the dove and raven tests) until it was safe to leave the ark.

“Flood stories appear in cultures worldwide.  Mesopotamian flood stories include the epics of ZiusudraGilgamesh, and Atrahasis.…The Gilgamesh epic is closest to Noah’s story….Noah’s story differs in two important ways.  First, the flood has a moral basis; it occurs because of the corruption of humanity and Noah is good enough to be saved.  Second, the aftermath of the flood is a covenant with the Lord, tied up with a rainbow, through which humanity is to obey some basic laws and the Lord will never again wipe them out (at least, not with a flood).” (IGP, TPH2015)

“Noah is given instructions (9:1-3) that parallel those given to Adam (1:28-30), but humanity will now have different relationships with the earth and animals.  Adam’s descendants had already done a lot of subduing the earth, so that was left out of Noah’s charge.  Adam was commanded to live in harmony with the animals, and he and they were to be vegetarians.  Noah is told the animals will now fear humans, who can now eat all of them.

“Noah’s next big discovery is wine.  …(W)ine is regarded as a generally positive contribution to human life.  We sanctify all sorts of occasions with wine – holidays, weddings, circumcisions.  We use wine to welcome the Sabbath and to see it out.  Rashi (1040-1105), the seminal commentator on Torah and Talmud, reportedly made his living as a vintner.  It’s interesting to see who else in history were vintners.  For example, Chaucer’s father and grandfather were involved in the wine trade; 14th century England got significant tax revenue from imports of wine from, e.g., Spain, Cyprus, Capri, Portugal, and France.  And Thomas Jefferson has been called “America’s ‘first distinguished viticulturist,’ and ‘the greatest patron of wine and wine growing that this country has yet had.’”  (IGP, TPH2013) Unfortunately, Noah gets drunk, passes out, and is mistreated (interpreted as various types of “sexual immorality” by the rabbis) by his son Ham (see Rashi’s comments).  Not a good start for the new world.

After some who-begat-whom discussion to describe the origins of the ancient nations, we read about a new settlement in the valley of Shinar, in which the inhabitants decide to build a town and a tower (better, a ziggurat) up to the sky, their goal being to make a name for themselves and keep from being scattered all over the earth (11:4). Skilled at brickmaking and building, they begin to do just that. The Lord and angels are alarmed, cause the people to start speaking different languages, and scatter them all over the earth.  It’s a weird little story. As David Hazony points out in his essay, Tower of Power, we are not explicitly told what is so bad about the people’s ambition.  Also, there are no individuals, just a very technically astute, collective mass acting as one.  It can also be read as a sly satire on the 300-foot ziggurat to Marduk in Babylon. Perhaps today we can best read it as a paean to individual identity, a cautionary tale about the dangers of worshipping technology, and a warning that absolute unity can be evil.  That’s a lot for a mere 9 verses.

The portion ends with a listing of the descendants of Noah. A descendent of Shem, Terah, is living in Ur with his son Abram, grandson Lot, and Abram’s barren wife Sarai.  They leave their home and head toward Canaan, but only get as far as Haran, where Terah dies.  The story of Abram and Sarai in Haran continues next week.

Shabbat shalom,


tph Noah IKEA


Noah Jokes

Where did Noah keep the bees on his Ark?
In the Ark hives.

As the animals left the ark, Noah told them to go forth and multiply. After some time, Noah came upon two snakes who were just lying there sunning themselves…
So Noah asked them, “Why aren’t you multiplying?”
The snakes replied, “We can’t, we’re adders.”

Noah’s son walks into a kosher deli and orders a sandwich.
“Sorry,” said the owner. “We don’t serve Ham.”

What’s the difference between Noah’s Ark and Joan of Arc?
One was made of wood, the other was Maid of Orleans.

I think Noah might be the craziest of Biblical figures; hearing God, building an ark, gathering animals
The whole thing sounds delugional.

Torrential rainfall? Rising floodwaters?! No escape?!! Don’t worry…
I Noah guy.


tph noah-i-said-an-ark


Wine Quotes

“In victory, you deserve Champagne. In defeat you need it.”  Napoleon Bonaparte

“Either give me more wine or leave me alone.”  Rumi, circa 1200’s

“The discovery of a wine is of greater moment than the discovery of a constellation. The universe is too full of stars.” Benjamin Franklin, circa 1700s

“What wine goes with Captain Crunch?” George Carlin

“Penicillin cures, but wine makes people happy.” Alexander Fleming

“A gourmet meal without a glass of wine just seems tragic to me somehow.” Kathy Mattea (Yup. IGP)


From The Funniest Things Ever Said, New and Expanded, edited by Steven Price (2019), p. 134

Elaine Stritch & Noel Coward: Tower of Babel

During a rehearsal one day, Elaine Stritch began to sing, “When the tower of Babel fell,” and pronounced the line to rhyme with “scrabble.” Noel Coward promptly corrected her: “It’s ‘baybel’ Stritch.” “I’ve always said ‘babble,'” the actress replied. “Everyone says ‘babble.’ It means mixed-up language, doesn’t it? Gibberish. That’s where we get ‘babble’ from.” “No,” replied Coward. “That’s a fabble.”


Manqué business: Week 1130’s Foreign-phrase puns (selected)

Washington Post, July 26, 2015, p. E15

By Pat Myers

In Week 1130 we asked you to make a pun on a foreign term or phrase (or a foreign term that’s become an English one) and describe the result. Here’s la crème of about 1,700 entries. Not sure what the original term was? You can see links to them all in the online Invite at

4th place: Carpe BM: Clean up after your dog! (Neal Starkman, Seattle)

3rd place: Hate couture: Wrapping yourself in the Confederate flag. (Nan Reiner, visiting Boca Raton, Fla.)

2nd place and the deck of “Aussie Sheila” cards: In MoCo parentis: Calling Child Protective Services if you see some kids walking down the street. (Stephen Dudzik, Olney)

And the winner of the Inkin’ Memorial: ’Sup du jour: Whatever greeting is currently hip. “A fist bump followed by a low five and a quiet ‘yo’ is the ‘sup du jour’ in Flatbush. (Bird Waring, Larchmont, N.Y.)

Honorable Menschen (und Frauen):

Ice versa: Giving back the engagement ring. (Tom Witte, Montgomery Village)

Amor vincit amnesia: Typical soap opera plot. (Mark Raffman, Reston)

Hea culpa: It’s the other guy’s fault. (Jim Stiles, Rockville)

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même shows: The new sitcoms look a lot like the old ones. (Skip Livingston, Hopewell, N.J.)

De Plorabus Unum: The one thing we can all agree on is we don’t like each other. (Art Grinath, Takoma Park)

Non compass mentis: “Don’t worry, honey, I know exactly where we’re going.” (Matt Monitto, Bristol, Conn.)

Sinus qua non: The phlegm de la phlegm of nasal infections. (Kathy El-Assal, Middleton, Wis.)

Nom de fume: Your rants-only Twitter handle. (Pam Sweeney, Burlington, Mass.; Larry Neal, McLean)

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