After Noach emerged from the ark, G-d commanded him, "Be fruitful and multiply; swarm over the earth and become populous upon it." The commentaries compare this charge to G-d's instructions to Adam -- "Be fruitful and multiply. Fill up the earth and conquer it," in Parshas Bereishis. They question: G-d's instructions to Adam have all the force of a Divine command. -- Indeed, it is from the construction of the word äàÖüï in that verse that our Sages learn that a woman is not obligated in the mitzvah of procreation. -- If so, why was it necessary for this command to be repeated in Parshas Noach?
Also, a comparison between the two commands reveals differences. In Parshas Bereishis, man is commanded to "conquer" the world, while in Parshas Noach, this addition is omitted. Conversely, Parshas Noach mentions "swarming over the earth," while Bereishis does not. These differences also require explanation.
Some attempt to resolve the first question as follows: It was necessary to give Noach a new command because of the flood. The flood represented an expression of regret on G-d's part for making man and a desire to destroy him and the world at large. Similarly, in its aftermath, it was necessary for G-d to give a new blessing and a new command for man to procreate.
Nevertheless, this explanation is not entirely satisfactory for, from the context of the Biblical narrative, it appears that the command to Noach is not merely a renewal of the command originally given to Adam, but rather a different command in which certain elements were added.
To explain: After the flood, the totality of existence took on a new dimension as reflected in our Sages' statement that Noach "saw a new world." This implies a renewal, not only in comparison to the world's situation during the flood, but rather, that all existence took on a new and higher dimension than existed at the beginning of creation.
On the surface, it is difficult to understand: How can the newness brought about by the flood be compared to the newness at the outset of creation. Then all existence came into being from absolute naught?
This concept can be explained as follows: The purpose of the flood was not merely to punish the wicked, but primarily to purify the world. Therefore, the flood lasted forty days like a mikveh which contains forty se'ah.
At the beginning of the creation, the world's fulfillment reflected the fact that it was G-d's creation and was not related to the world as it exists within its own context. Therefore, the potential existed -- and, in fact, was actually expressed -- for mankind to cause the world to descend to the level which made G-d regret having created man and which left Him no alternative to refine the world except to wipe out all existence.
In contrast, after the flood, a new phase of service began which -- through the service of teshuvah -- allowed the world to elevate itself despite the fact that it was on a low level. This service was begun by Noach who, despite the depravity of the people of his generation, was a perfectly righteous man.
Through this, a new dimension of strength and stability was contributed to the world as reflected in G-d's promise never to destroy the world again. Thus, the "new world" which Noach saw, reflected a new potential within existence, the ability for the world to elevate and refine itself.
The above concepts are reflected in the name Noach which means "rest" and "satisfaction." From the repetition of Noach's name in the verses, "These are the generations of Noach. Noach was...," the Zohar explains that Noach brought about two dimensions of rest and satisfaction; "rest in the higher realms" and "rest in the lower realms."
In this context, the flood is called "the waters of Noach" for it brought about purification, rest, and stability throughout the world. In particular, this represented a twofold activity: a) the purification of the world through negation of the depravity which had existed previously; b) positive activity to refine the world without breaking its nature.
The first dimension of these dimensions was contributed by the flood which washed away all the negative factors and the second dimension was contributed by Noach and those with him in the ark. For this reason, G-d commanded Noach to bring species from every element of existence into the ark. All four forms of existence, humans, animals, plants, and inert matter, were brought into the ark. Within the ark was manifest an idyllic state of peace which reflects the Messianic era when "a wolf will dwell with the lamb."
The existence of our world as a whole in such a state granted the potential that, in subsequent times, after the command, "Leave the ark," the world could be refined and elevated and brought to a state of rest and satisfaction.
This service is also alluded to in the instructions G-d gave to Noach for building the ark, el amah tichalenoh milama'alah, "It should be a cubit wide on top." The word amah (äÄÇ) is an acronym for the Hebrew words, E-loheinu Melech ha'olam ("our G-d, King of the universe"), which alludes to the service of crowning G-d as King of the universe. Furthermore, olam (translated as "universe") is related to the word helam meaning "concealment," i.e., even in a situation of concealment, G-d's sovereignty will be felt.
In this context, we can understand the new dimension contributed by the command to Noach, "Be fruitful and multiply." G-d's command to Adam was of a general nature, expressing the ultimate goal of man's activity within the world, to establish a dwelling for Him within the world. To allow man to accomplish this goal, G-d gave man dominion over all the other creations.
Nevertheless, at the beginning of creation, since man's service did not come about from his own nature, but because of the influence from above, there was a possibility for -- and, in fact, an actual -- descent. "The evil of man multiplied on the face of the earth" and therefore, "G-d regretted that He had created man." The blessing and the command, "Be fruitful and multiply" was rescinded because man was not fit to receive it. Instead of man making the world a dwelling for G-d, the world had to be destroyed.
In contrast, after the flood when "a new world" was revealed, a new blessing and a new command were necessary to allow for the new service of making the world, within its own context and according to its own nature, a dwelling for G-d.
In this context, we can understand the difference in the phraseology used by the two commands. In the command to Adam, G-d used the expression "And conquer it," i.e., rule over the world against its nature. To explain this concept using Chassidic terminology: Both malchus ("kingship") and memsholoh ("dominion") are terms that reflect sovereignty. However, the nature in which this sovereignty is established differs. Malchus refers to a situation in which a people willfully accept a person as king, to borrow a phrase from the liturgy, "His children beheld His might... and willingly accepted His Kingship upon them." In contrast, memsholoh refers to power which is acquired by force, against the will of the populace. "Conquest" like memsholoh involves exerting one's authority against the will of the entity which one conquers.
To apply this concept within the context of our service in making this world a dwelling for G-d: After the creation, before the world had undergone the purifying influence of the flood, the concept of fulfillment in the world was dependent on G-d's creative power and was not internalized within the world. On the contrary, the world as it existed in its own context was not a vessel for G-dliness. Therefore, it was necessary that it be conquered.
In contrast, after the refinement of the world effected by the flood and by the service of Noach, the emphasis of man's service was not on conquest, but rather on effecting changes within the context of the world itself. Therefore, the concept of conquest was not mentioned. Instead, the emphasis in G-d's command was positive, "Be fruitful and multiply," (a willful activity which brings satisfaction and rest). Furthermore, the potential was granted to "swarm," to multiply in great numbers.
This two stage progression is necessary. In order to emphasize that the dwelling for G-d is established in "the lower realms," the world had to first exist in a state in which it was not a vessel for G-dliness. Then, man had to begin its refinement through conquest. Afterwards, through the refining influence of the flood, man's service changed and the potential was granted to elevate the world within its own context.
There is a connection between the above concepts and the date when Parshas Noach is read this year, the second day of Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan. Rosh Chodesh itself represents a fusion of opposites. On one hand, it is a day when work is permitted. On the other hand, it is not considered "a day of work." (This is reflected in the custom in which women refrain from carrying out certain difficult tasks on Rosh Chodesh.) Thus, Rosh Chodesh reflects bringing an approach of rest into the mundane sphere of existence. In particular, Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan is always two days, paralleling the twofold dimension of rest implied by the repetition of the name Noach.
There is also a conceptual point of connection. MarCheshvan represents a transition between the month of Tishrei, a month of festivals, and the ordinary service of the other months of the year. Tishrei thus can be compared to the ark and at its conclusion, we are given the charge, "Go out from the ark," i.e., Leave the environment of Torah and prayer and go out into the world at large and transform it into a dwelling for G-d. This service is incumbent on every Jew, man, woman, and child. It is through this service that we will merit the revelation of G-dliness with the coming of Mashiach. May this take place immediately.
Today, man is being granted ever-increasing potentials. Advances in technology and communications enable us to shape our environment and share ideas with people throughout the world far more effectively than ever before. Similarly, in the realm of personal relations, many social barriers have been dropped. Differences between people that used to obstruct the flow of commerce and information are falling away and there is a greater willingness to accept a person without discrimination.
This also applies to differences in sex. Many of the restrictions which women faced in previous generations have been overcome and women are accepting greater participatory roles in every area of social life. In the face of these changes, Jewish women are asking themselves: "Are these changes positive? Should the opportunities available be accepted, or should they be rejected as part of the challenges of contemporary society that conflict with our traditional values?"
The Torah's response to these questions involves a delicate balance between these stances. A woman need not shy away from involvement in the world. Nevertheless, that involvement should not follow the norms of society at large, but rather should be characterized by the unique approach of tzniyus which the Torah teaches. Tzniyus does not imply merely a set of rules for modest conduct, but rather an outlook -- an approach to life that expresses a woman's femininity and inner nature.
Psalms 45:14 states, "All the glory of the king's daughter is within (pnimah)." This teaches us that women possess a unique potential to contribute a dimension of inwardness (pnimiyus) to their homes, to the people with whom they come in contact, and to their respective environments.
Further insights into this dimension can be derived from the narrative of creation which relates the instructions which G-d, Creator of both man and woman, gave His creations to guide their conduct. The Torah relates that after creating man and woman, G-d blessed them and charged them, "Be fruitful and multiply, fill the land and conquer it."
Our Sages note that the latter term, äÖüïà, appears in the Torah without the letter à. This directive can thus be understood to be addressed to the man alone, for "a man has a tendency to conquer, whereas a woman does not have a tendency to conquer."
Our Rabbis understand the "conquest" of the world as referring to man's endeavors to transform this world into a dwelling place for G-d. That is to say: We can transform the world into a place where G-d's essence is openly manifest, in the same way that any individual manifests his essential personality totally and freely in his own home.
When explained in this context, our Sages' restriction of the task of "conquering" the world to men is problematic. On the contrary, the greatest manifestation of this form of Divine service is reflected in a woman's efforts to make her home into a "sanctuary in microcosm," transforming the material elements of her household into a dwelling place for Him. Indeed, there is no place where the service of bringing G-dliness into the mundane realities of our existence is expressed so richly as in a Jewish home.
One of the approaches to resolving this difficulty revolves upon the conception of man and woman as a single unit. "G-d said, 'Let us make man....' Man and woman He created them." Only when man and woman unite are they a complete entity; alone, each is "half a person." Thus, there is no need for a separate command for woman. Her activity is an extension of that of her husband. Moreover, their efforts in "conquering" the world depend on her, for until a desirable environment in his own home is established, a person's service in the world at large will be deficient. To express this idea in allegory, only a foolish king would go out to conquer other countries before mastering his own.
There is a deeper dimension to this concept. A woman's sphere of influence also extends beyond her home. Nevertheless, she exerts this influence in a distinctive manner, different to that exerted by men. Men often try to conquer, i.e., to confront and overpower other individuals. In contrast, a woman typically presents a concept tranquilly and peaceably, with modest understatement, thus more effectively allowing her listeners to join her in appreciating its worth.
To explain this concept using chassidic terminology: Both malchus ("kingship") and memshalah ("dominion") are terms that reflect sovereignty. However, the manner in which this sovereignty is secured differs. Malchus refers to a situation in which a people willingly accept a certain individual as king; to borrow a phrase from the liturgy, "His children beheld His might... and willingly accepted His Kingship upon them." In contrast, memshalah refers to power which is acquired by force, against the will of the populace.
Malchus possesses a twofold advantage. Firstly, because the people willingly accept the king's authority, they are less likely to rebel. There is, however, a deeper aspect; in this manner, a people's connection to their king is not merely external, but part and parcel of their own being. It is their minds and wills which accept him.
Similarly, men often choose to influence their environment by force. Thus, although they may attain their goals, the manner in which they do so often causes friction with those around them. In contrast, the inner dimension (pnimiyus) which characterizes a woman's approach makes the ideas which she presents attractive to others and causes them to be accepted as part of their own perspective. Indeed, men would be well advised to learn this approach from women and incorporate it in their own life-work.
The inwardness of a woman's approach depends on tzniyus. The manner in which a woman presents herself teaches people to appreciate inward rather than outward beauty; it allows people to appreciate the inner dimensions of her personality.
In recent years, the trend in society at large appears to be turning toward this approach. This positive direction should be enhanced even further, for the nature of the advances women have made in society has created both new difficulties and new solutions to them. For example, since a woman's sphere of influence has been extended beyond her home and family, she often needs to travel in a taxi alone. Were she to travel with a male driver, questions might arise concerning the prohibition of yichud (being alone with a person of the opposite sex). At any rate, a certain measure of modesty is no doubt compromised in such a trip. Nevertheless, the very phenomenon which creates the difficulty -- the wider and different role women are taking in our society -- often offers a solution. In the instance mentioned above, it is possible to travel with a woman taxi driver. Even if it takes a little longer to find or order such a driver, it is preferable to make such a sacrifice, in order to develop the dimension of tzniyus and inwardness spoken of above.
As our Sages teach, "By virtue of the righteous women of that generation, the Children of Israel were redeemed from Egypt." Similarly, the qualities of tzniyus and inwardness which characterize the lifestyle of Jewish women in our generation will help transform the world into a dwelling place for G-d, and thus hasten the revelation of His presence, through the coming of Mashiach. May this take place in the immediate future.
- (Back to text) In Parshas Noach itself, this charge is repeated twice (9:1 and 9:7). In this context, however, Rashi explains that the first mention of the charge is merely a narrative and a blessing, while the second conveys the actual command. This explanation, however, cannot be used to resolve the question mentioned in the text because, as stated above, the charge in Parshas Bereishis is also a command.
Furthermore, even if one would interpret the charge in Bereishis as merely a blessing, the question arises: Why is the blessing for procreation so far removed from the command?
- (Back to text) Indeed, we find that, in the ark, Noach and his sons were forbidden to have relations with their wives and even after emerging from the ark, Noach hesitated to engage in procreation until G-d gave him the blessing and the command to do so.
- (Back to text) The creation from absolute nothingness is not merely an event of the past, but, as the Alter Rebbe explains in Tanya, a continuous happening, taking place every moment of existence.
- (Back to text) Thus, Noach is associated with Shabbos, the day of rest.
- (Back to text) This also alludes to a unity between the lower realms (as they exist within their own context) and the higher realms.
- (Back to text) The dimension of rest was contributed to the world by the Shabbos at the conclusion of the process of creation. This, however, represented rest as revealed from above. Noach revealed the potential for man to rest as he lives within the context of the world itself.
- (Back to text) Chassidic thought emphasizes the all-inclusive nature of the ark, explaining that its three storeys represent the three worlds of Beriah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.
- (Back to text) In this context, the word tichalenoh can be interpreted as related to the word Vayechulu mentioned by the Torah in regard to Shabbos. This represents a state of pleasure in which the world itself is lifted up to a higher rung.
- (Back to text) It is, however, possible to explain that the command to Adam also included the potential for the service of Noach. Nevertheless, that service could not be actually realized until after the beginning of Noach's service and the new command which he received.
- (Back to text) Nevertheless, at certain times, even after the flood the service of conquest is necessary.
- (Back to text) Translators Note: In this farbrengen, the Rebbe Shlita spoke extensively about a woman's responsibility to take a participatory role in this service. These remarks were adapted and published in a separate essay, "The Challenge Confronting Jewish Women."
- (Back to text) This relates to the story of the Rebbe Rashab who as a young boy was brought to tears when he learned that G-d revealed Himself to Avraham. The Rebbe wanted that G-d should reveal Himself to him as well. This relates to every Jew for we each possess a childlike dimension as it is written, "Israel is a youth and I love him."
- (Back to text) Bereishis 1:28.
- (Back to text) Yevamos 65b.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 1:26-27.
- (Back to text) Zohar III, 7b; 109b; 296a.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Devorim 1b, which explains these concepts within the context of the acceptance of the yoke of G-d's Kingship.
- (Back to text) There is an intrinsic connection between women and kingship; indeed, woman serves as a metaphor for the Sefirah of Malchus.
- (Back to text) Sotah 11b.
- (Back to text) This is reflected in the statement of the AriZal (Shaar HaGilgulim, Second Prelude) that the final generation before the coming of Mashiach will be a reincarnation of the generation which left Egypt.