Parshas Noach: The Offspring of The Righteous

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Noach, we learn of the deluge that inundated the world, destroying all life forms, save for Noach, his wife Na’ama, their three sons and their wives, and the animals in the teyva (ark).  After the world was washed away, and the flood waters receded, Noach and his family emerged from the ark and began the daunting task of rebuilding the world.  As a sign of His promise that He would never again flood the entire world, Hashem placed a rainbow in the clouds.  

The opening pasuk of the parsha tells us: אֵ֚לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹקים הִֽתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ, these are the offspring of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation, Noach walked with G-d (Bereishis 6:9).  

Why does the verse begin by stating that ‘these are the offspring of Noach’ and then diverge into a description of Noach’s righteousness, instead of listing the names of his sons – Shem, Cham and Yafes – as we would have expected?  

Rashi (ibid) famously answers:  לִמֶּדְךָ שֶׁעִקַּר תּוֹלְדוֹתֵיהֶם שֶׁל צַדִּיקִים מַעֲשִׂים טוֹבִיםto teach you that the main offspring of a righteous person are his good deeds.

Rashi is teaching us that the everlasting legacy of the righteous is not their biological children, as we actually might expect.  It is, rather, their good deeds, the way they lived their lives, and the positive impact they made in the lives of others.  The best example of this is Moshe Rabbeinu, who – by the word of G-d – separated from his wife and children to lead the people.  And yet, he lives on in each and every generation through the holy Torah he brought, and taught, to the nation. 

In more recent times, gedolim such as the Chazon Ish (1878-1953) zt’l, zy’a, and the Lubavitcher Rebbe (1902-1994) zt’l, zy’a, live on – not in the biological children they were never blessed with – but in their Torah and ma’asim tovim, whose rewards, longevity and eternity are infinite and boundless, producing spiritual peiros (fruits) in each and every generation.    

However, there is a deeper understanding to this Rashi, which enlightens us to the connection between a person’s children and their ma’asim tovim, their good deeds.

In his Short and Sweet on the Parsha (Feldheim, p.13-14), R’ Shlomo Zalman Bregman writes:

These are the offspring of Noach – Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation’ (Bereishis 6:9).  Rashi cites the famous medrash that even more so than one’s children, the main offspring of a person is his good deeds.

Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l explains how the comparison between ma’asim tovim and offspring is apropos:

  1. Just as one loves his children and helps them for that reason – and not just because he ‘has to’ – so too one should perform mitzvos out of love and not simply out of duty, because he ‘has to.’  As the pasuk says: ‘And you shall love the L-rd your G-d’ (Devarim 6:5).  Rashi teaches: עֲשֵׂה דְּבָרָיו מֵאַהֲבָהperform His word, keep His word, from love, and not from fear.  When it comes to mitzvos and ma’asim tovim, the highest level of performance is one motivated by love of G-d, and love of fellow man.    
  2. Just as we love our children even when they fall short of our expectations – for a parent always loves his or her child, come what may – so too we should love the ma’asim tovim we have performed in the past, and not regret that we didn’t do things in a bigger and better fashion.  It is true that there is always room for improvement, but we must be encouraged by the good deeds of our past, realize their worth, and be inspired to perform even more good deeds in the future!  
  3. Just as a parent always analyzes his child to find shortcomings that need to be corrected, and guides his child along the correct path in life, so too we should look at our ma’asim tovim with the same critical eye – finding what areas needs to be corrected, and rerouting ourselves when necessary to ensure our good deeds are ‘on the right path’ in life.
  4. Just as a parent works very hard to make sure his children lack nothing that they might need to become even bigger and better, so too we should toil over our deeds to improve them as far as humanly possible.  We must toil in the realm of good deeds and acts of loving-kindness towards others, just as we toil in the realm of Torah learning, and l’havdil, in the realm of making a parnassah.  In this way, we will ensure that just as our children’s needs are met, so too, our spiritual needs will be met.

The lasting legacy a person leaves in this world, as well as the עִקַּר תּוֹלְדוֹתֵיהֶם, one’s main offspring, are the spiritual fruits that we create when we engage in mitzvos and good deeds.  And then, like a father’s love for his child, we will surely be loved by fellow man and beloved before G-d.  

“It states in the Zohar: Every time a person performs a mitzva, The Blessed Holy One takes pride and says: ‘Such are the deeds of My children!’ And G-d recites praise about this person, as a father who speaks and repeats the words of his young child, who is beloved to him” (Loving and Beloved, by Simcha Raz, p.49).

בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום, 


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