By Rabbi Shloimie Lindenbaum
אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק…(פרק ו פסוק ט) ויחל נח איש האדמה… (פרק ט פסוק כ)
Our Parsha begins with referring to Noach as an איש צדיק – a righteous man, and towards the end describes him as being an איש האדמה – a man of the earth. This indicates that there was a change in Noach’s level in righteousness during the Parsha and by the end he wasn’t the same “צדיק that he was at the beginning. The Medrash contrasts this change with Pesukim that we find by Moshe Rabbeinu. Towards the beginning of Moshe’s life, the Torah describes him as an איש מצרי- an Egyptian man, but in the very last Parsha of the Torah he is described as an איש האלקים- a man of G-d. By Moshe also there was a change throughout his life- this time for the better. What is the Medrash trying to tell us by comparing these two transitions? The משך חכמה explains that we find two distinct ways of serving Hashem: 1- Those who designate their entire life to their own personal service of Hashem and to this end nearly remove themselves from society, 2- Those who forgo areas of their own personal growth and instead take responsibility for the growth of the ציבור . The natural assumption is that the one who devotes himself to his own spiritual needs will grow on a personal level, while the latter will regress in his own spirituality. This, says the משך חכמה, is exactly what the Medrash is teaching us- Noach forsook his duty of rebuking his generation and encouraging them to do Teshuvah for his own growth. This ironically resulted in a certain descent in his own level- he was degraded to an איש האדמה from being an איש צדיק. Moshe, however, devoted himself entirely to the needs of Bnei Yisroel and we this elevated his personal spiritual level to become an איש האלקים.
ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה… (פרק ט פסוק כג)
The Parsha discusses the incident of Cham disgracing his father Noach and Shem and Yefes trying to conceal his embarrassment. In the description of the story שם is mentioned as having had a bigger role in protecting his father’s honor. Rashi says that because of his extra effort in this מצוה his children received the מצוה of ציצית. Many ask on this that we find later in Parshas Lech Lecha that Avraham Avinu tells the King of Sedom that he refuses to take even a thread from the spoils of the war and חז”ל tell us that therefore we got the מצוה of ציצית. What was the cause for us to receive ציצית? Was it the זכות of Shem or of Avraham? Rabbi Elya Baruch Finkel ZTZ”L, Rosh Yeshiva of Yeshivas Mir, answers based on a Rashi inדף ט בבא קמא. Rashi there is discussing the מצוה of beautifying מצוות and he says that we are commanded to have a “טלית נאה וציצית נאה”- a beautiful garment to put the ציצית on and also beautiful ציצית. Rabbi Finkel deduces from this that the מצוה is not merely the strings with the garment serving as a vehicle for the מצוה, rather by putting ציצית on ones garment the garment itself becomes part and parcel of the מצוה. That is why the מצוה of הידור extends to the garment as well. Rabbi Finkel says that this explains the need for two sources for the מצוה of ציצית. Through the זכות of Shem using a garment to cover his father’s shame we received the garment of ציצית and through the זכות of Avraham refusing even a thread from the bounty we received the strings of ציצית.