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Master of the Soil - נח

Friday, 23 October, 2020 - 1:28 pm

Master of the Soil

Noah found favor in the eyes of G-d, he was saved from the flood and tasked with repopulating the earth, G-d extended His covenant to Noah and promised never again to wipe out all the creatures from the face of the earth. G-d’s love to Noah was palpable. 

Noah himself seemed not to share G-d’s optimistic view of the future. Before the flood we read that “Noah did, according to all that the Lord had commanded him (Genesis 7:5)”. Yet, after the flood Noah did not seem to live up to his greatness. He planted a vineyard, got drunk and lost his dignity - “he uncovered himself within his tent”. 

As the Torah relates: 

And Noah, master of the soil, began and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness, and he told his two brothers outside. And Shem and Japheth took the garment, and they placed [it] on both of their shoulders, and they walked backwards, and they covered their father's nakedness, and their faces were turned backwards, so that they did not see their father's nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine and he knew what his small son had done to him. And he said, "Cursed be Canaan; he shall be a slave among slaves to his brethren." May God expand Japheth, and may He dwell in the tents of Shem, and may Canaan be a slave to them (Genesis 9:20-27)”.

The Torah tells us “And Noah, master of the soil, began and planted a vineyard.”. The Hebrew word for “began”, “Vayachel”, also means “Mundane”. Rashi tells us: “he made himself profane, for he should have first engaged in planting something different.”

Why did Noah, immediately after the flood, plant a vine, which is a symbol of mundane pleasure? The Chassidic Masters explain that after seeing the corruption of the earth Noah wanted to engage with the soil in order to protect it from future spiritual corruption. Noah felt that his responsibility was to be “master of the soil”, he must engage with the most material pleasure and demonstrate how it could, in fact, be used for holiness. 

Yet, Noah was mistaken. And his mistake was that - “Vayachel” - “he began”. The mistake was that he began with material pleasure. The material will intoxicate one’s spiritual senses unless the person is first saturated in holiness. Had Noah began his day with intensifying his connection to spirituality and only then proceeded to plant, he would have elevated the vine rather than having the vine pull him down.    

When Noah awoke from his wine and recognized his mistake he proceeded to bless Shem and Yafet, the two sons who had treated him with dignity and covered his nakedness. Noah said: 

May God expand Yafet, and may He dwell in the tents of Shem…

Noah, who “uncovered himself within his tent”, saw within his son Shem the potential for the correction of his own negative experience in his tent, an experience of pleasure disconnected from a holy context. Noah proclaimed “may He (G-d) dwell in the tents of Shem”, emphasising that Shem and his descendants would bring G-d into their homes, they would infuse their homes with holiness, which, in turn, would allow them to proceed and elevate the mundane. They begin with prayer, study and good deeds ensuring that their tent is a place where G-d will dwell, and only then do they proceed to plant the vine. 

(Adapted from the Maor Vashemesh)

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