“Ain Mikra Yotze M’ydai Peshuto – a verse does not depart from its simple meaning” (TB Shabbat 63A)
“On that very day Noach came with Shem, Cham, and Yaphet, Noach’s sons, with Noach’s wife and the three wives of his sons with them, into the Ark.” (Genesis 7:13)
Who were Noach’s wife and daughters-in-law? What were their names, what do we know about them?
Although the Midrash identifies Mrs. Noach, the Torah gives short shrift to these women from whom the future population of the world would descend. Why?
In order to answer that question, we have to go back to last week’s Torah reading, Bereishit, where this dvar Torah really belongs, and revisit the creation of Man and Woman.
On the sixth day of creation Adam, the first man, is placed in the Garden of Eden “to work it and to guard it” (Genesis 2:15). He is given only one commandment by God. While all the fruits of the Garden are available for Adam’s consumption, only one is prohibited, the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge.
Seeing Adam alone, God brings all the animals and birds to him as possible companions and to be named (yikra) by him. Giving something a name is a sign of dominion. Adam had been previously told that he would be the master (baal) over the entire animal kingdom (1:26). But after completing the naming he finds that he has still not found a suitable helpmate. God then takes one of Adam’s sides and fashions Woman from it. He does not give the woman a name as he did with the other creatures. Instead Adam says significantly that she shall be called (yikarai) “Isha”, because she came from an “ish” (a man).
There is a subtle but important difference in saying someone shall be called, and actually calling that person with a name. It meant he did not rule over her. (Interestingly when we give a child a name, we also say “yikarai,” shall be called, to indicate that the parent will not have dominion over the newborn.) Woman would be “isha,” with an equal status to Man, the “ish.”
The story of the great sin committed by man and woman follows, when they violate God’s commandment to not eat from the Tree of Knowledge. The woman’s punishment would be that she would suffer pain in childbearing. In addition, her desire will be for her husband, but he would now rule over her. She would no longer be on an equal level with him.
Immediately after the punishments are decreed, we read the following significant verse. “And Man called his wife Chava, because she had become the mother of all the living (Aim Kol Chai),” (3:20). It does not say that she shall be called (yikarai) Chava, as the Torah said when she was to be called “Isha,” but he called (yayikra) her, a sign of rulership and domination.
Let’s now skip ahead about 3,000 years, when we meet the Prophet Hosea, the first of the Twelve Minor Prophets. The Israelites have sinned, abandoned their God, worshiped idols and are unrepentant. They are compared to a woman who is unfaithful to her husband and who becomes a prostitute. Hosea is told that the people will be punished and scattered among the nations, with their rejected Lord showing no pity at this stage.
But after a prolonged period of exile the Prophet says that God will once again show love for the people and reconciliation will take place with the following proclamation. “It shall be on that day, the words of Hashem, you will call me ‘my Husband (ishi) and you will no longer call me my Master (baali)’” (Hoshea 2:18). This metaphor brings us back to the primordial couple. At that time the wife will once again be restored to a position of equality with her husband, “Isha” alongside her “Ish” as before the sin, and not “Chava.”
“Could the place of women — which has changed so radically in the last 100 years — be an additional sign of the early manifestations of Redemption?”
There are some who believe that we today are at a glorious period of the beginning of the Final Redemption, Atchalta D’Geula. After the horrors of the Holocaust, when a third of our people were murdered, Jewish sovereignty in the State of Israel has again become a reality. In the last 72 years, with God’s kindness and grace, this little nation has grown and prospered. An ingathering of the scattered people is taking place, just as the Prophets said.
If this is truly so, could the place of women — which has changed so radically in the last 100 years — be an additional sign of the early manifestations of Redemption? With women now educated in religious and secular matters, and being highly represented in almost every occupation and human endeavor — something that did not exist even a century ago — could that be a sign of extraordinary events?
Near the end of that same chapter Hosea assures us of a glorious future, with God’s enduring promise to His people: “I shall espouse you to Me forever. I shall espouse you to Me with righteousness and with justice and with kindness and with mercy. I will espouse you with fidelity and you shall know Hashem.”(2:21-22)
Ish and Isha standing together with total fidelity to their Creator. And so may it be God’s and our will.
Candlighting, Torah Reading
Friday, October 23
Cheshvan 5, 5781
Light Candles at 5:45 pm
Saturday, October 24
Cheshvan 6, 5781
Torah Reading: Noach: Genesis 6:9 – 11:32
Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-10
Shabbat Ends at 6:43 pm