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Noach, the Parent - Parashat Noach 5780, November 1, 2019


At the end of last week’s parasha, the Torah describes the generations that descended from Adam; naming his descendants and their children. The list concludes with Noach and his three children Shem, Cham and Yefet. In the beginning of this week’s parasha, the Torah reintroduces us to Noach – a tzaddik, a perfect individual and a man who walks with Hashem. The Torah then repeats that Noach fathered three sons – Shem, Cham and Yefet. We already know that Noach has three sons! Why does the Torah find it necessary to repeat itself?

The commentator Radak addresses this question. Noach merited to be saved from the flood because he walked with Hashem. In the face of the wicked people of his generation, Noach was only involved with serving Hashem. Just as Noach walked with Hashem, he taught his children to turn away from their wicked generation and to only serve Hashem and to cleave only to Him.

Based on a verse in the book of Yechezkel, Radak explains that if Noach’s children had not served Hashem exclusively, they would have perished in the flood like the rest of the generation. Noach knew that to save his children it would be insufficient for his children to simply grow up in his house. He had to teach his children to walk with Hashem on their own. He had to instill in them the values and the tools to avoid the trappings of their generation. To convey this idea, the Torah repeats the names of Noach’s children at this time to say that they, in their own merit, were saved from the flood and not in the merit of their father, Noach.

As parents, we cannot assume that our children will share our values because they are our children. Children do not become moral individuals who share our deeply rooted esteem for morality, justice, community, the synagogue, Jewish education and a relationship with Hashem simply because we value these things. Furthermore, values-indoctrination alone is a highly ineffective means of transmitting a commitment to values to our children.

We must teach our children to develop their own attachments to important values. Effectively inculcating a commitment to values requires that a child be introduced to a value, ideally through setting an example. A child should be encouraged to practice a value and also be led to independently investigate the truth of this value. A child must create his or her own meaning regarding a value. Only through this process can we be reasonably sure that a child will adopt a value for him or herself.
Let us take the example of Noach, the parent, and seek to teach our children values so that they will become adults with strongly held values. 


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