It could not have been easy being Noah. From the moment he was born, he carried the hopes of humanity. He was named with the following prayer: “This one will provide us relief–yenahameinu–from our work and the toil of our hands, out of the very soil which God placed under a curse” (Genesis 5:29). Maybe, says his father Lemekh in naming him, Noah will reverse the curse, and we won’t have to work so hard to earn our daily bread.
What, then, does the Torah tell us Noah does after emerging from the Flood? “Noah, the tiller of the soil–ish ha-adamah–was the first to plant a vineyard” (Genesis 9:20). So much for not having to work the land. Noah is in fact a man of the land–ish ha-adamah. Is that such a bad thing?
Planting is certainly not a bad thing to do when you consider Noah’s first role model in the realm of horticulture. We’ve seen the verb vayita before, in Genesis 2:8, when God plants a garden in Eden. So maybe Noah is trying to imitate God. We’d consider this a very good thing, so why doesn’t it end well?
Rabbi Yaakov Beasley of Yehivat Har Etzion studies the parallels between the Creation story in chapter 2 and the vineyard story in our parashah. Can you think of other ways in which these stories mirror one another? What, then, is the symbolic purpose of the vineyard story? We’ll explore this together on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise