October 3, 2013
These are the “toldot” of Noach. Immediately we see that the word toldot bears more that one meaning. This is why one cannot rely on translations of the Bible which limit the meaning and often decide to go one way. For example, even the Artscroll has translated toldot as “offspring”. It can mean that. In fact, the Rashbam, Rashi’s grandson takes it that way, though he includes children, grandchildren and descendants.
But Rashi doesn’t take it that way despite the fact that the grammatical root of toldot is laledet ( to give birth), VLaD meaning offspring.
Rashi translates the word toldot here as deeds. The main offspring of a person are their deeds. Their effect on society and not merely their biological children.
This is despite the fact that elsewhere Rashi does take toldot as children. For example, just a little further on in Gen 10:1 these are the toldot of Noach. Gen 11:10 these are the toldot of Shem. Gen 11:27 these are the toldot of Terach. Gen 25:12 these are the toldot of Yishmael. Gen 36:1 these are the toldot of Esau etc. etc.
So why, you are asking does Rashi take toldot here as deeds and not offspring?
You will find the answer if you look closely, very closely at the text.
אלה תולדות נח, נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו, את האלהים התהלך נח.
These are the toldot (deeds) of Noach, Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation, Noach walked with God.
Then the next verse repeats the verb and mentions the names of his offspring.
ויולד נח שלשה בנים, את שם את חם ואת יפת.
Noach procreated three sons, Shem, Ham and Yaphet.
Therefore the toldot in the first verse is not a reference to his children. In the other examples, quoted above, the names of children are recorded immediately. Therefore Rashi takes toldot as offspring. But here there is an interruption in the flow and a repetition of the word in the verbal form. Rashi being sensitive to the use and nuance of every word tells us that the “drash” is in fact here the peshat, as it is in so many cases.
P.G we will explain this further this year.
All that remains for us is to understand why the Torah decided to call Noach’s deeds toldot rather than say “maasim” or “korot”
One explanation is to be found in the Darash Moshe – a person should love his good deeds like he loves his children. He should do good deeds out of love not out of duty just like he loves his children. A person should work hard to perfect his good deeds just as one works hard to bring up, educate and do the best for one’s children.
Shabbat shalom and Chodesh Tov.