This is the second parsha of the Torah.
Last week we read Beraishis, which described the creation of the heaven and earth and the first man and woman, Adam and Chava, through the tenth generation of mankind - Noach.
The Torah said at that time that the earth turned out to be filled with wickedness and G-d wanted to destroy it, but that Noach found favor in G-d's eyes.
This parsha continues the story of Noach. G-d tells Noach that He will bring a mabul (flood) to destroy all that lives, but that Noach and his family will survive.
In the first aliyah, G-d gives Noach detailed building instructions for building the tevah (ark) and instructions for loading the tevah with two of every kind of living thing in order to perpetuate each species.
Rashi says that it took Noach 120 years to build the tevah so that people would see Noach building it, and ask why. He would tell them that G-d was going to bring a mabul, and this would give the people the opportunity to repent.
The second aliyah contains further preparations for the mabul:
Noach is to take into the ark seven pairs of every clean animal as opposed to only one pair of the unclean animals. Rashi says that the meaning of clean in this context means kosher for food. Rashi further explains that these clean animals would be used later by Noach for sacrifices to G-d. Rashi also says that the fact that Noach could distinguish between clean and unclean animals shows that he studied Torah.
The flood begins, according to tradition, on the 17th day of Marcheshvan 1656 years after Creation. Noach and his sons, and his wife and his sons' wives, and all the required animals boarded the tevah.
The third aliyah describes the mabul (flood).
It rained for 40 days and 40 nights and then the waters increased beyond the depth caused by the rain. The waters rose to a height of 22-1/2 feet above the highest mountains. The water covered the earth for 150 days. The mabul killed all animals, creeping things and fowl (but not fish).
Everything on earth died except Noach and those that were in the tevah with him, floating on top of the water. Eventually the waters receded and the tevah came to rest on mount Ararat.
In the fourth aliyah G-d tells Noach to leave the tevah with his wife and his sons with their wives. With them, all the animals and fowl and creeping things in the tevah leave with their mates.
Noach builds a mizbeach (altar) and makes offerings to G-d.
G-d says that He will never again kill everything as He did with the mabul. G-d blesses Noach and his sons and says "pru urvu", "be fruitful and multiply, and replenish the earth".
Here G-d gives mankind permission to eat meat, but not the flesh of a living animal. The prohibition of murder is also given here. These laws are part of the seven Noachide laws that apply to all humanity, and that the Jewish people are supposed to teach to non-Jews. They are:
- Belief in G-d - Do not worship idols
- Respect G-d and praise him - Do not blaspheme his name
- Respect human life - Do not murder
- Respect the family - Do not commit immoral sexual acts
- Respect for others' rights and property - Do not steal
- Creation of a judicial system - Pursue justice
- Respect all creatures - Do not eat the flesh of an animal while it is still alive
Rashi says that after G-d told Noach to be fruitful and multiply (in the previous aliyah), Noach feared that his descendants might be destroyed in a subsequent mabul. Therefore, this aliyah begins with G-d promising not to destroy the world with another mabul.
G-d signifies His covenant by creating the rainbow. In the book "Hayom-Yom", in the entry of the day that this aliyah corresponds to (Thursday), it says that we should make the appropriate brocho (on page 87 of the siddur Tehillat Hashem), upon seeing a rainbow.
In the sixth aliyah, Noach plants a vineyard and makes wine from the grapes. He drinks from the wine, and becomes drunk. He falls asleep naked, and according to Rashi, Noach's son Cham castrates Noach because he didn't want him to have a fourth son.
Noach's other two sons, Shaim and Yefes, modestly approach Noach and cover him. When Noach awakens, he realizes what happened, and curses Cham's grandson, Canaan, and blesses Shaim and Yefes. This aliyah then documents the descendants of Noach's three sons after the flood.
This seventh aliyah contains the story of the tower of Babel. Here, people start building a tower to reach heaven in order to attempt to fight with G-d. G-d sees that they are one people speaking one language, and they are using their unity to attempt to oppose G-d. G-d therefore confuses them by giving them many different languages to prevent them from communicating with one another, hence the name "babel".
At the end of this aliyah, the Torah gives the descendants of Shaim. Included in these descendants are Terach, Avrohom avinu's father, and Avram, who will later become Avrohom. And here Avram marries Sarai and they are childless.