Thursday, October 23, 2014

bringing the fig tree onboard

Commenting on the words, “Vayita kerem…,” Rashi writes that Noach was able to plant a vineyard immediately after exiting the ark because he had brought grape vines and shoots from a fig tree onboard with him before the flood.  Since the text of the Torah only mentions Noach's planting a vineyard, why does Rashi need to mention anything about fig trees?

The Ne’os Desheh, the son of the Ishbitzer, explains that Noach’s spiritual reach exceeded his grasp.  Noach had been privileged to learn Torah, he was chosen to be the sole survivor of the flood, he was the recipient of a bris with Hashem symbolized by the rainbow, and he was the one whom Hashem selected to restart humanity with.  An impressive resume – one that led Noach to shoot for even greater things.  Noach thought that by restarting human history through him, the world could be wiped completely clean from the sin of Adam.  Noach is called “ish ha’adamah” – a man who aspired to bring tikun to the earth, which had been cursed after Adam’s sin.  The vineyard Noach intended to plant was the vineyard of, “Ki kerem Hashem Tzivakos Beis Yisrael” --  Noach thought that he could even the founding father of Klal Yisrael.

Yet as great as Noach was, he was not Avraham Avinu.  The leaves of the fig tree that Noach took with him are a metaphor for the sin of Adam.  It was the leaves of the fig tree that Adam used to try to cover himself after eating from the eitz hada’as.  Noach did not and could not rise above the defects and imperfections that were part of Adam haRishon’’s makeup.  Even as he entered the teivah, what was on his mind was not planning mankind's spiritual future, but rather the enjoyment of a good glass of wine, the pleasure of olam ha’zeh.  


  1. Very interesting nice pshat, that ish ha'adama is not a degrading title but a praise.
    Just according to this, what was Adams "makeup"?

  2. The question why Rashi added fig shoots is a good question. Why indeed? What problem in the pasuk was he solving? The vort from Ne'ot Deshe has wonderful ideas on its own and Rashi is a nice "asmachta" for that vort, but it doesn't seem intended as p'shat in what Rashi (or Breisheet Rabba) meant.

    Siftei Chachamim quotes several answers. They all feel a bit stretched (to me).

    The best answer I saw so far is quoted in the Saperstein translation of Rashi, in the name of Tosafos HaShalem. The verse says Noach planted a vineyard ("kerem"), not just a grapevine or vines (gefen/gefanim); and typical design for vineyards was to include fig trees. The footnote points out that we find vineyard-and-fig-tree combinations in several places in the Gemara, so evidently a pretty common practice.
    (Still true today that fruit trees are popular in vineyards: see e.g., In California wine country -- and I think also in Gush Etzion -- one sees lots of olive trees in and around the vineyards, a very beautiful sight.)

    Shabbat Shalom

    1. You are rights - the Ne'os Desheh is not pshat in Rashi -- but I thought it was a beautiful thought anyway. Sometimes it's worth forgiving the fact that it's not pshat : )

  3. Agreed 100%!
    I had never noticed the difficulty in this Rashi before, and it bothered me, so I was motivated to look for p'shat answers as well.