1. He Was the 10th Generation From Adam

We are introduced to Noah in the list of genealogy of the descendants of Seth, third son of Adam and Eve.1 The sages tell us that this long wait demonstrates G‑d’s abundant patience. He watched successively degenerating generations, yet He lovingly waited for them to mend their ways.2

Read: The Story of Adam and Eve

Art by Rivka Korf Studio
Art by Rivka Korf Studio

2. His Name Means “Respite”

Although English speakers call him Noah, his Hebrew name is Noach, pronounced know-akh. Related to the word nachas, the name can be translated as “rest,” “gentleness,” and “pleasure.” Scripture tells us that his father, Lamech, chose the name, foreseeing that he “will give us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands from the ground…”3

How so? Rashi tells us that Noah introduced the use of plows and other farming implements, which made working the land much easier. Additionally, the earth stopped producing as many brambles and thorns in his time.4

Alternatively, the sages of the Midrash5 tell us that Noah was the first to have dexterous fingers, which made all kinds of intricate work possible.

3. He Was Chosen by G‑d to Survive the Great Flood

Noah lived at a time when the people had begun to sin, stealing greedily from one another and treating each other unjustly.6 As a result, G‑d decided to bring a great flood, wiping out the world’s population, starting again with only Noah, his wife, and their progeny.

Read: The Story of Noah and the Ark

4. The Sages Have Mixed Feelings Towards Him

Torah describes Noah as “a righteous man, perfect in his generations.”7 Some understand this to mean that even surrounded by such a low-class milieu, he maintained his goodness. Others, however, interpret it to mean that his goodness was only relative to those around him; had he lived in the time of Abraham, who was truly righteous, he would have been nothing special.8

Read: What Was Wrong With Noah?

5. He Built the Ark

G‑d commanded Noah to build a tevah, a giant three-story sea vessel often translated as “ark,” in which to survive the flood. The top floor was for Noah and his family, the middle story was for the animals, and the lower level was for refuse.9

6. He Was the First Zookeeper

When the time came for the floodwaters to begin, animals and birds streamed toward the ark—two of each species, one male and one female.10 But from the species deemed pure (kosher), came seven pairs each.11

For the duration of the flood, Noah and his sons were busy caring for the animals. Miraculously, harmony generally reigned, and fierce prey animals did not attack the others.12 This was evocative of the time of the future Redemption, when “The wolf will dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall crouch with the kid.”13

Read: Wasn’t the Ark Too Small?

7. He Worked Hard!

It took a full year for the floodwaters to subside, allowing Noah and his family to leave the ark. For that entire time, they were busy tending to their charges, to the point that Noah began to spit up blood. On one occasion, he was late feeding the lion and was attacked by the hungry cat.14

Read: What Happened to Noah’s Ark?

8. Noah and His Wife Had Three Sons

Noah’s three sons, Shem, Ham, and Yafet, as well as his three daughters-in-law all survived the flood with Noah and his wife.

Shem,15 the eldest, was the keeper of the Divine tradition passed down from generation to generation. Together with his great-grandson, Eber, he founded a beit midrash (study house), where these traditions were studied and transmitted.

Read: Did Abraham Really Invent Monotheism?

9. He Was the First to Be Allowed to Eat Meat

When they finally exited the ark, Noah built an altar upon which he offered some of the pure animals as sacrifices to G‑d.16 At that moment, G‑d allowed Noah and his descendants to eat meat, something that had not been permitted until then.17

Read: Judaism and Vegetarianism

10. G‑d Promised Him Never to Flood the World Again

G‑d assured Noah that he and his children should procreate, promising that He would never again flood the earth.18

As a sign of His promise, G‑d placed the rainbow among the clouds, an eternal reminder of the deal He had struck with all of life on earth.

Read: What Is the Significance of the Rainbow?

11. He Planted a Vineyard and Became Inebriated

It later happened that Noah planted a vineyard, from which he made wine and became drunk.19 His two elder sons learned what had happened and tried to maintain their father’s dignity.20 Ham, however, did not treat him properly, so Noah cursed Ham’s descendants and blessed Shem and Yafet.21

Read: Why Did Noah Plant a Vineyard and Get Drunk?

12. He Lived for 950 Years

The flood began in the 600th year of Noah’s life, and he lived for another 350 years after it ended, passing away in the year 2006 from creation. Doing the math, one realizes that he overlapped for nearly 60 years with Abraham, who was born in the year 1948 from creation.

Read: A Jewish Timeline of History

13. He Is One of Six for Whom a Torah Portion Is Named

The Torah (Five Books of Moses) is divided into 54 portions, each of which has a unique one- or two-word name. Along with Chayei Sarah (for Sarah), Yitro ( for Jethro), Korach (for Korah), Balak (for the king of Moab), and Pinchas (for the zealous Phineas), Noach is one of six Torah portions named for a person.

The portion spans Genesis 6:9 to 11:43, and ends shortly after introducing Abraham, who was born 10 generations after Noah.

Explore: The Torah Portion of Noach

14. His Soul Was Reincarnated as Moses

The Torah describes Noah as a righteous man who “walked with G‑d.” The Kabbalists point out that while he was a holy person who was in harmony with his Creator, no such synergy existed between him and his fellow man. This was why, despite knowing that the flood was coming, Noah did not succeed in inspiring even one person outside of his immediate family to return to G‑d.

His soul was therefore reincarnated as Moses, the consummate guide and leader, who devoted his life to inspiring his people to mend their ways and return to G‑d.22

Read: 17 Facts About Moses Every Jew Should Know