1. After Noach emerged from the ark, G‑d commanded him, “Be fruitful and multiply; swarm over the earth and become populous upon it.” The commentaries compare this charge to G‑d’s instructions to Adam — “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill up the earth and conquer it,” in Parshas Bereishis. They question: G‑d’s instructions to Adam have all the force of a Divine command. — Indeed, it is from the construction of the word כבשוה in that verse that our Sages learn that a woman is not obligated in the mitzvah of procreation. — If so, why was it necessary for this command to be repeated in Parshas Noach?1

Also, a comparison between the two commands reveals differences. In Parshas Bereishis, man is commanded to “conquer” the world, while in Parshas Noach, this addition is omitted. Conversely, Parshas Noach mentions “swarming over the earth,” while Bereishis does not. These differences also require explanation.

Some attempt to resolve the first question as follows: It was necessary to give Noach a new command because of the flood. The flood represented an expression of regret on G‑d’s part for making man and a desire to destroy him and the world at large. Similarly, in its aftermath, it was necessary for G‑d to give a new blessing and a new command for man to procreate.2

Nevertheless, this explanation is not entirely satisfactory for, from the context of the Biblical narrative, it appears that the command to Noach is not merely a renewal of the command originally given to Adam, but rather a different command in which certain elements were added.

To explain: After the flood, the totality of existence took on a new dimension as reflected in our Sages’ statement that Noach “saw a new world.” This implies a renewal, not only in comparison to the world’s situation during the flood, but rather, that all existence took on a new and higher dimension than existed at the beginning of creation.

On the surface, it is difficult to understand: How can the newness brought about by the flood be compared to the newness at the outset of creation. Then all existence came into being from absolute naught?3

This concept can be explained as follows: The purpose of the flood was not merely to punish the wicked, but primarily to purify the world. Therefore, the flood lasted forty days like a mikveh which contains forty se’ah.

At the beginning of the creation, the world’s fulfillment reflected the fact that it was G‑d’s creation and was not related to the world as it exists within its own context. Therefore, the potential existed — and, in fact, was actually expressed — for mankind to cause the world to descend to the level which made G‑d regret having created man and which left Him no alternative to refine the world except to wipe out all existence.

In contrast, after the flood, a new phase of service began which — through the service of teshuvah — allowed the world to elevate itself despite the fact that it was on a low level. This service was begun by Noach who, despite the depravity of the people of his generation, was a perfectly righteous man.

Through this, a new dimension of strength and stability was contributed to the world as reflected in G‑d’s promise never to destroy the world again. Thus, the “new world” which Noach saw, reflected a new potential within existence, the ability for the world to elevate and refine itself.

The above concepts are reflected in the name Noach which means “rest” and “satisfaction.”4 From the repetition of Noach’s name in the verses, “These are the generations of Noach. Noach was...,” the Zohar explains that Noach brought about two dimensions of rest and satisfaction; “rest in the higher realms” and “rest in the lower realms.”5

In this context, the flood is called “the waters of Noach” for it brought about purification, rest, and stability throughout the world.6 In particular, this represented a twofold activity: a) the purification of the world through negation of the depravity which had existed previously; b) positive activity to refine the world without breaking its nature.

The first dimension of these dimensions was contributed by the flood which washed away all the negative factors and the second dimension was contributed by Noach and those with him in the ark. For this reason, G‑d commanded Noach to bring species from every element of existence into the ark. All four forms of existence, humans, animals, plants, and inert matter, were brought into the ark.7 Within the ark was manifest an idyllic state of peace which reflects the Messianic era when “a wolf will dwell with the lamb.”

The existence of our world as a whole in such a state granted the potential that, in subsequent times, after the command, “Leave the ark,” the world could be refined and elevated and brought to a state of rest and satisfaction.

This service is also alluded to in the instructions G‑d gave to Noach for building the ark, el amah tichalenoh milama’alah, “It should be a cubit wide on top.” The word amah (אמה) is an acronym for the Hebrew words, E‑loheinu Melech ha’olam (“our G‑d, King of the universe”), which alludes to the service of crowning G‑d as King of the universe. Furthermore, olam (translated as “universe”) is related to the word helam meaning “concealment,” i.e., even in a situation of concealment, G‑d’s sovereignty will be felt.8

In this context, we can understand the new dimension contributed by the command to Noach, “Be fruitful and multiply.” G‑d’s command to Adam was of a general nature, expressing the ultimate goal of man’s activity within the world, to establish a dwelling for Him within the world. To allow man to accomplish this goal, G‑d gave man dominion over all the other creations.

Nevertheless, at the beginning of creation, since man’s service did not come about from his own nature, but because of the influence from above, there was a possibility for — and, in fact, an actual — descent. “The evil of man multiplied on the face of the earth” and therefore, “G‑d regretted that He had created man.” The blessing and the command, “Be fruitful and multiply” was rescinded because man was not fit to receive it. Instead of man making the world a dwelling for G‑d, the world had to be destroyed.

In contrast, after the flood when “a new world” was revealed, a new blessing and a new command were necessary to allow for the new service of making the world, within its own context and according to its own nature, a dwelling for G‑d.9

In this context, we can understand the difference in the phraseology used by the two commands. In the command to Adam, G‑d used the expression “And conquer it,” i.e., rule over the world against its nature. To explain this concept using Chassidic terminology: Both malchus (“kingship”) and memsholoh (“dominion”) are terms that reflect sovereignty. However, the nature in which this sovereignty is established differs. Malchus refers to a situation in which a people willfully accept a person as king, to borrow a phrase from the liturgy, “His children beheld His might... and willingly accepted His Kingship upon them.” In contrast, memsholoh refers to power which is acquired by force, against the will of the populace. “Conquest” like memsholoh involves exerting one’s authority against the will of the entity which one conquers.

To apply this concept within the context of our service in making this world a dwelling for G‑d: After the creation, before the world had undergone the purifying influence of the flood, the concept of fulfillment in the world was dependent on G‑d’s creative power and was not internalized within the world. On the contrary, the world as it existed in its own context was not a vessel for G‑dliness. Therefore, it was necessary that it be conquered.

In contrast, after the refinement of the world effected by the flood and by the service of Noach, the emphasis of man’s service was not on conquest, but rather on effecting changes within the context of the world itself. Therefore, the concept of conquest was not mentioned. Instead, the emphasis in G‑d’s command was positive, “Be fruitful and multiply,” (a willful activity which brings satisfaction and rest). Furthermore, the potential was granted to “swarm,” to multiply in great numbers.

This two stage progression is necessary. In order to emphasize that the dwelling for G‑d is established in “the lower realms,” the world had to first exist in a state in which it was not a vessel for G‑dliness. Then, man had to begin its refinement through conquest. Afterwards, through the refining influence of the flood, man’s service changed and the potential was granted to elevate the world within its own context.10

2. There is a connection between the above concepts and the date when Parshas Noach is read this year, the second day of Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan. Rosh Chodesh itself represents a fusion of opposites. On one hand, it is a day when work is permitted. On the other hand, it is not considered “a day of work.” (This is reflected in the custom in which women refrain from carrying out certain difficult tasks on Rosh Chodesh.) Thus, Rosh Chodesh reflects bringing an approach of rest into the mundane sphere of existence. In particular, Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan is always two days, paralleling the twofold dimension of rest implied by the repetition of the name Noach.

There is also a conceptual point of connection. MarCheshvan represents a transition between the month of Tishrei, a month of festivals, and the ordinary service of the other months of the year. Tishrei thus can be compared to the ark and at its conclusion, we are given the charge, “Go out from the ark,” i.e., Leave the environment of Torah and prayer and go out into the world at large and transform it into a dwelling for G‑d. This service is incumbent on every Jew, man, woman,11 and child. It is through this service that we will merit the revelation of G‑dliness12 with the coming of Mashiach. May this take place immediately.