Our Parsha begins:
אֵ֚לֶּה תּֽוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹ-הִ֖ים הִתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ:
וַיּ֥וֹלֶד נֹ֖חַ שְׁלשָׁ֣ה בָנִ֑ים אֶת־שֵׁ֖ם אֶת־חָ֥ם וְאֶת־יָֽפֶת:
These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God. And Noah begot three sons: Shem, Ham, and Japheth.
These verses beg for further elucidation. After the Parsha opens with “these are the generations of Noach” we would expect the Torah to immediately list his children. Why does the Torah seem to go on a tangent and describe Noach the man after promising the reader to list his generations?
Ibn Ezra and Radak suggest that “Toldot” here does not mean descendants, but rather it means “the progeny of time” ie a person’s own history. According to this interpretation, the Torah first tells us about Noach’s spiritual accomplishments and then lists his descendants.
Rashi explains that by describing Noach’s virtues before his descendants, the Torah is teaching us an important lesson:
Another explanation [for why the names of the children are not mentioned immediately following “These are the generations of Noah”]: To teach you that the main generations [progeny] of the righteous are good deeds.
Malbim explains that a person produces three kinds of "progeny". These parallel the three different parts of human identity: the animal (as part of the natural world), the human (chai-medaber, the living speaking being), and the Divine. Whereas the animal side of man produces physical children as do the animals, the human side of man produces acts of kindness and justice in society. Finally, the "progeny" of the divine side of man is his study of Hashem's ways, true beliefs and other Torah concepts. These three kinds of "toldot" produced by Noach are mentioned by the Torah: "These are the progeny of Noach: 1) Noach was righteous (alluding to his acts of justice and kindness in his interpersonal relations), 2) Noach walked with G-d (referring to his study of Divine concepts), 3) Noach bore three children... (denoting his physical descendants)".
It is a tremendous credit to an individual, when s/he not only creates “toldot” through their interpersonal good deeds and Torah study, but also leaves children who have followed in these righteous ways. There are no guarantees that children will emulate their parents’ positive traits. Nonetheless, parents are not exempt from doing all that they can to not only do good deeds, but be a role model and encourage those behaviors in the next generation, so that their children perpetuate their legacy.
Parshat Noach gives us a lot to think about in terms of what legacy we leave and how we go about shaping that legacy. It is therefore appropriate that we have designated this Shabbat as our Life and Legacy Shabbat. This Shabbat is the kickoff to our effort to inform, educate and invite the community to commit to after-life giving to ensure the future of our shul, as well as a strong future Jewish community in Broward County. Young Israel of Hollywood-Ft. Lauderdale has been accepted by the Jewish Federation of Broward County to take part in a 4-year partnership program of the Harold Grinspoon Foundation (HGF) that will assist our Broward County community to promote after-lifetime giving to benefit Jewish day schools (including Brauser Maimonides Academy), synagogues, social service organizations and other Jewish entities.
Through training, support and monetary incentives, LIFE & LEGACY motivates Jewish organizations to secure legacy gifts, steward donors and integrate legacy giving into the philanthropic culture of the Jewish community. But what makes Life and Legacy especially appropriate to launch on Parshat Noach is that a legacy gift is not only a gift, but a statement. It is a statement to our children and our community of our priorities, ensuring that our legacy is a proud and noble one.