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Parshat Noach 5770

Rabbi Ari Kahn

An Anonymous Woman1
In a generation of moral decay, one man shines. Noah is a
righteous man, perfect in his generation. From the scant
biographical details reported in the verses, we know that
he has three sons, but nothing is reported about his
spouse, the woman behind this illustrious man.

‫י‬-‫ ט‬,‫בראשית פרק ו‬

:‫ש ַצִּדיק ָּתִמים ָהָיה ְּבֹדֹרָתיו ֶאת ָהֱאֹלִהים ִהְתַהֶּלְך ֹנַח‬
ׁ ‫ֵאֶּלה ּתֹוְלֹדת ֹנַח ֹנַח ִאי‬
:‫שם ֶאת ָחם ְוֶאת ָיֶפת‬ ֵׁ ‫שה ָבִנים ֶאת‬ ָׁ ‫שֹל‬
ְׁ ‫ַוּיֹוֶלד ֹנַח‬
These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a
righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noach
walked with God. Noach fathered three sons Shem,
Cham, and Yafet. Bereishit 6:9,10

When Noach is informed of the impending disaster, of the

lethal flood that will wash away most of humanity, he is
also told that his immediate family will be saved.

‫י"ח‬-‫ י"ז‬,‫בראשית פרק ו‬

‫שָמִים‬ ָּׁ ‫שר ּבֹו רּוַח ַחִּיים ִמַּתַחת ַה‬ ֶׁ ‫שר ֲא‬ָׂ ‫שֵחת ָּכל ָּב‬
ַׁ ‫ַוֲאִני ִהְנִני ֵמִביא ֶאת ַהַּמּבּול ַמִים ַעל ָהָאֶרץ ְל‬
‫שי ָבֶניָך‬ ֵׁ ‫שְּתָך ּוְנ‬
ְׁ ‫ ַוֲהִקֹמִתי ֶאת ְּבִריִתי ִאָּתְך ּוָבאָת ֶאל ַהֵּתָבה ַאָּתה ּוָבֶניָך ְוִא‬:‫שר ָּבָאֶרץ ִיְגָוע‬
ֶׁ ‫ֹּכל ֲא‬
And, behold, I, myself, bring a flood of waters upon
the earth, to destroy all flesh that possesses the
breath of life, from under heaven; and every thing
that is on the earth shall die. But with you will I
establish my covenant; and you shall come into the
ark, you, and your sons, and your wife, and your
sons’ wives with you. Bereishit 6:17,18

The syntax of this verse is curious: rather than stating

“you and your wife, your sons and their wives,” the order
of the relationships seems unnatural: ‘you and your sons,
This shiur was originally delivered orally in honor of my parents’ 50th wedding anniversary; I am
pleased to offer it in written form in honor of their 54th anniversary. May they enjoy many more years
together, in health and happiness, and nachat from their children, grandchildren and great-
your wife and your son’s wives. Rashi learns from this
syntax that conjugal relations were prohibited on the Ark;
the men and women were segregated.2

Strangely, other than the fact that Noach is instructed to

separate from the mother of his children while on the Ark,
there is nothing else in the text of the Torah about this

This lacuna is filled in by the Oral Torah; although the

Torah is silent, tradition identifies Noach’s wife by name
from among the genealogical information at the end of
Parshat Bereishit. And this name affords us a great deal of
information and insight.
‫ פסוק כ"ב‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬
ֶ ְ ‫שת ובַר‬
ֶ ‫נח‬
ְ ‫רש‬
ֵ ‫ח‬
ֹ ‫כל‬
ָ ‫טש‬
ֵ ‫ל‬
ֹ ‫קין‬
ַ ‫בל‬
ַ ‫את תו‬
ֶ ‫דה‬ָ ְ‫הוא י ָל‬ ִ ‫גם‬ ַ ‫לה‬ָ ִ ‫)כב( ו ְצ‬
:‫מה‬ ָ ‫ע‬ֲ ַ ‫קין נ‬
ַ ‫בל‬ַ ‫אחות תו‬ ֲ ַ‫ו‬

‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק כב‬

‫ היא אשתו של נח‬- ‫נעמה‬

Noach’s wife is identified as Na’ama, daughter of Lemech

and Tzillah. One might posit that tradition makes this
identification in keeping with the internal logic often
described as the biblical “theory of conservation of
characters”3: Later in the text, a woman named Na’ama
makes a significant appearance in the narrative, and the
sages always attempt to avoid spreading the onomasticon
of biblical characters too thin. However, the more we
delve into this woman’s background and life-story, the
more we understand the story of the flood, and the more it
becomes apparent that the sages did not identify Noach’s
wife as Na’ama in an arbitrary pastiche of biblical names
and characters; Noach’s wife could only be Na’ama.

Two Lemechs
Rashi makes the connection between this child born to
Lemech and Tzillah and the unnamed wife of Noach.
Rashi Bereishit 6:18
‫רש"י בראשית פרק ו פסוק יח‬
:‫ מכאן שנאסרו בתשמיש המטה‬,‫ האנשים לבד והנשים לבד‬- ‫אתה ובניך ואשתך‬
See Rabbi Zvi Hirsch Chajes “A Students Guide to the Talmud” especially chapters 11 and 12 page
172 ff.
Ironically, Noach’s father was also named Lemech. Lest
one think that this is in fact the same Lemech, we need
only review the 4th chapter of Bereishit to trace the family
line of Na’ama back to Cain, and the 5th chapter of
Bereishit to find the family line of Noach which began with
Shet. These are, in fact, distinct, independent families that
merge in the union of Noach and Na’ama, who
coincidently had fathers with the same name. As we shall
see, their genealogies are not only quite distinct, they are
qualitatively different. But in order to fully understand the
significance of the union of Noach and Na’ama, we must
take a step back to view the larger picture.

Replacing Hevel
The death of Hevel hovers over the narrative; it is the
pivotal moment, the major episode, and, perhaps the
trauma in need of healing. A replacement for Hevel must
be found.

It is in this context that Na’ama’s family line begins - as a

postscript to the tragic murder of Hevel by his brother

‫ פסוק י"ז‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬

ֵ ‫רא‬
ָ ‫ק‬
ְ ִ ‫עיר ו ַי‬
ִ ‫נה‬
ֶ ‫הי ֹב‬
ִ ְ ‫חנוך ְ ו ַי‬
ֲ ‫את‬
ֶ ‫לד‬ֶ ‫ת‬
ֵ ַ ‫הר ו‬
ַ ַ‫שתו ו ַת‬
ְ ִ‫את א‬
ֶ ‫קין‬
ַ ‫דע‬ַ ֵ ‫ו ַי‬
:ְ ‫חנוך‬ֲ ‫בנו‬ְ ‫שם‬ֵ ְ‫עיר כ‬ִ ‫ה‬ ָ
And Cain knew his wife; and she conceived, and bore
Chanoch; and he built a city, and called the name of
the city, after the name of his son, Chanoch.
Bereishit 4, 17

Cain moves on with his life; he marries and has a child

named Chanoch.4 He then builds a city, and names it after
his son. Ironically, or perhaps defiantly, Cain, who is
condemned to wander the earth in punishment for the
murder of Hevel, is the first person to attempt to build an
urban center. The name he chooses for his son and for the
city he builds, Chanoch, has a connotation of “to

As with many of the names is this chapter, Chanoch also appears in chapter 5; a cursory glance at the
genealogical record reveals that the two Chanochs are not related.
Chanoch, in turn, has a descendent named Lemech, who
starts a family in an interesting fashion; he takes not one –
but two wives.

‫י"ט‬-‫ י"ח‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬

ֶ ‫לד‬
ַ ָ ‫אל י‬ ֵ ‫חָיי‬
ִ ‫מ‬ְ ‫אל ו‬ֵ ָ ‫מחוי‬
ְ ‫את‬
ֶ ‫לד‬ ַ ָ ‫רד י‬ָ ‫עי‬ִ ְ ‫רד ו‬ָ ‫עי‬ ִ ‫את‬ ֶ ְ ‫חנוך‬ ֲ ַ‫לד ל‬ ֵ ָ ‫ו ַי ִו‬
‫שם‬ֵ ‫שים‬ ִ ָ ‫תי נ‬ ֵ ‫ש‬ְ ְ ‫מך‬ֶ ‫ל‬ ֶ ‫קח לו‬ַ ִ ‫ ו ַי‬:ְ ‫מך‬ֶ ָ‫את ל‬ ֶ ‫לד‬ ַ ָ ‫אל י‬
ֵ ‫ש‬ָ ‫מתו‬ְ ‫אל ו‬ ֵ ‫ש‬
ָ ‫מתו‬ ְ
:‫לה‬ ָ ‫צ‬
ִ ‫נית‬ ִ ‫ש‬ֵׁ ‫ה‬ ַ ‫שם‬ ֵ ְ ‫דה ו‬ ָ ‫ע‬
ָ ‫חת‬ ַ ‫הא‬ ָ
And to Chanoch was born Irad; and Irad fathered
Mehuyael; and Mehuyael fathered Metushael; and
Metushael fathered Lamech. And Lemech took for
himself two wives; the name of one was Adah, and
the name of the other Zillah. Bereishit 4, 18-19

Two Wives
Rashi paints the practice of taking two wives in
unmistakably negative terms: this is the behavior of the
generation of the flood. One wife was wed for solely
utilitarian purposes: she was to bear children and work in
the household. The other wife was designated for
pleasure: she would be rendered infertile by means of a
birth-control potion, for the sake of maintaining her figure.
This “trophy wife” would dress in beautiful clothing and
eat delicacies while the other wife worked. 5 While this
practice was not the main transgression of the generation
of the flood, it is certainly among the morally
reprehensible behaviors our sages regarded as the cause
of the flood.6 In fact, similar practices continued to draw
harsh rebuke in the words of the Prophets – and are
tragically echoed in our own day and age: The Prophets
Malachi and Yishayahu saw this practice as an expression
of immorality and disloyalty, and warned that God Himself

Rashi Bereishit 4:19
‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק יט‬
‫ )ב"ר( כך היה דרכן של דור המבול אחת לפריה ורביה ואחת לתשמיש זו שהיא לתשמיש משקה כוס של עקרין‬- ‫שתי נשים‬
‫)ס"א אינו( כדי שתעקר ומקושטת ככלה ומאכילה מעדנים וחברתה נזופה ואבלה כאלמנה וזהו שפירש איוב )כד כא( רועה‬
:‫עקרה לא תלד ואלמנה לא ייטיב כמו שמפורש באגדת חלק‬
Rashi 6:13 states that the final judgment was for theft, but admits there many other sins committed
(Rashi 6:11). This behavior is therefore one of the reasons for the flood.
‫רש"י בראשית פרק ו פסוק יא‬
:'‫ כי השחית כל בשר וגו‬,‫ כמו )דברים ד טז( פן תשחיתון‬,‫ לשון ערוה ועבודה זרה‬- ‫)יא( ותשחת‬
:‫ גזל‬- ‫ותמלא הארץ חמס‬
‫רש"י בראשית פרק ו פסוק יג‬
:‫ לא נחתם גזר דינם אלא על הגזל‬- ‫כי מלאה הארץ חמס‬
would treat those who were disloyal to “the wife of their
youth” in kind.

‫ פסוק י"ד‬,‫ספר מלאכי פרק ב‬

ָ ‫שר א‬
ֶ ֲ‫ריך ָ א‬
ֶ ‫נעו‬
ְ ‫שת‬
ֶ ֵ‫בין א‬
ֵ ‫בינ ְך ָ ו‬
ֵ ‫עיד‬ ִ ֵ‫כי ה’ ה‬
ִ ‫על‬ ַ ‫מה‬ ָ ‫על‬
ַ ‫תם‬ ֶ ְ ‫מר‬
ַ ֲ‫)יד( ו ַא‬
:ָ ‫ריתֶך‬
ִ ְ‫שת ב‬
ֶ ֵ‫חבֶר ְתְך ָ ו ְא‬
ֲ ‫היא‬
ִ ְ ‫בה ו‬ ָ ‫תה‬ ָ ‫ד‬
ְ ַ ‫בָג‬
And you say, ‘Why is this so?’ Because God has been
witness between you and the wife of your youth, to
whom you have been faithless, yet she is your
companion, and the wife of your covenant. Malachai

'‫ פסוק ו‬,‫ספר ישעיה פרק נד‬

ַ ‫אס א‬
ֵ ‫מ‬
ָ ִ‫כי ת‬
ִ ‫רים‬
ִ ‫נעו‬
ְ ‫שת‬
ֶ ֵ‫ראך ְ ה’ ו ְא‬
ָ ‫ק‬
ְ ‫ח‬ַ ‫בת רו‬
ַ ‫עצו‬
ֲ ַ ‫בה ו‬
ָ ‫עזו‬
ֲ ‫שה‬
ָ ׁ ִ‫כי כ ְא‬ִ
:ְ ‫היך‬
ָ ‫ל‬
ֹ ֱ‫א‬
For the Lord has called you as a woman forsaken and
grieved in spirit, but the wife of (your) youth, can she
be rejected? says your God. Yishayahu 54:68

These verses are expounded by the sages of the Talmud,

who stressed that the bonds between a young man and
his bride are sacred, in a way that no other union can

‫א‬/‫תלמוד בבלי מסכת סנהדרין דף כב‬

‫ריד‬ ִ ‫ח מו‬ ַ ֵ‫מז ְב‬
ִ ‫פלו‬ ִ ֲ‫ א‬,‫נה‬ ָ ‫ראשו‬ ִ ‫שתו‬ ְ ִ‫את א‬ ֶ ‫רש‬ ֵ ָ ‫מג‬
ְ ַ‫כל ה‬
ָ ,‫זר‬ ָ ‫ע‬ָ ְ‫בי אֶל‬ ִ ַ ‫מר ר‬ ַ ‫א‬
ֶ ‫עה‬ ָ ‫מ‬ ְ ‫ד‬
ִ ‫כסות‬ ַ ‫עשו‬ ֲ ַ‫נית ת‬ ִ ‫ש‬ֵ ‫ )מלאכי ב( "ו ְֹזאת‬,‫מר‬ ַ ֱ‫שנ ֶא‬ֶ ,‫מעות‬ ָ ‫ד‬ְ ‫ליו‬ ָ ‫ע‬ ָ
‫שת‬ֶ ֵ‫חבֶר ְתְך ָ ו ְא‬ֲ ‫היא‬ ִ ְ ‫מה ְוגו' ו‬ ָ ‫על‬ ַ ‫תם‬ ֶ ְ ‫מר‬ַ ֲ‫ )שם( "ו ַא‬,‫תיב‬ ִ ְ ‫ וכ‬,'‫בח ה'" ְוגו‬ ַ ְ ‫מז‬ִ
‫שת‬ ֶ ֵ‫ חוץ מֵא‬,‫רה‬ ָ ‫תמו‬ ְ ‫כל ֵיש‬ ֹ ַ‫ ל‬,‫מן‬ָ ‫ח‬ְ ַ ‫בר נ‬ ַ ‫אל‬ ֵ ‫שמו‬ ְ ‫רב‬ ַ ‫מר‬ ַ ‫ …א‬."ָ ‫ריתֶך‬ ִ ְ‫ב‬
?‫אס‬ ֵ ‫מ‬ָ ִ‫כי ת‬
ִ ‫רים‬ ִ ‫נעו‬ ְ ‫שת‬ ֶ ֵ‫ )ישעיה נד( "ו ְא‬,‫מר‬ ַ ֱ‫שנ ֶא‬
ֶ ,‫רים‬ ִ ‫נעו‬ ְ
R. Eliezer said: If (a man) divorces his first wife, the
very Altar sheds tears, as it is written: ‘And this
further you do, you cover the Altar of God with tears,
with weeping and with sighing, so much that He no
longer regards your offerings, nor does He receive
them with good will from your hand.’ Further it is
written: ‘Yet you say, ‘Why?’ Because God has been
witness between you and the wife of your youth,
against whom you have dealt treacherously, though
she is your companion and the wife of your
covenant.’ Samuel b. Nahman said: All things can be
The rejected wife is used here as a metaphor.
This is part of the Haftora read on Parshat Noach.
replaced, except the wife of one's youth, as it is
written, ‘And a wife of [one's] youth, can she be
rejected?’ Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 22a

The Jewish ethos abhors the rejection of the first wife. This
is the case not only when a man takes two wives, but also
if he casts aside the first wife, the older woman who has
borne his children and built her life around him and their
home, in favor of a younger woman. Lemech was the first
to create the impossible situation of “eating the cake and
having it, too”: one wife for work and one wife for play.
While this is not the only incidence in Bereishit in which a
man takes two wives, in no other case did the man set out
to do so as a premeditated course of action. In almost
every instance the arrival of the second wife is due to
infertility in the first. Other than Lemech, the only person
who set out a priori to take two wives was Esav.

‫בראשית פרק כו פסוק לד‬

‫שַמת ַּבת ֵאיֹלן‬
ְׂ ‫שה ֶאת ְיהּוִדית ַּבת ְּבֵאִרי ַהִחִּתי ְוֶאת ָּב‬
ָּׁ ‫שָנה ַוִּיַּקח ִא‬
ָׁ ‫שו ֶּבן ַאְרָּבִעים‬
ָׂ ‫ַוְיִהי ֵע‬
34. And Esav was forty years old when he married
Judith the daughter of Beeri the Hittite, and Bas’mat
the daughter of Elon the Hittite; Bereishit 26:34

Esav reminds us of Cain in many ways, not the least of

which is his penchant for violence. We have discussed
elsewhere9 Esav’s propensity for superficial thinking and
his insatiable need to dominate and possess. It should
therefore come as no surprise that the model he chose for
his most intimate relationships is this morally
reprehensible practice introduced by Lemech. Indeed, this
must be viewed as one more in a long list of behaviors
that connect Esav with Cain and his descendents.

Lemech was more than a trendsetter; his behavior

represents a corruption of the morals upon which human
society is based. When Lemech took two wives, he
expressed a much larger, much deeper ego-centrism:
‘What’s in it for me? What do I gain from this relationship?’

See my Notes on Parshat Toldot and Parshat Vay’chi in Explorations (2000).
The paradigm which existed up to this point is based upon
very different principles: The first chapter of Bereishit
introduces male and female with the stated purpose of
procreation, while the second chapter speaks of oneness,
even sexual unity, but makes no mention of procreation.
Which is the “real” wife from a Torah perspective?
Apparently, the answer is – “both”. The merger of the two
images creates the unified picture of the whole woman. To
divide the roles is to objectify women based on utility; this
is not the ideal to which the Torah ascribes, not the ideal
toward which mankind is meant to strive. A wife, a
partner, a helpmate – a soulmate - is both a mother and a

Nonetheless, Lemech takes his two wives, dissecting and

rebuilding the moral underpinnings of the family unit to
reflect his personal greed and egocentrism. Rashi teaches
that Adah was designated to be the childbearer,10 while
Tzillah was chosen for her beauty.11 In fulfillment of her
role, Adah bears children. First, she has a child named
Yaval, a name which seems to shadow “Hevel”. We are
forced to consider the complexity of this situation over
and over: Cain killed Hevel, and his descendents name
their children, time and time again, after the “missing”
brother, the brother whom their own forefather killed.

‫ פסוק כ‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬

ֶ ‫ק‬
ְ ‫מ‬
ִ ‫הל ו‬
ֶ ‫א‬
ֹ ‫שב‬
ֵ ‫בי י‬
ִ ֲ‫בל הוא הָָיה א‬
ָ ָ ‫את י‬
ֶ ‫דה‬
ָ ‫ע‬
ָ ‫לד‬
ֶ ֵ‫ו ַת‬
And Adah bore Yaval; he was the father of those who
live in tents, and of those who have cattle. Ereishit 4,

Not only is his name reminiscent of Hevel, but Yaval

adopts Hevel’s vocation; he becomes a man of the tents
and a shepherd. Adah’s second son is named Yuval, a
name remarkably similar to his brother Yaval and, again,
See Rashi Bereishit 4:19 ironically the name Adah has a connotation of beauty, which perhaps would
have made her the candidate for pleasure.
‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק יט‬
:‫ היא של פריה ורביה ועל שם שמגונה עליו ומוסרת מאצלו )ס"א ממאכלו( עדה תרגום של סורה‬- ‫עדה‬
See Rashi Bereishit 4:19, the name Tzillah means shadow.
‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק יט‬
:‫ היא של תשמיש על שם שיושבת תמיד בצלו דברי אגדה הם בבראשית רבה‬- ‫צלה‬
reminiscent of Hevel. He is a musician; the merger of
these two sons produces a musician/shepherd, stirring for
the reader images of King David.

‫ פסוק כ"א‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬

ָ ‫כנור ְועו‬
ִ ‫פש‬
ֵ ‫ת‬
ֹ ‫כל‬
ָ ‫בי‬
ִ ֲ‫בל הוא הָָיה א‬
ָ ‫חיו יו‬
ִ ‫שם א‬
ֵ ְ ‫)כא( ו‬
And his brother’s name was Yuval; he was the father
of all who handle the harp and pipe. Bereishit 4, 21

Lemech, fifth in the line established by Cain after his

exile, seems intent on making reparations. Not only
does he kill Cain, he names his children after Cain’s
victim, a man who never had children of his own.
Lemech’s children are, in some way, replacements
for Hevel.

Although the names Lemech gives his children may

indicate that he is attempting to replace Hevel, his modus
operandi is a very Cain-like.12

‫כ"ד‬-‫ פסוק כ"ג‬,‫בראשית פרק ד‬

‫ש ָהַרְגִּתי ְלִפְצִעי ְוֶיֶלד‬
ׁ ‫שי ֶלֶמְך ַהְאֵזָּנה ִאְמָרִתי ִּכי ִאי‬ֵׁ ‫שַמַען קֹוִלי ְנ‬ְׁ ‫שיו ָעָדה ְוִצָּלה‬ ָׁ ‫ַוֹּיאֶמר ֶלֶמְך ְלָנ‬
:‫שְבָעה‬ִׁ ‫שְבִעים ְו‬ ִׁ ‫שְבָעַתִים ֻיַּקם ָקִין ְוֶלֶמְך‬ִׁ ‫ ִּכי‬:‫ְלַחֻּבָרִתי‬
And Lamech said to his wives, Adah and Zillah, Hear
my voice; you wives of Lamech, listen to my speech;
for I have slain a man13 for wounding me, and a
young man for hurting me. If Cain shall be avenged
sevenfold, truly Lamech seventy and sevenfold.
Bereishit 4, 23-24

See Rashi 4:1 which is based on Midrash Rabbah 22:2
‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק א‬
:(‫ ג' אתים ריבוים הם מלמד שתאומה נולדה עם קין ועם הבל נולדו שתים לכך נאמר ותוסף )ב"ר‬- ‫את קין את אחיו את הבל‬
‫מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה כב פסקה ב‬
‫אר"א בן עזריה ג' פלאים נעשו באותו היום בו ביום נבראו בו ביום שמשו בו ביום הוציאו תולדות א"ל רבי יהושע בן קרחה‬
‫עלו למטה שנים וירדו שבעה קין ותאומתו והבל ושתי תאומותיו‬
R. Eleazar b. ‘Azariah said: Three wonders were performed on that day: on that very day they were
created, on that very day they cohabited, and on that very day they produced off- spring. R. Joshua b.
Karhah said: Only two entered the bed, and seven left it: Cain and his twin sister, Abel and his two
twin sisters.
While the verse is inexplicit as to the identity of the victim of Lemech, tradition tells us that it is
Cain, see Rashi 4:23.
‫רש"י בראשית פרק ד פסוק כג‬
‫ וראה‬,‫ שהיה למך סומא ותובל קין מושכו‬,‫ שהיו פורשות ממנו מתשמיש לפי שהרג את קין ואת תובל קין בנו‬- ‫)כג( שמען קולי‬
‫ הכה כף אל כף וספק את בנו ביניהם‬,‫ וכיון שידע שהוא קין זקנו‬.‫ והרגו‬,‫את קין ונדמה לו כחיה ואמר לאביו למשוך בקשת‬
:‫ והיו נשיו פורשות ממנו והוא מפייסן‬,‫והרגו‬
Lemech is not only a descendent of Cain in terms of
genealogy or genetics; his behavior indicates that he is a
follower of Cain, behaviorally and perhaps philosophically.
Lemech is the second person in history to commit murder;
the victim is none other than the first person in history to
have committed murder – Cain himself! He himself draws
a parallel between them, expressing to his wives his own
inner sense that his fate will parallel that of Cain.

Yet despite Lemech’s best plans, Tzillah, the “trophy

wife”, also bears children:14 first, a son named Tuval-Cain,
a name which seems to conjure up not only Hevel, but a
merger with Cain. This son of Tzillah worked with metals:

‫ פסוק כ"ב‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬

… ‫זל‬ֶ ְ ‫שת ובַר‬
ֶ ‫נח‬
ְ ‫רש‬
ֵ ‫ח‬
ֹ ‫כל‬
ָ ‫טש‬
ֵ ‫ל‬
ֹ ‫קין‬
ַ ‫בל‬
ַ ‫את תו‬
ֶ ‫דה‬
ָ ְ‫הוא י ָל‬
ִ ‫גם‬
ַ ‫לה‬
ָ ִ ‫ו ְצ‬
And Zillah, she also bore Tuval-Cain, forger of every
sharp instrument in bronze and iron… Bereishit 4, 22

Here again, we are told of Tuval-Cain’s choice of vocation.

We cannot but wonder what it was that attracted Tuval-
Cain to this particular line of work; was it in imitation of
Cain’s vocation as a farmer that Tuval-Cain produced
plowshares and farming implements, or in imitation of the
homicidal tendencies of Cain and his own father Lemech
that he perfected the manufacture of weapons? It is not
difficult to imagine either scenario, or even a third
possibility: Could he have convinced others that the sharp
instruments he was producing were intended for peaceful,
domestic use – when in fact he fully intended to fall into
step with his murderous ancestors when the opportunity
presented itself?15

It seems only in passing that we are told that Tuval-Cain

had a sister, Na’ama.

See Daat Zekanim Baalie Hatosfot 4:19
‫דעת זקנים מבעלי התוספות על בראשית פרק ד פסוק יט‬
‫ וי"ל דלהכי כתיב גם כלומר אף צלה‬.‫ וקשיא לי דהא כתיב אח"כ וצלה גם היא ילדה‬.‫ופי' דצלה היתה אותה של תשמיש‬
:‫שנבחרה לתשמיש ילדה ולא הועיל לה כוס של עיקרין‬
See Rashi Bereishit 4:22
‫רש"י על בראשית פרק ד פסוק כב‬
:‫ תובל לשון תבלין תיבל והתקין אומנתו של קין לעשות כלי זיין לרוצחים‬.‫ תובל אומנתו של קין‬- ‫)כב( תובל קין‬
‫ פסוק כ"ב‬,‫ספר בראשית פרק ד‬
‫זל; ואחות‬
ֶ ְ ‫שת ובַר‬
ֶ ‫נח‬
ְ ‫רש‬
ֵ ‫ח‬
ֹ ‫כל‬
ָ ‫טש‬
ֵ ‫ל‬
ֹ ‫קין‬
ַ ‫בל‬
ַ ‫את תו‬
ֶ ‫דה‬
ָ ְ‫הוא י ָל‬
ִ ‫גם‬
ַ ‫לה‬
ָ ִ ‫ו ְצ‬
.‫קין נעמה‬-‫תובל‬
And Zillah, she also bore Tuval-Cain, forger of every
sharp instrument in bronze and iron; and Tuval-Cain’s
sister was Na’ama. Bereishit 4, 22

Na’ama was not “incidentally” the sister of Tuval-Cain.

She was the final link in chain which began with Cain and
is traced through Lemech, who bestowed upon his
children the legacy of Hevel. This very Na’ama will
facilitate the merger of the genealogical lines: a
descendent of Cain, a stand-in for Hevel, she marries
Noach, a descendent of Shet - himself a replacement for
‫כ"ו‬-‫ כ"ה‬,‫בראשית פרק ד‬
ִ ‫שת‬ ָ ‫כי‬ ִ ‫שת‬ ֵ ‫שמו‬ְ ‫את‬ֶ ‫רא‬ ָ ‫ק‬
ְ ִ‫בן ו ַת‬ֵ ‫לד‬ ֶ ֵ‫שתו ו ַת‬ ְ ִ‫את א‬ ֶ ‫דם עוד‬ ָ ‫דע א‬ ַ ֵ ‫ו ַי‬
‫רא‬ָ ‫ק‬
ְ ִ ‫בן ו ַי‬
ֵ ‫לד‬ַ ֻ ‫גם הוא י‬
ַ ‫שת‬ֵ ְ‫ ול‬:‫קין‬ָ ‫רגו‬ ָ ֲ‫כי ה‬ִ ‫בל‬ ֶ ‫ה‬ֶ ‫חת‬ ַ ‫ת‬ַ ‫חר‬ֵ ‫רע א‬ ַ ֶ ‫הים ז‬
ִ ‫ל‬ ֹ ֱ‫א‬
:’‫שם ה‬ ֵ ְ‫רא ב‬ ֹ ‫ק‬ְ ִ‫חל ל‬ ַ ‫אנוש אז הו‬ ֱ ‫שמו‬ ְ ‫את‬ ֶ
And Adam knew his wife again; and she bore a son, and
called his name Shet, “For God has appointed me another
seed instead of Hevel, whom Cain slew.’ And to Shet, to
him also there was born a son; and he called his name
Enosh; then began men to call upon the Almighty God by
name. Bereishit 4, 25-26

Noach preserves the line of Shet, the elevated son of

Adam and Eve who was uniquely endowed with the breath
of the divine. For better or worse, Cain’s family line is also
preserved, through Na’ama. Even after the great flood
which purges the world of sin and restores purity and
equilibrium, Na’ama carries the line of Cain into the
world.16 Na’ama, the wife of Noach, survives; the line of
Cain lives on.

Redeeming Cain

The Maharal in Gur Aryeh 4:19, suggests that the descendents of Cain hesitated to have children
because they knew this line should be wiped out as punishment for Cain’s sin.
‫ספר גור אריה על בראשית פרק ד פסוק יט‬
.‫ והוצרך לפייס אותם‬,(‫מפני שכל הענין מדבר איך היו פורשין נשי למך מן למך בשביל שהיו יראים מפני עונש קין )רש"י שם‬
‫ ועוד‬. ‫ כי נכתב איך היה גדול עונש קין עד שהיו נשי למך פורשין ממנו בשביל יראת העונש‬,‫והשתא לא קשה למה נכתב זה כאן‬
:‫ ובלאו הכי לא היינו יודעים שנענש זרעו של קין‬,‫ שהרי יראים היו מלהוליד‬,‫דבא לאשמועינן שכל זרע של קין נמחה‬
Why must this be so? Does this line deserve preservation?
Is the line of Cain redeemable? The crux of this question
centers on Na’ama, and the answers offered by our sages
vary: Some claim that she was a worthy mate for Noach;
she, as he, was righteous.17 Others identify Na’ama as a
demonic figure18 who was guilty of causing even the
angels to fall.19 This tradition of “fallen angels” is
associated with the enigmatic “bnei elohim” and the
equally mysterious “Nefilim” who appear at the very end
of Parshat Bereishit, as part of the backdrop to the
generation of the flood:

‫ד‬-‫ א‬,‫בראשית פרק ו‬

‫ ַוִּיְראּו ְבֵני ָהֱאֹלִהים ֶאת ְּבנֹות ָהָאָדם‬:‫ַוְיִהי ִּכי ֵהֵחל ָהָאָדם ָלֹרב ַעל ְּפֵני ָהֲאָדָמה ּוָבנֹות ֻיְּלדּו ָלֶהם‬
‫…ַהְּנִפִלים ָהיּו ָבָאֶרץ ַּבָּיִמים ָהֵהם ְוַגם ַאֲחֵרי‬:‫שר ָּבָחרּו‬ ֶׁ ‫שים ִמֹּכל ֲא‬ ִׁ ‫ִּכי ֹטֹבת ֵהָּנה ַוִּיְקחּו ָלֶהם ָנ‬
‫שי‬ֵׁ ‫שר ֵמעֹוָלם ַאְנ‬
ֶׁ ‫שר ָיֹבאּו ְּבֵני ָהֱאֹלִהים ֶאל ְּבנֹות ָהָאָדם ְוָיְלדּו ָלֶהם ֵהָּמה ַהִּגֹּבִרים ֲא‬ ֶׁ ‫ֵכן ֲא‬
:‫שם‬ֵּׁ ‫ַה‬
And it came to pass, when men began to multiply on
the face of the earth, and daughters were born to
them; That the sons of the powerful saw the
daughters of men that they were pretty; and they
took as wives all those whom they chose. There were
Nefilim in the earth in those days; and also after that,
when the sons of powerful came in to the daughters
of men, and they bore children to them, the same
became mighty men of old, men of renown. Bereishit

This passage seems to outline the existence of various

strata of society – even strata of humanity: the sons of the
Midrash Rabbah Bereshit 23:3
‫מדרש רבה בראשית פרשה כג פסקה ג‬
‫ואחות תובל קין נעמה א"ר אבא בר כהנא נעמה אשתו של נח היתה למה היו קורין אותה נעמה שהיו מעשיה נעימים ורבנן‬
:‫אמרי נעמה אחרת היתה ולמה היו קורין אותה נעמה שהיתה מנעמת בתוף לעבודת כוכבים‬
“And the sister of Tuval-Cain was Na’amah.’ R. Abba b. Kahana said: Na’amah was Noach's wife; and
why was she called Na’amah? Because her deeds were pleasing (ne'imim). The Rabbis said: Na’amah
was a woman of a different stamp, for the name denotes that she sang (man'emeth) to the timbrel in
honor of idolatry.
See Zohar Vayikra 76b.
Both sides are quoted in the Midrash Neelam:
‫מדרש הנעלם פרשת בראשית מאמר קין והבל ושת‬
‫ פשוטו של מקרא‬,‫ ר' אבהו אמר‬.‫ ונעימה במעשיה‬,‫ צדקת היתה‬,‫ אלא א"ר יצחק‬.‫ ואחות תובל קין נעמה‬,‫ מאי דכתיב‬,‫א"ר יצחק‬
‫ ואחות תובל‬,‫ הוא היה אבי כל חרש נחשת וברזל‬.‫ משמע דכתיב‬.‫ כמו אחיה תובל קין‬,‫ על שהיתה חכמה במלאכת הברזל‬,‫מורה‬
‫ וא"ו דואחות מוסיף על‬,‫ שהיתה בקיאה כמותו‬,‫ ואחות תובל קין נעמה‬,‫ הה"ד‬.‫ ואחותו עמו‬,‫ הוא הוציא אומנות זו‬,‫קין נעמה‬
:‫הענין של מעלה‬
‫ ר' יצחק בשם ר' יוחנן‬.‫ נעמה שמה‬,‫ מלכא דשידי‬,‫ דהא אימא דאשמדאי‬.‫ והולידה אותם‬,‫ אמן של שדים היתה‬,‫רבי בא אמר‬
:‫ במראה וביופי‬,‫ וממנה יצאו אותן דכתיב כי טובות הנה‬,‫ על שם יופיה נקראת כך‬,‫אמר‬
powerful, the daughters of man, the even-more-obscure
Nefilim. We have suggested the possibility that the ‘sons
of the powerful’ are “prehistoric” soulless humanoids,
offspring of Adam and Eve who did not possess the breath
of the divine which distinguished Adam, Eve and their son
Shet.20 This line, then, would include Cain; it is preserved
through Na’ama.21

Saint or Demon?
Is Na’ama a demon-like temptress, or a fitting spouse for
the great tzaddik, the most righteous man of the
generation? We should recall that Noach’s wife entered
the Ark with the other women, and Rashi noted that this
indicates the abstinence that would be practiced on the
boat. If this is Na’ama, the conclusion is startling, the
contrast stark: This woman is the daughter of Tzillah, the
“trophy wife” taken by Lemech solely for the purpose of
hedonistic pleasure. Here she stands, as the waters begin
to cover the earth, the leader of the women who have
been chosen to bring about the historic reconciliation, the
rebirth of creation – by means of preserving abstinence
and holiness on the ark. Seen in this light, Na’ama is
anything but a brazen seductress.

As the flood narrative unfolds, so many details of the story

begin to take on different hues when viewed from the
perspective of Na’ama’s personal history: All of the
creatures board the Ark in pairs, in what may now be seen
as a polemic against Lemech’s bigamy and the corruption
and egocentricity of that entire generation. And yet, the
order of the day, the way that Creation will be preserved
and redeemed, is not through the sexuality of these pairs
but through their abstinence. The family unit on the Ark
that is entrusted with preserving all of creation will work
together with common purpose, as helpmates, as
See my notes on last week’s Parsha:
This does not help us understand the Nefilim, which literally means “the fallen ones”. See Talmud
Bavli Yoma 67b:
‫תלמוד בבלי מסכת יומא דף סז עמוד ב‬
‫ שמכפר על מעשה עוזא ועזאל‬- ‫ עזאזל‬:‫תנא דבי רבי ישמעאל‬.
Rashi explains that these were destructive angels, products of Na’ama’s seduction. For more on these
angels see Rav Reuven Margoliot, Malachei Elyon page 273ff, Zohar Bereshit 23a. Also see Rashi
Talmud Bavli Yoma 67b, and Midrash Aggada (Buber) Bereishit chapter 4 which states that the angels
were tempted by her beauty, but she avoided their advances.
soulmates. They will assist Noach in assuming the role of
caretaker for all the species – the shepherd for all of
creation, as it were. Only when the descendents of Cain
and of Shet join together to assume the vocation left
vacant by Hevel’s death can humanity be redeemed.
When Noach later reverts to the role of Cain – planting a
vineyard and turning his back on the role of shepherd, he
is humiliated and his descendents are cursed. The role of
Hevel brings salvation; the role of Cain brings ignominy.

We may now view Cham’s outrageous behavior as a

throwback to the pre-flood generation,22 or as a
reemergence of the Cain genes that Cham inherited
through Na’ama. In fact, throughout the book of Bereishit,
the men who use sexual conquest as a means of
domination and abuse power and sexuality in a volatile
mix are all descendents of Cham: Pharoh, 23 Avimelech,
the men of Sodom24 are all descendants of Cham. The
background of the flood, the corruption of a world in which
women are objectified and valued only for their utility,
coupled with violence and paved the way for destruction.
It is for this reason that Rashi stresses that Lemech’s
behavior was prototypical of that generation. As we read
the story of Cham’s violation of Noach in the aftermath of
the flood, as we trace this same streak of violence and
sexuality from the Serpent25, through Cain, to Cham, and
through the generations of Cham’s descendents, a certain
fatalism seeps in. Was it really necessary to preserve the
line of Cain, to keep this streak alive and send it out into
the world after the flood? Once again, the answer lies with
Na’ama: Here is the child of Lemech and Tzillah, the
product of an unholy union born in hedonism and
selfishness, heir to the dubious legacy of violence passed
down from Cain. And yet, Na’ama was a righteous woman.
She was a worthy mate for the son of Shet, a worthy

See Maarechet Elokut chapter 13.
‫ פרק שלושה עשר‬- ‫ספר מערכת האלקות‬
‫גם נשארו לקיום העולם אחר דור המבול שהיתה כמו בריאה חדשה שבעה… אמנם לא רצה השם ית' להאביד מביתו של נח‬
.‫ אמנם קלקל חם ונתקלקל זרעו‬.‫הצדיק ומזרעו כלום בזכותו לא קדם המבול ולא אחר המבול‬
Bereishit 12:15
Bereishit 10:19, 13:13
See last week’s essay:
progenitor for the new world that would arise after the

In fact, Na’ama is held up as a shining example of the

efficacy of Teshuva: Rav Zadok Hakohen points to Na’ama
as proof that even Cain’s Teshuva was real; no
descendents of the stature of Na’ama and Avraham could
have been possible otherwise. Teshuva is an absolute; it is
always possible and always effective.26

Our failures are always attributable to others –

background and social pressures, genetics and upbringing.
We learn from Na’ama that despite the violent, oppressive
nature of the surrounding society, despite the extremely
challenging family history, despite the genetic and
genealogical challenges with which we are born, we are all
capable of making choices for our own lives. Although the
line of the Serpent, of Cain, lives on within each of us,27
God does not despair of our capacity to rise above, to
connect with the divine breath with which he has endowed
each and every one of us. And if He believes in us, can we
believe any less?

Pri Zadik Parshat Vayelech, Shabbat Teshuva section 8.
‫ אות ח‬- ‫ספר פרי צדיק פרשת וילך ושבת תשובה‬
‫וכן מצינו בקין שבאמת הועיל תשובתו דאיתא )בר"ר פ' כ"ג( נעמה אשתו של נח היתה ויצא ממנה כל העולם ואברהם אבינו‬
.‫ וכן בשורש נשמות איתא מהאר"י הקדוש דמחצה משורש קין ומחצה משורש הבל‬.‫ע"ה וכל אומה הישראלית‬
See Maarechet Elokut chapter 13.
‫ פרק שלושה עשר‬- ‫ספר מערכת האלקות‬
‫ ואולי נשארה נעמה‬.‫ נח ושלושה בניו וג' נשי בניו‬.‫גם נשארו לקיום העולם אחר דור המבול שהיתה כמו בריאה חדשה שבעה‬
… ‫אשת נח שהיתה עודפת על מספר הז' מזרע קין בעבור שלא רצה השם ית' למחו' לגמרי שמם מאות' שהיו ראשונים בבריאה‬