Cham, Canaan and Noach: The Untold Story

וַיּ֥וֹלֶד נֹ֖חַ שְׁלשָׁ֣ה בָנִ֑ים אֶת־שֵׁ֖ם אֶת־חָ֥ם וְאֶת־יָֽפֶת
1) Why specifically the word וַיּ֥וֹלֶד that Noach fathered Shem, Cham, and Yafet?
2) Why is the pasuk seemingly redundant by saying Noach had 3 sons – Shem, Cham and Yafet?

Later in the narrative it says:
וַיִּֽהְי֣וּ בְנֵי־נֹ֗חַ הַיֹּֽצְאִים֙ מִן־הַתֵּבָ֔ה שֵׁ֖ם וְחָ֣ם וָיָ֑פֶת וְחָ֕ם ה֖וּא אֲבִ֥י כְנָֽעַן:שְׁלשָׁ֥ה אֵ֖לֶּה בְּנֵי־נֹ֑חַ וּמֵאֵ֖לֶּה נָֽפְצָ֥ה כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ:
3) Why does it tell us וְחָ֕ם ה֖וּא אֲבִ֥י כְנָֽעַן right before the following story?

וַיָּ֥חֶל נֹ֖חַ אִ֣ישׁ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וַיִּטַּ֖ע כָּֽרֶם: וַיֵּ֥שְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּ֖יִן וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר וַיִּתְגַּ֖ל בְּת֥וֹךְ אָֽהֳלֹֽה:וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לִשְׁנֵֽי־אֶחָ֖יו בַּחֽוּץ:יִּקַּח֩ שֵׁ֨ם וָיֶ֜פֶת אֶת־הַשִּׂמְלָ֗ה וַיָּשִׂ֨ימוּ֙ עַל־שְׁכֶ֣ם שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וַיְכַסּ֕וּ אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת
אֲבִיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶם֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וְעֶרְוַ֥ת אֲבִיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א רָאֽו

4) Why does it then repeat that Cham was the father of Canaan specifically in this pasuk, especially considering Canaan is listed as the fourth of Cham’s sons in Perek 10 Pasuk 6?
5) What did Cham “see” that was worthy of being repeated to his brothers?
6) The use of the term “the dress” sounds specific – which dress is it referring to?
7) Commentators say וַיָּ֥חֶל means “began” – what did Noach begin to do?
8) What was done in this episode that deserved such harsh punishment?

A few pasukim before this episode (9:1) it says the following:

וַיְבָ֣רֶךְ אֱלֹהִ֔ים אֶת־נֹ֖חַ וְאֶת־בָּנָ֑יו וַיֹּ֧אמֶר לָהֶ֛ם פְּר֥וּ וּרְב֖וּ וּמִלְא֥וּ אֶת־הָאָֽרֶץ

“And God blessed Noah and his sons, and He said to them: “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.”

G-d then makes a covenant, signified by the rainbow, declaring that He will not destroy all flesh again by way of a flood as he sees that man is “evil from his youth”. It is a logical assumption that Hashem informed them that he would not destroy mankind like this again to allay their fears and doubts about procreating. Perhaps that is why that information is sandwiched between Hashem’s two commands to procreate and repopulate the Earth.
After this covenant, God once again declares (9:7) וְאַתֶּ֖ם פְּר֣וּ וּרְב֑וּ שִׁרְצ֥וּ בָאָ֖רֶץ וּרְבוּ־בָֽהּ
“And you, be fruitful and multiply; swarm upon the earth and multiply thereon”

After this second command to be fruitful and multiply the story of the vineyard commences. It is possible to believe that Noach’s concern about having more children considering the devastating destruction he just witnessed and his all too painful awareness that “man is evil from his youth” made it very difficult for Noach to fulfill God’s command to do so. Despite his reservations, Noach was a man who always “walked with God”, he therefore begins the process of fulfilling God’s command by planting the vineyard so that he can produce wine, relax the mind and be with his wife in order to aid him in the process of having more children.

The words in the Pasuk can thus be understood as follows:

וַיָּ֥חֶל נֹ֖חַ אִ֣ישׁ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וַיִּטַּ֖ע כָּֽרֶם: וַיֵּ֥שְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּ֖יִן וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר וַיִּתְגַּ֖ל בְּת֥וֹךְ אָֽהֳלֹֽה:
“And Noach began to be a master of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent.”

“And Noach began” to make good on God’s command to procreate by being a man of the field so he could plant a vineyard.
“And he drank, became drunk and he uncovered himself within the tent” – in his tent in order to procreate with his wife. However, Noach’s plan failed as he fell into a drunken stupor.

At this point, Cham saw his Father’s failed attempt and for reasons that will be discussed later, Cham acts by having relations with his Mother, who conceives a son, Canaan.

וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לִשְׁנֵֽי־אֶחָ֖יו בַּחֽוּץ:

Cham then saw עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו which can be interpreted to mean that Cham slept with his mother, as follows:

1) וַיַּ֗רְא = to have sexual relations.

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 70a) suggests that וַיַּ֗רְא refers to sexual relations (claiming that Cham raped Noach). There are several other instances in Bereshit such as Dina (Bereshit 34:2 ), Sarah with Pharaoh (Bereshit 12:14-15) and Potiphar’s wife and Yosef (Bereshit 38:7) which support the view that וַיַּ֗רְא is a prelude to sexual activity.

2)The nakedness of the mother equals the nakedness of the father.

(Vayikra 18) וַיְדַבֵּ֥ר יְהוָֹ֖ה אֶל־משֶׁ֥ה לֵּאמֹֽר:דַּבֵּר֙ אֶל־בְּנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל וְאָֽמַרְתָּ֖ אֲלֵהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:כְּמַֽעֲשֵׂ֧ה אֶֽרֶץ־מִצְרַ֛יִם אֲשֶׁ֥ר יְשַׁבְתֶּם־בָּ֖הּ לֹ֣א תַֽעֲשׂ֑וּ וּכְמַֽעֲשֵׂ֣ה אֶֽרֶץ־כְּנַ֡עַן אֲשֶׁ֣ר אֲנִי֩ מֵבִ֨יא אֶתְכֶ֥ם שָׁ֨מָּ֨ה לֹ֣א תַֽעֲשׂ֔וּ וּבְחֻקֹּֽתֵיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א תֵלֵֽכוּ:אֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֧י תַּֽעֲשׂ֛וּ וְאֶת־חֻקֹּתַ֥י תִּשְׁמְר֖וּ לָלֶ֣כֶת בָּהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹ֥ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶֽם:שְׁמַרְתֶּ֤ם אֶת־חֻקֹּתַי֙ וְאֶת־מִשְׁפָּטַ֔י אֲשֶׁ֨ר יַֽעֲשֶׂ֥ה אֹתָ֛ם הָֽאָדָ֖ם וָחַ֣י בָּהֶ֑ם אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹֽה:אִ֥ישׁ אִישׁ֙ אֶל־כָּל־שְׁאֵ֣ר בְּשָׂר֔וֹ לֹ֥א תִקְרְב֖וּ לְגַלּ֣וֹת עֶרְוָ֑ה אֲנִ֖י יְהוָֹֽה:עֶרְוַ֥ת אָבִ֛יךָ וְעֶרְוַ֥ת אִמְּךָ֖ לֹ֣א תְגַלֵּ֑ה אִמְּךָ֣ הִ֔וא לֹ֥א תְגַלֶּ֖ה עֶרְוָתָֽהּ:עֶרְוַ֥ת אֵֽשֶׁת־אָבִ֖יךָ לֹ֣א תְגַלֵּ֑ה עֶרְוַ֥ת אָבִ֖יךָ הִֽוא:

In Vayikra Chapter 18 we are commanded not to act like they did in Mitzrayim and Canaan, both who are descendants of Cham, and apparently followed in the father’s perverse ways of having illicit relations which are listed in Vayikra 18 beginning with relations with one’s father’s wife.
עֶרְוַ֥ת אֵֽשֶׁת־אָבִ֖יךָ לֹ֣א תְגַלֵּ֑ה עֶרְוַ֥ת אָבִ֖יךָ הִֽוא
You shall not uncover the nakedness of your father’s wife; it is your father’s nakedness.
This pasuk indicates that the nakedness of your father’s wife is your father’s nakedness.
Thus the phrase וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו can be understood to mean that Cham had sexual relations ( וַיַּ֗רְא ) with Noach’s wife ( ערות אביו = אשת אביו). It specifies Cham, father of Canaan to teach us that Canaan was the result of this illicit act.

Father of Canaan

וַיִּֽהְי֣וּ בְנֵי־נֹ֗חַ הַיֹּֽצְאִים֙ מִן־הַתֵּבָ֔ה שֵׁ֖ם וְחָ֣ם וָיָ֑פֶת וְחָ֕ם ה֖וּא אֲבִ֥י כְנָֽעַן:שְׁלשָׁ֥ה אֵ֖לֶּה בְּנֵי־נֹ֑חַ וּמֵאֵ֖לֶּה נָֽפְצָ֥ה כָל־הָאָֽרֶץ:וַיָּ֥חֶל נֹ֖חַ אִ֣ישׁ הָֽאֲדָמָ֑ה וַיִּטַּ֖ע כָּֽרֶם:וַיֵּ֥שְׁתְּ מִן־הַיַּ֖יִן וַיִּשְׁכָּ֑ר וַיִּתְגַּ֖ל בְּת֥וֹךְ אָֽהֳלֹֽה:וַיַּ֗רְא חָ֚ם אֲבִ֣י כְנַ֔עַן אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אָבִ֑יו וַיַּגֵּ֥ד לִשְׁנֵֽי־אֶחָ֖יו בַּחֽוּץ:
“And the sons of Noah who came out of the ark were Shem, Ham, and Japheth; and Ham he was the father of Canaan. These three were the sons of Noah, and from these, the entire earth spread out. And Noah began to be a master of the soil, and he planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father’s nakedness, and he told his two brothers outside.”

We can now understand why it refers to Cham father of Canaan these two times. It also explains why the Torah clearly stated numerous times that Noach had specifically (only) three sons. It is also important to note that this story is placed just prior to the listing of the lineage of Noach and all his sons. We are therefore meant to make no mistake about who Canaan’s father is and how and when he was conceived.

Bno HaKatan
וַיִּ֥יקֶץ נֹ֖חַ מִיֵּינ֑וֹ וַיֵּ֕דַע אֵ֛ת אֲשֶׁר־עָ֥שָׂה ל֖וֹ בְּנ֥וֹ הַקָּטָֽן:

“And Noach awoke from his wine, and he knew what his small son had done to him.”

There is confusion as to why the pasuk refers to Cham as Noach’s “small son”. Whenever the Torah lists the three sons of Noach, Cham is the middle son and Yafet is the youngest. Why is Cham referred to as his “small son” when it seems that Yafet is the youngest. I’d like to suggest an answer that will help facilitate our understanding of Cham’s motive for his actions.

Cham acted to assert his position by sleeping with his father’s wife. This is an ancient practice done to usurp the power from a current leader (see 2 Samuel 16:22) thereby establishing Cham as the next leader. He saw his father in a drunken stupor unable to fulfill God’s command to procreate. This was his opportunity to upstage Noach, fill that position, become the leader of the new world and show his father and brothers that he indeed was not inferior. This motive helps us understand why his punishment was fitting that he should forever be subservient to his brothers, specifically to Shem, the older brother. Cham felt that he was of lesser stature than his brothers. This was a self-fulfilling prophecy for only after he acted to prove himself and enhance his position are we told that he is actually viewed as small in the eyes of Noach.

HaSimla

וַיִּקַּח֩ שֵׁ֨ם וָיֶ֜פֶת אֶת־הַשִּׂמְלָ֗ה וַיָּשִׂ֨ימוּ֙ עַל־שְׁכֶ֣ם שְׁנֵיהֶ֔ם וַיֵּֽלְכוּ֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וַיְכַסּ֕וּ אֵ֖ת עֶרְוַ֣ת אֲבִיהֶ֑ם וּפְנֵיהֶם֙ אֲחֹ֣רַנִּ֔ית וְעֶרְוַ֥ת אֲבִיהֶ֖ם לֹ֥א רָאֽוּ:
“And Shem and Yafet took the garment, and they placed [it] on both of their shoulders, and they walked backward, and they covered their father’s nakedness, and their faces were turned backward so that they did not see their father’s nakedness.”

Which “dress” is the text referring to?

Perhaps after Cham raped his mother and went outside to tell his brothers, he brought his mother’s dress with him to show proof of his actions so that they are aware that he is now the new leader and to know who is the father of the child that will issue forth from their mother. That explains why Cham would want to brag to his brothers that he had committed such an act. This also explains which dress the text is referring to by THE dress – the one Cham brought for proof – is the very same one they took on their backs into the tent to cover their mother with and restore what was left of her dignity.

About the Author
Aliza Lipkin is a firm lover and believer in her country, her people and her G-d. She moved from the land of the free (America) to the home of the brave (Israel) 10 years ago and now resides with her family in Maaleh Adumim.
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