Parashat Noah -- Genesis 6:9-11:32
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Questions for Young Children

  • How did the olive branch let Noah know that it was safe to leave his ark?
  • Why did the dove pick an olive branch and not a branch from another tree?
  • How do you think Noah and his family felt about olives after they left the ark?

Questions for Older Children

  • What do you know about olive trees and where they grow?
  • How long does an olive tree live? 
  • Why might the olive branch be a good symbol for the end of the flood?
  • How literally do you think we should understand the flood story?

Questions for Teens and Adults

  • Does labeling Noah a “righteous man in his generation” make you question how righteous he was? Is morality relative or absolute?
  • Why do you think the dove carrying the olive branch became a universal symbol of peace? Here it signifies only that the waters are receding. 
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Invite your family and guests to connect other foods to the parasha.

For example… 

  • After the flood, the rainbow is created to symbolize God’s promise to never destroy the world.

Prepare rainbow pasta, a rainbow of vegetables or fruit, or a cake decorated with a rainbow.

Discuss why the rainbow was chosen to symbolize this covenant. 

  • Noah’s Hebrew name means “comfort.”

Prepare “comfort foods.”

Discuss what comfort foods are and what we mean by the term.  How does the meaning of Noah’s name relate to the flood story?

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The story of the flood (mabul) is one of the most well known Biblical accounts. While there are many flood stories in many cultures, the account in Genesis focuses on the decision of God to wipe out mankind because of their immoral behavior. Yet, God saves Noah and his family because Noah was a “righteous man and walked with God.” Noah spends 40 days and nights in his rudderless ark with his family and the animals until God sends a wind and the waters subside. Noah releases a raven and then a dove, but neither finds dry land. Finally, a second dove is released and returns with an olive branch indicating dry land. The flood story concludes with God establishing a covenant with Noah symbolized by the rainbow. The parasha continues with the puzzling story of the Tower of Babel. Next year look for a food connection to the Tower of Babel.

Find the food connection

וַתָּבֹא אֵלָיו הַיּוֹנָה לְעֵת עֶרֶב, וְהִנֵּה עֲלֵה-זַיִת טָרָף בְּפִיהָ

The dove came back to him toward evening, and there in its bill was a plucked-off olive leaf! Then Noah knew that the waters had decreased on the earth.

--- Genesis 8:11

Find the Food Connection

Olives! Add a bowl of olives to your table, add olives to your salad or vegetables or make a tapenade.

The Side Dish

Did you notice that the parasha about the flood follows Shemini Atzeret, the holiday when we begin to pray for rain? You may also have noticed that the geshem (rain) prayer asks God to send rain, “l’vrakha v’lo l’klalah”—as a blessing and not a curse. Certainly, the flood exemplifies rain as a curse. Even in drought stricken areas, too much rain can damage man-made structures and overwhelm natural drainage systems.

Food, too, can be a blessing or a curse. Like the earth needs the rain, we all need to nourish our bodies. But, we can overdo or we can over-control our appetites and eat too little. In parts of our own cities and across the globe, nutritional food may not be available to all.

We have no control over the amount of rain that will fall and petition God to send what’s needed. We may also seek God’s help to eat in moderation. As Israel begins the winter season and we pray together that rains will seep into the ground, we also pray for the wisdom to moderate our appetites and we can act to ensure that no one is hungry by supporting food shelves. Then we, too, can aspire to be righteous in our generation.

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A Dash of Hebrew 

The Hebrew word for olive is zayit. The plural is zaytim. Olive trees are atzei zaytim. If you'd like to extend the dash of Hebrew to a dash of geography, look at a detailed map of Israel and see how many place names include the word zayit. The most well-known place is probably Har ha-Zaytim, the Mount of Olives. (first mention-- II Samuel 15:30).

A Dash of Music

Sing Atzei Zaytim Omdim (Olive trees are standing). With only three words in the song, it’s easy to learn for all ages.

A Dash of Halakha

How much hallah is the minimum we are supposed to eat after reciting hamotzi? Kazayit—A piece at least as big as an olive. In most homes, this is no problem.

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Pareve-- serves 10 to 12

02 bereishit noah tapenadeIngredients:

  • 1 c. pitted oil cured olives
  • 3 flat anchovies
  • 1 Tbsp. drained capers
  • zest of ½ lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tsp. prepared Dijon mustard
  • 1 Tbsp. chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp. chopped rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • freshly ground pepper


  1. Chop the olives, anchovies, capers, lemon zest, garlic either by hand or in a food processor till almost smooth. 
  2. Add remaining ingredients.
  3. Serve as a topping on vegetables or a spread on hallah or crackers.

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