Parshas Noach - Shoo, Fly, Don’t Bother Me

By Rabbi Zvi Teichman

Posted on 10/08/21

Parshas HaShavua Divrei Torah sponsored by
Dr. Shapsy Tajerstein, DPM - Podiatry Care.
(410) 788-6633

This past Sukkos, because of its early arrival, we were not only blessed with warm weather, but we were also inundated by hundreds of pesky flies.  

Following the deluge, the Torah records how ‘the fear of you and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth...’

Generally, animals do not naturally encroach upon humans and their environ in fulfillment of this divinely inspired aspect of nature.  

Yet, the fly seems to be oblivious to this pact between beast and man.  

The Vilna Gaon observes that when the Torah, pre-deluge, mandated Man to ‘subdue and rule... over the fish of the sea, the bird of the sky, and to everything that moves on ארץ / earth...’, this last emphasis of ‘everything’ includes flying insects as well.  

In our portion, post-deluge, where G-d reassures Noach that the ‘fear of you and dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the heavens, in everything that moves on earth and in all the fish of the sea...’’, everything that moves on אדמה / earth, only includes crawling vermin but not ‘flying insects’.  

אדמה refers to physical earth and those that actually crawl on it whereas ארץ encompasses figurative earth including the airspace as well. 

The Gaon adds that this is the reason why a fly will alight even directly upon the very face of a human without compunction and incessantly. 

But why did G-d remove this instinctive fear from only the ‘flying insects'? 

Rav Shamshon Refael Hirsch explains the fundamental difference between man’s mission before the flood and after.  

Prior to the flood, man was destined to utilize his profound intellect to understand the nature of life forms and subdue and rule the world around him, bringing the natural world to complement his greatness of spirit, infusing the world with meaning and purpose.  

After they corrupted their ways, man would no longer ‘master’ the world around him but would rather learn how to reform and elevate himself through personal growth and perfection, thus bringing through his refined character to be revered and feared by lesser strata naturally perforce his attained stature. 

When man gets distracted in the pursuit of pleasure, forgetting his mission to engage in self-perfection rather than self-promotion, a little pesky inconsequential fly is here to remind him of his puniness, reminding man that his whole worth in this world, is solely earned through absorbing and living Torah. 

In the Song of the Universe, it records how the fly sings his unique song ‘when Israel disengages from the pursuit of Torah.’ He sings verses in the book of Yeshayahu that bemoans the spoiling of good food and fragrant flowers to turn foul. When we engage in a Torah lifestyle, we bring peace and healing worldwide. We are insignificant as a fly in the eyes of the world, but still bring great benefit to the world when we live inspired. 

My dear friend Reb Nechemia Feldman shared a poignant tale regarding his dear mother.  

She often retold how during the war years she risked her lifetime and again taking preposterous chances to escape the enemy. After hearing of a particular risky mission, Nechemia asked his mother how in the world she could have justified endangering herself so.  

She simply responded how during those terrible years the people merely viewed themselves as a ‘flig’, nothing more worthy than a fly! 

Perhaps there was an additional subconscious awareness in this simple response. 

A fly never ceases to continue its mission. No matter how many times we swat it away it buzzes past our ear making another annoying pass as he continues his assault. 

The fly is used as a metaphor for the evil inclination who never gets defeated in his mission. 

We must take a page from his play book in counterattacking him by remaining equally persistent in never getting defeated in achieving our goals. 

When we defy his efforts, standing firm in our commitments, King Solomon assures us, “even our ‘enemies will make peace’ with us!”.  Rav Berachya asserts that even the pesky flies will make peace with us. (בראשית רבה נד א)   

May we create ‘no fly zones’ perforce the fear these creatures will finally sense when we display an ever greater ‘buzz’ in our Avodas Hashem


צבי יהודה טייכמאן