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The last verse of Parshas Mattos (Bamidbar 32:42) is about a fellow named Novach who conquered a city and named it after himself:

וְנֹבַח הָלַךְ וַיִּלְכֹּד אֶת קְנָת וְאֶת בְּנֹתֶיהָ וַיִּקְרָא לָה נֹבַח בִּשְׁמוֹ

The Torah gives very little info about him. In contrast to the two preceding accounts, we are not told his fathers name (or possibly his tribe).

Do we know anything else about Novach, and why does the Torah give so little information?

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Three entries in the Otzar Ishei Tanach. Novach was born in mitzrayim and died after Moshe rabbeinu, sedder olam rabba 9. When knas was captured, Novach called it by his own name, in order to have a memorial, being that he didn't have sons, medrash agadda bamidbar 32 38. That name didn't last, Rus rabba 5 5. Also of interest rav Hirsch discusses the unjewish act of trying to have a memorial by naming a city after himself whereas Judaism has good deeds for memorials. And that is why the name didn't last.

  • +1, but what's "the otzar"? – msh210 Jul 20 '14 at 5:23
  • Sorry. Otsar ishei tanach. It brings down all the chazzal on any personalities in tanach. They have both hebrew and English versions. – user6591 Jul 20 '14 at 5:39
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    No need to comment: just edit the post to clarify. I've done it for you this time. – msh210 Jul 20 '14 at 5:40
  • I'm withholding accepting your answer on the hope that someone will explain why he gets such scarce attention at the end of Mattos. – Y     e     z Jul 21 '14 at 2:28
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    user6591 About @msh210's comment -- see here – Shokhet Jul 21 '14 at 14:00
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BS"D

Rav Eliyahu Mansour addresses this question in his 5766 (2006) derashah on Parashat Mattot (link, starting at 45:55). He cites RaSh"Y (BeMidbar 32:42) who points out that there should have been a mappiq in the Heh of the word "לה". And that, without the mappiq, the word can be read "לא" (i.e. "לא נבח"). Because it can be read as such, RaSh"Y explains, this can explain why Novahh's legacy didn't last. But, "what's the lesson" asks Rav Mansour?

Rav Mansour then cites Rav Shimon Schwab who explains that there is a big difference between Ya'ir and Novahh. The difference is in how two different people look at their wealth. Ya'ir had a proper understanding: wealth is not bad, but wealth does not define a person's essence. A person possesses wealth; but, that person's wealth does not define him. That, explains Rav Mansour, is why Ya'ir calls his cities Havot Ya'ir. Ya'ir is Ya'ir and his cities are his cities; but, they're not one and the same!

But, Novahh had a different philosophy: he called his property Novahh, because he saw himself as being defined by his wealth; as being one with his wealth. That is why RaSh"Y says it can be read "לא נבח". Novahh's legacy didn't last, because of his warped hashqafah.

Rav Mansour cites a common and unfortunate occurrence today. Today, we ask people immediately upon having a short conversation with them "What do you do for a living?" And, based on that answer, we judge them. If s/he is a doctor, s/he is respected. If s/he works in sanitation, s/he is a zero. We don't judge people for what they are, we judge them by what they have. The guy can be a crook and can beat up his wife. It doesn't matter. We're not judging the person based on those things. We're judging him based on his wealth.

So, by mentioning Novahh only briefly (thus implying that his legacy withered away), the Torah is teaching us the crucial and eternal lesson that "it's not what you have; it's what you are that matters".

  • I just realized that, explicitly, this only addresses the second part of the question (i.e. "why does the Torah give so little information"). Implicitly, though, I think it addresses the first part too (i.e. "do we know anything else about Novach"). – Lee Jul 21 '14 at 9:46
  • Being that Rav Schwab quoted Rav Hirsch so often and the idea is the same, I would guess he is quoting him here too. But I don't have a Mayan Beis Hasho'eiva with me to check. – user6591 Jul 21 '14 at 14:39
  • If YEZ prefers, our answers can be merged. Whatever makes the most sense. – Lee Jul 21 '14 at 14:43
  • +1 - is the last paragraph your addition/extrapolation, or also from R' Mansour? – Y     e     z Jul 21 '14 at 17:37
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    @Lee I recently had an opportunity to look in Rabbi Schwab's seffer and he in fact does not say this in the name of Rabbi Hirsch. Strange. But good thing we didn't combine answers. – user6591 Sep 4 '14 at 15:25

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