Hashem instructs Noach—the only righteous man in a world consumed by violence and corruption—to build a large wooden teivah (“ark”), coated within and without with pitch. A great deluge, says Hashem, will wipe out all life from the face of the earth; but the ark will float upon the water, sheltering Noach and his family, and two members (male and female) of each animal species.
Rain falls for 40 days and nights, and the waters churn for 150 days more before calming and beginning to recede. The teiva settles on Mount Ararat, and from its window Noach dispatches a raven, and then a series of doves, “to see if the waters were abated from the face of the earth.” When the ground dries completely—exactly one solar year (365 days) after the onset of the Flood—Hashem commands Noach to exit the teivah and repopulate the earth.
Noach builds an altar and offers sacrifices to Hashem. Hashem swears never again to destroy all of mankind because of their deeds, and sets the rainbow as a testimony of His new covenant with man. Hashem also commands Noach regarding the sacredness of life: murder is deemed a capital offense, and while man is permitted to eat the meat of animals, he is forbidden to eat flesh or blood taken from a living animal.
Noach plants a vineyard and becomes drunk on its produce. Two of Noach’s sons, Shem and Yafes, are blessed for covering up their father’s nakedness, while his third son, Cham, is punished for taking advantage of his debasement.
The descendants of Noach remain a single people, with a single language and culture, for ten generations. Then they defy their Creator by building a great tower to symbolize their own invincibility; Hashem confuses their language so that “one does not comprehend the tongue of the other,” causing them to abandon their project and disperse across the face of the earth, splitting into seventy nations.
The Parshah of Noach concludes with a chronology of the ten generations from Noach to Avram (later Avraham), and the latter’s journey from his birthplace of Ur Casdim to Charan, on the way to the land of Canaan.