The passuk states that Noach drank wine and became intoxicated, and was uncovered in the tent. Cham saw and told his two brothers outside. Onkelos translates the word בחוץ outside, as in the marketplace, meaning publicly making mention about their father and belittling him. The passuk states “ויקח שם ויפת את השמלה…וילכו אחורנית ויכסו…אביהם and Shem and Yefes took the garment…and they walked backwards and they cover the exposed area of their father.”
Rashi explains that the lashon is not ויקחוin the plural form, and they took, rather ויקח in the singular form, and he took. This teaches that Shem strengthened himself for the mitzvah more than Yefes, therefore Hashem rewarded him with a garment of tzitzis, whereas Yefes was rewarded with burial, and some say shrouds, for his descendants.
How does the reward of Shem and Yefes correspond מדה כנגד מדה to their righteous act? And how does the reward for Shem reflect his alacrity to do the mitzvah?
The R’eim explains that both Shem and Yefes covered their father with a garment, and therefore they received the reward of also being covered with a garment. Shem received the mitzvah of tzitzis, which the Maharal adds is an honor to the body and neshama, since he was first. Yefes however, received clothing for the dead to be buried in, which the Maharal adds is an honor to the body alone. Cham who did not cover his father was punished that his future descendants will be left uncovered. I heard b’shem HaRav Shach zatzal that Shem infused the mitzvah of covering his father with life, by doing it quickly, and therefore he received a reward with the living, whereas Yefes who was slower to accomplish the mitzvah received the reward of being buried, as dead people are stationary.
Rashi explains that Shem merited the mitzvah of tzitzis because he covered his father. However the Gemara brings that because Avraham said to the king of Sedom that he wouldn’t take anything from him “אם מחוט ועד שרוך נעל… , if from a thread and until a shoelace…” he merited the mitzvah of a thread of techailes, which seemingly is also the garment of tzitzis?
The Maharal answers that Shem and Avraham joined together to merit the mitzvah of tzitzis. The Re’eim answers that there are two independent parts to the mitzvah of tzitzis; the white and the techailes. Shem merited the tallis with white strings, and Avraham merited the techailes. Why was Avraham specifically rewarded with the techailes? The Gemara says that techailes reminds us of Hashem as it is a greenish-blue color which reflects the sea, which reflects the heavens, which reflects the throne of Hashem. So too Avraham said “I will not achieve richness from the king of Sedom but rather from Hashem Whom everything belongs to.” Since the techailes reminds us of Hashem Who is in control of everything Avraham merited this mitzvah.
So too the Midrash Rabbah brings on the words about tzitzis “פתיל תכלת” that Onkelos translates “חוטא דתכלתא” hinting to the חוט which Avraham mentioned to the king of Sedom.
May Hashem help us be alert and ready to fulfill His Torah and mitzvos with alacrity and life.