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Parashat Noah

The One Story That Teaches About the General Whole

This week marks the "sheloshim" (one month) to the death of Rabbi David Kanafo a"h, father of the director of El Hamaayan, Rav Amram Kanafo.

Rabbi David is a descendant of the great ssadik and Kabbalist, Rabbi Yossef Kanafo. Over the course of the shiva, a story was told that is just one manifestation of a general trend, and that is Eastern Jewry and the crisis it endured specifically upon its arrival to the shores of Eress Yisrael, the land of our patriarchs for which generations longed and yearned so bitterly.

Upon its arrival, the family went to Kiryat Ata, purchased an apartment, and began involving itself in the new land. The first week passed, and the Shabbat Queen arrived. Early Shabbat morning, the rabbi was awakened by a strange noise coming from the street. He looked out the window and was stricken with fear. He asked his wife, may she merit many good, long years, to wake the children and quickly bring them down to the shelter.

"What's going on? What happened?" she asked, alarmed by her husband's fear.

"A war has broken out!" he cried.

"How do you know?" she inquired. "There was no siren!"

"We don't need a siren," he answered. "Come, look with your own eyes.

Today is Shabbat, and cars and driving on the street. Obviously this must be a life-threatening situation, an emergency, a war!"

Otherwise, it would be simply inconceivable. There is just no way that in the land of the Jews, Jews will be driving on Shabbat, unless it was a dire situation, unless a war had broken out.

He wasn't na´ve. He knew full well that there were secular Jews in Eress Yisrael, that there lived Jews who weren't necessarily Torah observant.

But this regards their private lives, into which certainly no one would interfere. But in the public domain, with regard to the overall nature of life - it had to be a firmly Jewish existence!

In truth, why does this seem to us so strange and foreign? Why should Shabbat be any less than Yom Kippur, when everyone stops work willingly and naturally, with nearly universal consent? His perspective was the natural, healthy one. We, however, have had our outlook tainted, until the unnatural has become the accepted norm that continues to establish itself more firmly with every passing day.

To counter this trend, we need to shine the light of Torah, to increase the number of Torah classes, of educational youth programs, religious schools, nurseries and kindergartens, kollelim and yeshivot. The light will eventually outshine the darkness, until, ultimately, the land will be fill with the knowledge of Hashem, in the redemption that may soon arrive, speedily and in our days, Amen.

THE WONDERS OF CREATION

The Panda

Each panda in the mountains of China has its own domain in which to live, usually around five kilometers in size, where it spends the fifteen or so years of its life. The panda is a quiet creature, and on only rare occasions can sounds be heard coming from its mouth. It lives in solitude and refrains almost entirely from contact with other pandas. You might ask, if the panda is really so lonely and solitary, then what does it do all day?

The answer is quite simple - it eats and sleeps. Indeed, the panda's life is a most boring one, and even its food is pretty uniform. It feeds off small bamboo branches. In its region of residence - the mountains of northern China - there are plenty of bamboo bushes. Given the fact that the panda is a large, clumsy animal weighing around one hundred kilograms, it requires a massive amount of bamboo to eat. Throughout the day, the panda wanders from mountain to valley in search of bamboo. With the help of its thumbs and sharp fingernails, the panda peels off the outer layer of the bamboo rod and then eats the substance inside, in the center of the branch.

After completing its meal, it looks for a nap. It doesn't need any particular location in which to sleep; it just sprawls out anywhere on the ground, rests its head on a piece of wood, and falls asleep.

Clearly the most outstanding feature of the panda is the monotony and uniformity of its existence, that its entire life is marked by solitude and the endless cycle of sleeping and eating. As disturbing as it may sound, there are people who live lives similar to that of the panda. Some may engage in social contact, unlike the panda, but still resemble this bear in the fact that their lives revolve around eating and sleeping. Since people need not only actual food but spiritual nourishment, as well, "experience" becomes the key word, as these people search for experiences to bring something else into their lives of eating and sleeping. Unfortunately, though, these experiences divert one's attention from the source of all experience - the Torah. The Torah continues to renew itself, as it broadens, becomes richer and multifaceted. Today we are blessed with an immense bounty of Torah literature, and the novel ideas one raises over the course of his day-to-day learning are among the sweetest experiences one can ever enjoy. Anyone who has experienced this joy knows that it cannot be exchanged with any experience in the world. Next to them, all other experiences seem meaningless and of no substance. There is nothing that cannot be found in our sacred Torah, which continues to provide enjoyment and spiritual nourishment to its students, from the time of our forefathers to this very day.

CONTINUING STORY

The Faithful Student

In front of the local prison in Grodna, a most dreary and intimidating dungeon, stood two policemen on their guard. They were dressed in their splendid uniforms, their swords girded in their belts. Passersby walked ever so gingerly upon encountering the giant, iron gate. Everyone had heard the chilling stories of the atrocities committed in this penitentiary, the various forms of torture employed in the dungeon. A Jew walked by, looking down and moving steadily past the jail, as a second Jew walked rapidly behind him. Suddenly, the second pedestrian bumped into the first and muttered, "I'm sorry, forgive me, pardon me," etc. He quickly straightened himself and left. The first stood somewhat baffled, and then felt his pockets. "Thief!" he cried, noticing that his money was gone. "Robber! Catch him! Stop that man!"

One of the officers told the man to stay there as he chased after the pickpocket, who had now begun running as fast as he could to escape. He turned around and saw how the policeman was narrowing the distance between them. Before he could turn his head back to look in front of him, he slammed into a person walking opposite him. The two fell to the ground, and by that point the officer was already standing over them. The policeman leaned down, grabbed the man's collar, and picked him up. A circle of curious onlookers had already formed, thus precluding any possibility of an escape. Among the articles found in the suspect's wallet was a magnificent wallet.

The wall of onlookers was broken by the victim, who cried, "There it is! That is my wallet! All of my saving are there!"

"Not true!" insisted the other, now chained and covered with dirt. "This is my wallet!" Nobody believed him.

"How much money is in the wallet?" asked the officer.

"One hundred and forty rubles," answered the victim on the spot. The group around them gasped in disbelief, as this was a considerable fortune. "Yeah, one hundred and forty rubles," echoed the accused, earning a round of laughter from the people around him.

The policeman opened the wallet and counted exactly one hundred and forty rubles.

"I told you!" shouted the victim. "Now give me the wallet!"

"Just as I said," repeated the accused in a low, submissive voice. "Now give me my wallet!" Again, the audience chuckled.

The policeman put the wallet in his pocket and took out several chains.

To be continued.

WE AND THE BIRD

The Gemara (Sanhedrin 108b) tells of a bird called "oshinah" that closed itself off in a corner in Noah's ark, and never asked for food. When Noah asked it if it wants to eat, it responded, "I saw you were so busy feeding all the other animals, so I didn't want to bother you." Noah blessed the oshinah that it should live forever.

When probing deeper into this Gemara, a powerful lesson emerges. This bird wanted to save Noah from just a minute of extra work. These seconds are worth eternal life?! Absolutely. For at every moment, a ssadik earns for himself eternal life. Every missvah, every good deed, every moment of Torah study and every berachah, acquires eternal life. Indeed, Hazal tell us, "A moment of repentance and good deeds in this world is better than all of the World to Come" (Avot 4:17).

Knowing this obliges us to properly take advantage of every moment, to fill our time with Torah and missvot. Additionally, this teaches us the extent to which we must exercise care with respect to the time of our gedolim, not to bother them with nonsense and pettiness.

A STORY AND ITS SOURCE

Rav Mosheh Feinstein zs"l was twenty-five years old hen he was called from the rabbinate of Ozdah to serve as the rabbi of Luban in Russia. This was during the heart of the Bolshevik Revolution, and the authorities outlawed any religious service, pursuing the religion and its observers with vehemence and cruelty. The shohet was imprisoned and exiled to Siberia. The rabbi's salary was confiscated, and he and his family were thus sentenced to a life of hunger and destitution. Yet, none of this affected Rav Mosheh's spirits, and his wife served as a constant source of encouragement. She was prepared to suffer the shame of poverty, to tremble at every knock on the door, to fear day and night, knowing that any moment her husband may be imprisoned for illegal religious activity. He continued to learn and teach, to rule questions of halachah and officiate at weddings.

When the authorities ordered that the mikveh be closed, Rav Mosheh consulted with the contractor who built the local public swimming pool. After many pleas, and in exchange for a considerable sum of money, the contractor secretly built around the local reservoir and attached it to the pool, thus making a proper mikveh. The authorities consented to allow an hour of separate swimming for women, unaware of the secret that it had been transformed into a mikveh. Thus, the young, devoted rabbi saved his community from severe Torah violations.

The oppression from the government intensified, and they expropriated the rabbi's home. The shamash of the Bet Kenesset, who lived with his seven children in a small, narrow residence off to the side of the Bet Kenesset, offered to split his cramped apartment into two, allowing the rabbi to live in one half, together with his wife, three small children, and elderly father-in-law. Soon afterward, a yeshivah student who was chased by the Soviet intelligence sought refuge from anyone who would offer, and Rav Mosheh offered him his room. This student thus became the sixteenth resident in the apartment. But they all knew what the next stage would be in the battle between the forces of sanctity and those of impurity - imprisonment was only a matter of time. Yet, this thought didn't deter Rav Mosheh from his resolve. "A Jew is like a soldier on the battlefield - and a soldier never flees," he would say.

Then, one day, the news came like a crash of thunder on a clear day - the rabbi is leaving! He considered the possibility of moving to Eress Yisrael, but decided against it. He ultimately decided to go to America, and the authorities were thrilled to grant him his exit visa. A delegation of the local Jewish community met with him and pleaded with him to stay, despite of the difficulties and dangers. "The difficulties have not discouraged me," he answered definitively. "The dangers don't frighten me. I believe I have proven that to you over the last several years."

"Without question," they replied. "That's why we are wondering what has suddenly changed, what brought the rabbi to the breaking point."

"Breaking point?" asked the rabbi. "Who said anything about a breaking point? The situation has changed. A new factor has entered the picture."

"What is it?" they asked curiously. "My children have grown, and I now must concern myself with their education," he explained. "You understand that, as I have told you, a Jew is like a soldier in battle. His primary responsibility is to the proper Jewish education of his children. Everything else takes second priority."

Thus Rav Mosheh Feinstein saved his children, and served as an inspiring source of light for the Jews of the United States and worldwide for over fifty years.

The question that remains is, what is Rav Mosheh's source? After all, this seems to be a conflict between three children and an entire community.

Who can decide matters like these?

The source, in truth, appears to be in our parashah. Hazal comment that Noah did not intervene on behalf of his generation as did Avraham. At first glance, this seems to be a note of criticism against an individual about whom the Torah testifies that he was a ssadik. The Ketav Sofer zs"l explains that the difference between Avraham and Noah lie in the fact that Noah had children. When an individual has children, then he must invest all his concentration and efforts in their education. How great is the obligation, then, upon every parent to ensure that his children receive an intensive religious education!

FROM THE WELLSPRINGS OF THE PARASHAH

"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"

The Gemara (Avodah Zarah 6a) explains that Noah was "complete" in his ways and "righteous" in his actions. Rashi clarifies the Gemara's comments, that "complete in his ways" means that Noah was particularly humble and unassuming. The Hid"a zs"l notes that this attribute of Noah is alluded to in the pasuk, (at the end of Parashat Bereishit), "And Noah found favor in the eyes of Hashem." The numerical value of the word "matza" (found) is the same as that of "anavah," humility. This is why Hashem needed to tell Noah, "for you I have seen a ssadik before Me in this generation," since Noah, in his great modesty, did not consider himself a ssadik at all.

"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"

The Bet Yossef zs"l explains that Noah lived through two generations - that of the flood and that of the dispersion (the tower of Bavel). The generation of the flood sinned in the area of sexual prohibitions, thus affecting the level of "yesod." One who is careful in this regard and refrains from these transgressions is called a "ssadik," as the pasuk states, "a ssadik is the foundation ['yesod'] of the world." The generation of the dispersion sinned in the area of idolatry, and one who is careful in this regard is called a "tamim," complete: "There shall not be found among you one who passes his son or daughter through fire.You shall be complete with Hashem your God." Thus, the Torah testifies that Noah was both a "ssadik" and a "tamim" in his generations ("bedorotav" is written in this plural form, thus referring to more than one generation). He was free of guilt in both areas violated by the two generations in which he lived.

This is why Hashem tells Noah before the flood, "for you I have seen a ssadik before Me in this generation." In this generation - the generation of the flood - there was only the sin of sexual violations, corresponding to which Noah earned the title "ssadik." The epithet "tamim" was added only later, during the generation of the dispersion.

"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"

The Abarbanel zs"l explains that the generation of the flood sinned both in regard to their conduct among each other - "for the world was filled with theft" - as well as desire, moral corruption, and the breach of all standards of modesty and morals: "The land became corrupt before God."

Noah rose above his generation in both areas. He was a "ssadik," he treated others kindly and compassionately. He was also "tamim," complete, his inclinations and inner character traits were pure and refined, not corrupted and perverted as those of his generation. The word "bedorotav" - in his generations - teaches us that despite the fact that he was six hundred years old, and he thus lived among the wicked people so long, he nevertheless remained steadfast in his righteousness and piety.

"Noah was a righteous, complete man in his generation"

Rabbi Kalfon Mosheh Hakohen zs"l of Garba explains based on the comment of Hazal that the 613 missvot correspond to the 613 limbs in the human body, and each missvah illuminates the corresponding limb. Thus, one who is lacking a missvah is spiritually deficient, just as one who is missing a part of his body is physically deficient. Conversely, a ssadik is "tamim," complete, lacking nothing.

THE GOLDEN AGE

Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar

Rabbi Hayyim ben Atar zs"l, the Or Hahayyim, spent the majority of his time engrossed in Torah study, and only on a temporary basis engaged in his profession, weaving threads of gold and silver into fancy garments. Once, the governor of Sali, where the Or Hahayyim lived, was marrying off his daughter. The entire family bought expensive clothing and sent them to the Or Hahayyim to weave gold threads into the material. He said to them, "Every month I work enough for my livelihood, and the rest of the time I devote to Torah study. This month I have already earned enough money for my livelihood. Come back next month." They then told him that the wedding was taking place already that month. The Or Hahayyim still refused the job, and returned to his studies. When word got back to the governor about the Or Hahayyim's refusal to perform the work for his daughter's wedding, he was incensed. He immediately ordered that the lions in his courtyard be starved and sent a warning to the Or Hahayyim that if he doesn't accept the job at once he will be cast into the lion's den. He ignored the warning and continued learning. The governor's men eventually came and took Rabbi Hayyim from his home and threw him into the lion's den. He sat in the middle of the lions, who formed a circle around him, and sang chapters of Tehillim in a sweet, pleasant voice, as all the lions watched and listened.

It was quickly reported to the governor what was happening, and he came to see the amazing miracle with his own two eyes. As soon as he looked into the den, he ordered that the Or Hahayyim be lifted from the den, and begged the sacred rabbi for forgiveness, entreating him with gifts. Thus, through the great rabbi the verse was fulfilled - "And your fear and intimidation will be cast over all the beasts of the land." Hazal teach us that anyone within whom the image of God rests in totality instills fear upon the animals, "and no animal overcomes a person unless he appears to the animal as another animal" (Shabbat 151b), that he has lost his "sselem Elokim," image of God.

ASKING AND EXPOUNDING

A Series of Halachot According to the Order of the Shulhan Aruch,
Based on the Rulings of Rav Ovadia Yossef shlit"a

By Rav David Yossef shlit"a, Rosh Bet Midrash Yehaveh Da'at

Chapter 10: The Laws of Tallit

It is a missvah to hold the ssissit strings with one's left hand near one's heart during keriyat shema. According to the Ar"I, one should take hold of the ssissit already in the paragraph of "ahavah rabbah" (just prior to shema), as he recites the words, "me'arba kanfot ha'aress" ("from the four corners of the earth"). The strings should be held in between the pinkie and ring-finger near one's heart. Then, when the individual reaches the parashah of ssissit, he should take the upper part of the strings with his right hand, and hold them thus with both hands until he recited the words "vene'emanim venehemadim la'ad," in the paragraph of "emet veyassiv," at which point he should kiss the ssissit and let them go.

Whereas according to the Ar"I and the Kabbalists one should hold all four strings in his hand, some maintain that only the front two strings are to be held.

Some authorities hold that one who is left-handed must also hold the ssissit in his left hand. The custom is not to hold or kiss the ssissit during the nighttime keriyat shema, since ssissit is not obligatory at nighttime.

It is preferable to look at the ssissit before reciting the berachah on the tallit, since the pasuk says (Bemidbar 15:39), "and you shall see them, and you will remember all the missvot of Hashem and perform them," and Hazal explain (Menahot 43b) that seeing the ssissit leads one to remembering, and remembering leads one to the performance of the missvot.

Some have the custom of looking at the ssissit when they reach the aforementioned pasuk of "ur'item oto" ("and you shall see them."). This practice is a proper one and exhibits one's love for the missvah.

According to the Ar"I, one should look at the ssissit throughout the recitation of the parashah of ssissit. There is also a custom to place the ssissit on the eyes when reciting "ur'item oto," and anyone who passes the ssissit over his eyes does not experience blindness. One should feel the strings of his ssissit when reciting "ur'item oto" and kiss them when he looks at them.

According to the Ar"I, one should kiss the ssissit and place them over his eyes when reciting "ur'item oto" and "velo taturu aharei levavchem v'aharei eineichem." Some have the custom of kissing the ssissit also when reciting "Hashem Elokeichem emet." Others have the practice to kiss the ssissit after each recitation of the word "ssissit." Others, however, maintain that this practice should not be followed, as kissing the ssissit after each recitation of "ssissit" constitutes a "hefsek," an interruption in the recitation of shema. In fact, some authorities maintain that the ssissit should not be kissed at all throughout the recitation of the parashah.

Some hold that a blind person should hold the ssissit in his hand and kiss them when reciting the words "ur'item oto," but should not place them on his eyes. Some, however, maintain that based on Kabbalistic sources even a blind person should place the ssissit over his eyes when reciting "ur'item oto."

According to the Ar"I, one should hold the front two ssissit when reciting "Baruch she'amar." Then, upon completing "Baruch she'ama," one should kiss the ssissit and let them go.

From the pasuk, "This is my God, and I will glorify Him" (Shemot 15:2), Hazal (Shabbat 133b) derive the principle that one must be glorified before Hashem in his performance of missvot. Therefore, it is proper for one to make a beautiful a tallit, and the tallit should be laundered and cleaned.


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