OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 1, 2003 6 HESHVAN 5764
"From each bird according to its kind and from each animal according to its kind" (Beresheet 6:20)
When Hashem tells Noah that He intends to bring a great flood on the earth, there are a number of verses that tell about the various animals to be brought into the ark. The above quoted verse lists the birds first, and then the animals. Later on (7:14), when they enter the ark, the birds are listed last. When they exit the ark after the flood (8:17), the birds are mentioned first again.
Rabbi R. Pelcovitz explains that birds are essentially weak creatures as compared to animals. However, they have the great ability to fly, which enhances their ability to survive, even more than the animals. Therefore, the birds should be mentioned first. However, this is true only when they are free to fly. In the ark, where they cannot use this ability, they are the weaker ones. Therefore, before entering and after leaving the ark they are listed first, but in the ark they are last.
The great mussar (ethics) teachers apply this analysis to explain the Jewish people amongst the rest of the nations of the world. We are weak compared to the great powers of the world. Our superiority does not lie in our numbers nor in our might and power. It is our superior intellectual powers and above all our spirituality that lifts us up and allows us to fly. Our spirituality is derived from the Torah. The Torah is our wings. But, when our wings are clipped and we are unable or unwilling to use the special gift we have, we are relegated to the most inferior position.
Many years ago when Rav Pam z"sl was teaching teenage boys, a man in his 50's from Chicago requested to be admitted as a student in his class. He explained that when he was young he didn't have the opportunity to develop a taste for learning Torah and the skills needed to learn. After spending all his adult years earning a livelihood, he was nearing retirement. He decided that instead of sitting in the park and feeding the birds, it would be far better to spend his golden years learning Torah. The man remained in Rav Pam's class for the entire year and then returned to Chicago to continue his new career.
We truly have wings. Let us use them. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
When Noah left the Ark after the flood and saw the devastation to the world, he began to cry to Hashem and asked, "How can a G-d so compassionate cause such destruction?" To which Hashem answered, "Now you think of this? Why didn't you cry when I first told you about the decree? I waited many years for your prayers on behalf of the rest of the world and only now you realize to pray for them?"
We see from here an important lesson. Noah was a righteous man and therefore deserved to be saved together with his family. But he did not express enough concern for others until it was too late. Had he prayed or cried out for the world before the flood, there may not have been a flood! Often we see difficult situations unfolding before us and we don't think it's our place to get involved. When the tragedy is a reality, we exclaim, "What a shame! I wish I could do something!" Had we exclaimed so a little earlier, we may have found a way to help prevent this tragedy. At the very least, we could always pray to Hashem that it should be prevented. A little more prayer and a little more concern could spell the difference between tragedy and salvation. Let us look around us and see what we could do, and let us pray for others! Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And you, take for yourself of all food that will be eaten...and it shall be for you and for them for food" (Beresheet 6:21)
Noah, together with his family and thousands of creatures, would be in the ark for a long period of time, and would need a tremendous amount of food. How was it possible to store all of the food necessary for their survival? On a similar phrase, "mikol ha'ochel asher ye'achel - of all food that will be eaten" (Vayikra 11:34), the Gemara (Yoma 80a) explains that the largest piece of food capable of being swallowed by the human throat is no larger than a hen's egg.
Therefore, we can say here, too, that when G-d told Noah to prepare "mikol ma'achal asher ye'achel, He meant the following: "You, prepare 'bite size' portions of each type of food that will be eaten. Miraculously, through this food, you and also they - your family and the thousands of animals in the ark - will be sustained."
Alternatively, when G-d told Noah, "Ve'ata kach lecha - and you, take for yourself of all food that will be eaten," He meant that Noah should prepare food adequate only for him personally, for the duration of the flood. Miraculously this food would multiply and be enough for all the inhabitants of the ark: "For you and for them" - the members of your family and all the animals.
This was one of the many miracles that took place in the ark. Another miracle was the animals' contentment with human food.
The following pasuk states that "Noah did all that G-d commanded him to do." Superficially, one may wonder, why is it necessary to state this - would Noah dare to deviate? The Torah is accentuating Noah's great faith in G-d. He entered the ark without preparing any food for the animals, and relied on a miracle that they would be sated with his food and live through the flood. (Vedibarta Bam)
Question: Why do the Kohanim repeat after the hazan, rather than simply reciting the blessings themselves?
Answer: 1) So that no mistakes should be made by the Kohanim. 2) The verse which introduces the blessing of the Kohanim directs us to do so ("amor lahem"). (Excerpted from Siddur Abir Yaacob, published by Sephardic Press)
"Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations." (Beresheet 6:9) There are two interpretations of this description of Noah. One explanation is that, as compared to the rest of his generation Noah was great, but had he lived in Abraham's time, he would have been insignificant. The second explanation is that Noah was righteous even in his corrupt generation, surrounded by wicked people. How much greater he would have been had he lived in a generation of sadikim.
It is well known that a person's surroundings make a great impact on him. A person who keeps company with unscrupulous people will tend to adopt their wicked ways. However, one who associates with people of good moral character will generally become a better person as a result.
Question: Do your friends inspire you to improve yourself? What kind of influence are you on your friends and family?
This week's Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10.
In the perashah, Hashem floods the world, destroying almost all its inhabitants. The world is left barren and desolate, yet in a sense, Hashem has prepared the world for new, more worthy inhabitants to populate it. In the Haftarah, the prophet Yeshayahu consoles the land of Israel because the Jews are exiled throughout the world. Yeshayahu says, "for this is as the waters of Noah to me," comparing the Exile to the Flood. The prophet tells the land that the Jews will return with renewed strength, better than they were before. The reason for the Exile was to destroy those who were not worthy to live on the land, and allow those who would be worthy inhabitants to return. (Tell it from the Torah)
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