OCTOBER 15-16, 2004 1 HESHVAN 5765
"And the earth had become corrupted before Hashem and the earth became filled with robbery." (Beresheet 6:9)
At the end of Parashat Beresheet, the Torah records the birth of Noah. His name, Noah, means rest. He was prophetically named Noah because the people said a prayer that "this one will bring us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands." Rashi explains that since the time of Adam's sin, the earth was cursed that when a person planted wheat, thorns and thistles grew. At Noah's time, this thousand-year curse began to lighten up. In addition to this, Noah, who was a great inventor, invented basic farming tools to ease the back-breaking labor of farm work. The Midrash says that he invented the plow to seed the earth, the scythe to cut wheat and the ax to chop down trees. Amazing as it may seem, before this people did all of this work by hand. These basic tools were absolutely revolutionary and brought about a radical improvement in the task of earning one's daily bread. How would the surplus time be used? Will they study or read to improve and elevate their lives? Would they use it to contemplate spiritual matters? The answer is no. The verse reads, "The earth became corrupt." Crime and violence became rampant.
Rabbi Avraham Pam z"l remembers in America in the early part of the 1900's, most workers had to labor fourteen hours a day in a six or seven day work week just to put bread on the table. Yet crime rates were much lower than in our times. There was little if any free time and the exhausted workers were only too happy to fall into bed at night knowing they would have to be back at work early the next morning. Yet today, as a result of the labor unions the work-week has shrunk and has produced more free time. Today's higher crime rate is due largely to that free time.
Today we have fax machines and cell phones. These advances save us time. Is this a blessing? It is up to each individual to decide how to use this time. Rabbi Ephraim Wachsman brings home the point. Imagine if you buy a newspaper and you come home and reach into your pocket and find a one-dollar bill, but you knew you had a hundred-dollar bill and a dollar bill, and now you only have the dollar bill. That means you spent one hundred dollars for a paper. You will never get it back. How much will you enjoy the paper? You might not even read it, knowing you spent $100 on it. How much is the time worth that you spend reading a paper? Much more than $100! Let us spend time wisely. We look forward to the day when the world is flooded with goodness and Torah. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"In the middle of the day, Noah went into the Tebah." (Beresheet 7:13)
Rashi tells us that Hashem heard the people of the generation saying, "If we see Noah enter the ark we will harm him and break the ark." Therefore, Hashem allowed Noah to enter in the middle of the day as if to say, "Let's see what anyone will really do." And indeed, nothing was done to Noah. The question is obvious: the people didn't believe that a flood would take place and they used to mock Noah while he was building the Tebah. If so, why would they care if he went into the Tebah right before the flood, if according to their understanding there would be no flood? Noah would have to come out of the ark in humiliation and they would be vindicated! The answer is, although they didn't think the flood would really come, deep down in their hearts they thought perhaps they were wrong and maybe there would be a flood.
When a person does something wrong and rationalizes that it's OK, he doesn't want to believe that there will be retribution and he might even challenge those who say there will be punishment. But in his heart of hearts he will question himself and say maybe they're right and he is wrong, and so he may try to prevent those who warn him against his deeds, rather than accept their words. The human mind is very complex and there can be very contradictory feelings inside of us. Only through Torah and mussar can we unravel our emotions and feelings and get them where they are supposed to be. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
" And as for me- behold, I am about to bring the flood waters upon the earth" (Beresheet 6:17)
The question is- why did Hashem choose the element of water over all other elements to destroy the world with?? The answer is given with a parable. Once there was a king who built a palace for a group of people who were blind. When the king would pass by the palace, the blind people would stand and bow down to the king and sing him praises. When the king would hear voices he asked his subjects, what are these sounds that I am hearing?? The subjects replied; these are the blind people that you provide for; when they hear the sounds of the king's horses passing by they begin to bow and praise the king. The king thought- if they could see me, how much more would they praise me! The king commanded his subjects to build a palace for people who could see and provide them with all their needs. The king's order was carried out. After some time elapsed, the people of this palace became arrogant, and when the king passed their palace they would ridicule and curse him for imprisoning them in the palace. The king became infuriated and instructed his men to execute them at once, as is befitting those who rebel against the king.
The moral is: the world originally contained waters which could not see and not hear, and still and all they praised Hashem as is written in King David's Tehillim: "like rivers they raised, o Hashem, like rivers they raised their voice" ( Tehillim chap. 93-3). Hashem said, if I would create people who could see and hear, how much more praise they would give me. Immediately Hashem commanded, let the waters gather, and let the land appear. He then created man to fill the land and blessed them with bountifullness- they would plant the land once and it would produce yield for 40 years. From all the goodness Hashem bestowed upon them they rebelled and said "who is G-d that we should serve Him"(Yob- 21-15). Hashem heard their rebellion and commanded the waters who praised Him to obliterate them. The Torah teaches us this, so we can learn from the mistakes of previous generations & better serve Hashem. Shabbat Shalom! Rabbi Eli Ben-Haim
"And you shall take of all that is eaten and gather it to you; and it shall be for you and for them [Noah's family and the animals] to eat" (Beresheet 6:21)
At first glance the words "and it shall be for you and for them to eat" seem superfluous. What else is food for if not to be eaten? Rabbi Elchanan Wasserman offered the following explanation: The Midrash describes the climate and fertility of the earth before the flood. The picture that emerges is that the produce of that period was greatly superior to that which we have today. Noah, who was a prophet, knew that after the flood, the earth would not be the same, and he might have wanted to take along as much superior quality food as was possible to store for future use. But he was warned to take along only enough to sustain himself and his family during their period of confinement in the ark. The reason for this is that when others suffer, we must commiserate with them and not seek pleasure for ourselves.
In the year 1895, a great fire in the city of Brisk destroyed many houses. By day and by night Rabbi Chayim of Brisk devoted all his energy to helping those who had lost their homes. During that period, Rav Chayim did not sleep at home. He slept instead on the floor in a side room of a shul. His family implored him to rest at night in his own bed, but to no avail. "I am not able to sleep in a bed when so many people do not have even a roof over their heads," said Rav Chayim.
During the first World War, a neighbor of Rabbi Nachum Zev Ziv was falsely accused of being a spy and was arrested. For a long time afterward, there was an atmosphere of gloom in the home of Rabbi Ziv. If anyone in the family laughed, he would scold them saying, "How can you laugh when the family next door is suffering?"
A person might delude himself into thinking that with a mere sigh he has fulfilled his obligation to feel the suffering of others. But as Rabbi Izel Chorif said, "I have never seen a person shivering from cold in a warm house just because he feels the suffering of a poor person in an unheated hut." (Love Your Neighbor)
"And Noah, man of the earth, profaned himself and planted a vineyard" (Beresheet 9:20)
Rashi notes that Noah is now called a man of the earth instead of a "righteous man" as previously. What happened? The first thing he planted after the flood was a vineyard, but he should have planted other things first.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that it was definitely proper for Noah to plant a vineyard. Grapes which produce wine are necessary and have positive uses. But the fact that from all the things he had to plant, Noah chose grapes to start with shows us his essence. This lowered his previous level. By what you choose first you illustrate whether your focus is on spirituality or materialism.
Whenever you have a number of things to choose from, note what you choose first. This is a powerful tool to gain greater self-awareness. Regardless of your present level, strive to build up such a love for doing good that it will be first on your list of things to do. (Growth through Torah)
"Terah took Abram his son...and they went forth with them from Ur Casdim to go to the land of Canaan and they came to Haran and dwelt there." (Beresheet 11:31)
When Abraham left Ur Casdim to go to Canaan, his father Terah initially joined him. However, Terah stopped off in Haran, and ended up staying there rather than continuing to Canaan. We see from here that a person can sometimes be inspired to make a change in his life, but as time passes, his inspiration dies down and the impulse is forgotten. One should always be diligent to remain strong in his convictions, and follow through when he is motivated to make a change for the better in his life. The yeser hara (evil inclination) will come up with all sorts of reasons against it, and it is very easy to just slip back into the old routine. Inspiration without action will not make you a better person.
Question: In the month that has gone by since Rosh Hashanah, have you managed to make the changes in your life that you committed to make? What concrete steps can you take to keep the inspiration from fading away?
Question: Why are we obligated to wash our hands when we wake up in the morning?
Answer: 1. Since each morning we are considered like a new creation, Hazal instituted this misvah in order to initiate the new beginning in purity (similar to a kohen who was required to wash before beginning his service in the Bet Hamikdash).
2. During the night, an impure spirit descends upon the hands. The washing serves to remove this spirit. (Sefer Ta'amei Haminhagim Umkorei Hadinim)
This week's Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24.
In the regular haftarah for this week, 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.
However, since this Rosh Hodesh falls out on this Shabbat, we read a special haftarah. This haftarah is read because of pasuk 23, which says "And it shall be from New Moon to New Moon...all flesh will prostrate themselves before Me, said Hashem."
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