The Torah spares no details in describing the ark that Noach built. The dimensions were 300 cubits long by fifty cubits wide by 30 cubits high (180 yards long by 30 yards wide by 18 yards high or 162 meters long by 27 meters wide by 16 meters high). That seems quite large, however, consider what went into that ark: two of every species of animal in the world and seven of every kosher animal plus enough food to feed them for a year. Let us not forget that Noach, his family and their food were also in the ark. The Ramban makes a partial accounting of the hundreds of species of birds and insects, and the huge size of the big animals (like elephants). He concludes that even ten arks the size of Noach's could not hold all of these animals and their food. Hashem miraculously made them all fit into the ark. The Ramban then asks the following question. "Why did Noach need a big ark? Since Hashem miraculously fit so many animals into a big ark, then He could also have miraculously fit those animals into a small ark." The Ramban has two answers for this question. The ark was made big so that all could see it and ask Noach about it. He could then answer that Hashem was going to destroy the earth with a flood if they did not do tshuva. Noach took 120 years to build the ark, which gave them plenty of opportunities to do tshuva. The second answer of the Ramban teaches us an important principle. The ark was made big in order to minimize the miracle. Hashem wanted Noach to do his part to the maximum extent of his abilities. Hashem then took care of the rest with a miracle. We learn a powerful lesson from this concerning our endeavors in life.
Children . . .
Let us not get discouraged when things get too difficult. The task may seem impossible. We have to know that Hashem does not want us to do the impossible. He only wants us to try our best. Leave the rest up to Him. Performing miracles to do the impossible is His department.
Unity Averted the Destruction
What a terrible tragedy! The destruction of an entire world. Rav Mordechai Shakovitsky zt"l once referred to Noach as one of the tragic figures of history. He saw an entire world destroyed before his very eyes. Imagine what the world was like after the flood. No towns, no streets, no homes, no shops, no farms, no people, no signs of civilization. Nothing. Your home town is gone. All of your friends and relatives are gone. It is hard for us to imagine the magnitude of this tragedy. What caused this terrible destruction? The gemora in Sanhedrin (108a) explains that the people of that generation committed many sins, but the one that sealed their fate was thievery. The end of Parshas Noach tells the story of the generation of the Tower of Babel. They built a tower with the intention of making war with Hashem. That is a very big sin, one of the three, which a person is obligated to give up his life rather than to violate. Rashi asks, "How is it that the generation of the flood did not war with Hashem, one of the three sins which obligates one to give up his life, and yet they died. On the other hand, the generation of the Tower of Babel did challenge Hashem, and yet they were not sentenced to death." Rashi answers that the people of the generation of the flood were thieves, and there were conflicts and arguments between them. Therefore, they were destroyed. The people of the generation of the Tower of Babel had no conflicts. On the contrary, they were unified with one language, and one common purpose and goal. This unity saved them from destruction, even though they committed a terrible sin.
Children . . .
The flood teaches us the terrible destructive force of conflict and arguments. On the other hand, we see from the Tower of Babel the tremendous power of unity. It was able to save an entire generation from the death sentence. Just think about what unity can do to improve our lives. Who knows what terrible punishments can be avoided if we only make peace between us. Peace will bring happiness and success to those who pursue it. Remember that the next time you find yourself in an argument. Be the first one to make peace.
Rise Above the Crowd
Noach was a tsaddik in his generation." Rashi explains that Noach was a tsaddik even in that lowly generation. If he had lived in a generation of tsaddikim, he would have been a bigger tsaddik. Noach rose above the standard of his generation. That is very difficult to accomplish. People are very influenced by their surroundings. In fact the mishna in Pirkei Avos (4:18) says that we should live among Torah scholars. Being in that fertile environment will enable our own Torah learning to develop to its potential. We should not fool ourselves into thinking that we can accomplish the same thing in a non-Torah environment. Noach accomplished great things in spite of his mundane surroundings.
Children . . .
We can learn two things from Noach. The first is that we should always try to surround ourselves with good friends and neighbors, the type of people who will have a positive influence on us. However, sometimes we may not succeed in maintaining this company. In those cases, we must rise above our surroundings, and strive to be a tsaddik. It is tempting to do what the crowd is doing. But we know what is right. Just like Noach.
Enjoy your Shabbos Table!
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