Use Your Seichel
"Abba, I have a question on this week's parashas ha'shavuah."
"Yes, what is it Chaim?"
"We all know that Hashem is fair."
"Absolutely, Chaim. The Torah states it in many places. The Novi Hoshea says that the ways of Hashem are straight (Hoshea 14:10). Dovid HaMelech writes that the principles of Hashem are straight (Tehillim 19:9)."
"With that in mind, I find it very difficult to understand the punishment given to the dor ha'mabul (generation of the flood). They were completely wiped off the face of the earth, except for the handful of survivors in Noach's tiny ark. Their crime must have been absolutely terrible."
"It would seem logical."
"Logic dictates that when you break a rule, or violate a law, you get punished. The dor ha'mabul had only one mitzvah - to be fruitful and multiply. Yet Rashi (Bereshis 6:11,12) points out that they committed the sins of immorality, idol worship, and stealing. If there were no commandments, then how are these considered sins? And how could they be punished if they were not warned?"
"Excellent question Chaim! Rabbeinu Chizkiah Ben Rebbe Manoach, who is known to us as the Chizkuni, asks the very same question."
"His answer begins with a point that you mentioned - logic. There are mitzvos that a person's sevora (straight thinking) obligates him to observe. Logic dictates that murder is wrong. Therefore, Kayin was punished for murdering his brother Hevel, even though he was not formally commanded and warned. Similarly, a person who uses the intelligence and sevora that Hashem gives him will realize that worshipping powerless idols of wood and stone is wrong. The aveyros (sins) committed by the dor ha'mabul were obviously wrong. Therefore, the people did not need to be commanded and warned in order to be punished. Hashem gave them the intelligence to know better.
"Chaim, the source of this is actually from the Gemora. Our sages recognized the straightness of a person's logic, and were willing to decide halachos according to sevora. The Gemora exhorts, 'Why do I need a verse? It is a sevora!' If logic dictates a certain halacha, we have no need for a verse in the Torah to teach us the same thing. That is the koach (strength) of a sevora. That is the brainpower that Hashem gave you."
Kinderlach . . .
Hashem placed a wonderful gift inside of your head. It is called your brain. Additionally, he filled that brain with intelligence and the ability to think straight. That is called sevora. When you apply it to life's situations, it is called seichel (common sense). Rav Avigdor Miller zt"l constantly exhorted people, "Use your seichel!" Hashem put you into this world to use your head. Every day of life is full of challenging situations, which beckon you to make decisions. Think about what you are doing! Gather the necessary information. Analyze the options. Pray to Hashem for Siyata Di'Shmaya (Heavenly Assistance). Then make the right decision. It is a mitzvah that does not need to be written into the Torah. Use your seichel!
It Takes Time
The world had gone too far. Corruption and immorality were everywhere, even among the animals. There was no remedy. The world had to be destroyed. Therefore, Hashem brought the flood. Twelve months from beginning to end. The only surviving life on earth was inside a tiny ark, where Noach and his family worked tirelessly taking care of all of the animals. At the end of the flood, they went out and repopulated the earth.
Twelve months are a long time. Hashem could have destroyed the earth in a moment. Why did He take twelve months, thereby making Noach and his sons work so hard for so long? Rav Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, zt"l in his sefer Meshech Chochma explains as follows. The animals had developed a bad nature, loving evil and corruption. They too needed re-education. Twelve months in the ark, living in close quarters was the solution. They received only limited amounts of food from the hand of man. This taught them humility and morality. Only after receiving a good education were they able to go out of the ark, and live properly in the world. This re-education does not happen overnight. It takes time.
Kinderlach . . .
Imagine someone who wanted to work on the midda (character trait) of anger. He said to himself, "Starting now, I will never get angry again." He passed his first test when someone stepped on his toe. "I am so patient" he thought. "The next day, his sister spilled milk on his pants. He felt his anger rising, but he controlled himself. "I really have this anger problem solved." The third day, someone pushed in front of him while he was waiting patiently in line. That was too much. He lost his temper and reacted angrily. "I'll never solve this anger problem," he thought. "I may as well give up." The person had wonderful intentions. He did not realize that improving middos takes time. Two steps forward, one step back. As the verse states, "The tsaddik falls seven times and gets up" (Mishlei 24:16). Be patient, kinderlach, and give yourselves time. That is the lesson that we learn from Noach.
"Every moving thing that lives is for you to eat" (Bereshis 9:3). Thus the Torah permitted Noach and his descendants to eat meat after the flood. Until then it was forbidden. What changed after the flood that allowed them to eat meat? Rav Zalman Sorotzkin zt"l explains that the dor ha'mabul (generation of the flood) did not appreciate the sanctity of a human being. Man is the center of the universe. The whole creation exists for his sake. They felt that a human was nothing more than a glorified animal. Therefore they behaved like animals and committed all sorts of abominable sins. Men were not men, and creation ceased to have a reason to exist. Therefore it was destroyed. After the flood, man was allowed to eat animals to demonstrate his elevated status. The flesh of the animals could now be elevated by being eaten and becoming a part of the body of the man.
The Malbim adds that man's good middos (character traits) encompass those of all the animals. He has the industriousness of the ant, the modesty of the cat, the strength of the lion and the boldness of the leopard. When a person perfects his middos, the animals and indeed the entire world are perfected along with him. When man corrupts himself, sadly, the world sinks along with him.
Kinderlach . . .
Don't ever forget your greatness. The whole creation exists for you. When you do your job, the world flourishes. What is your job? To learn Hashem's Torah and keep His mitzvos. Every word of Torah that you learn brings down spiritual energy that keeps this world running. Every mitzvah that you perform properly perfects yours middos. As your perfect yourself, you perfect the world. Think about it, kinderlach. A perfect world. No crime, sickness, war, poverty, lying or hatred. What a wonderful place to live. Don't give up the dream. Perfect the world. It's in your hands.
How do we know that Mesushelach was a tsaddik? (Rashi 7:4)
In which month did the waters of the deep and the windows of the heavens open up? (7:11 and Rashi)
Was Adam HaRishon permitted to eat meat? Noach and his descendants? Which type of meat? (9:3,4 and Rashi)
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