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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Noach

Rachmonus, Rachmonus, Rachmonus

Alone. Totally isolated. Sole survivors of a destroyed world. Haunted by the knowledge that everyone, everything, and every place that you knew, no longer exists. Stuck in a vessel that is much too small to hold the animals, food, and people crammed inside. Living among snakes, rats, and all types of creatures. Working day and night to tend to the needs of the animals - feeding and caring for them. No rest for an entire year. This was the fate of Noach and his family.

"Only Noach survived, and those with him in the ark" (Bereshis 7:24). Rashi explains that the simple meaning is that Noach (and his family) were alone. He then cites the Medrash Tanchuma that explains that Noach was groaning and weak from the endless efforts he expended caring for the animals. The Medrash continues with another explanation - Noach was late feeding the lion one time, and he was bitten. On this the verse states, "A tsaddik is punished in this world" (Mishlei 11:31).

Rav Yerucham Levovitz zt"l entreats us to contemplate this Medrash. Noach was placed in a situation that would be considered unbearable for most people. Still, he fulfilled his obligation. He was a tremendous rachaman (merciful person). He had rachmonus on those animals by tirelessly caring for them day and night under impossible conditions. He was late for one feeding during the entire year, and he was punished with a lion bite. How much perfection can Hashem demand from a person?

The answer is that Noach was a tsaddik. A tsaddik's deeds all stem from a source of rachmonus. The verse states, "His mercies are on all His works" (Tehillim 145:9). Rav Yerucham darshens that someone who aspires to be a tsaddik must perform all of his deeds with rachmonus. Any lack of rachmonus is a lack of righteousness. Even a small mistake like delaying the food of the lion is enough to create a fault in Noach's righteousness. Therefore, in order to retain his madrayga (spiritual level) of tsaddik, he must suffer the cleansing of a lion's bite. That is the supreme importance of rachmonus.

Kinderlach . . .

Rachmonus is one of the bases of Avodas Hashem. We are commanded to emulate Hashem, as the verse states, "And you shall go in His ways" (Devarim 28:9). Just as He is merciful, so too we must be merciful. Rachmonus is one of the three basic middos that identify a Jew - rachmonim (compassionate), bayshonim (modest), and gomlei chassadim (kind). How do we develop rachmonus? Help people who are having a hard time. Even if you feel they do not deserve it. They may be suffering due to their own faults. However, a true rachamon will feel for them, and help them anyway. Judge people favorably. They may be doing the wrong thing. Perhaps they do not know that it is wrong. Even if they do know, perhaps they have a bad habit that they are trying hard to break. Either way, they are suffering now, or will suffer in the future for their mistakes. Have rachmonus on them and help ease their suffering. Kinderlach, don't you want rachmonus? Don't you want people to empathize with you? Hashem promises us that if we have rachmonus on others, He will have rachmonus on us. This is so important in our days. So many people need so much rachmonus. Give it to them. It is the ticket to success, happiness, and satisfaction in this world and the next. Rachmonus, rachmonus, rachmonus.

A Strong Chain

The wine was strong, as Noach had suspected. Blessing had returned to the earth after the flood. Now Noach would work the land to bring forth its fruits. It was only fitting that the first fruit planted be the choicest of all, the grape. One can only imagine Noach's elation with the first cup of wine from his grapevine. He would be drunk with happiness alone, from tasting the first fruits of the land. Rav Shimshon Refael Hirsch explains that Noach was concerned that he might get drunk from the strong wine. Therefore, he went into his tent, a private place, to avoid embarrassing himself.

"And Cham, the father of Canaan saw his father's shame, and he related it to his two brothers outside" (Bereshis 9:22). Why does the Torah pick this point in the story to mention that Cham is the father of Canaan? Rav Hirsch answers this question with a compelling insight; one that touches the very roots of civilization. The Torah was written down by Moshe Rabbeinu, to be given to Klal Yisrael, before they entered the Land of Israel. They had seen the destruction of Mitzraim, and were about to destroy Canaan. Both nations were sons of Cham, and were decimated because of their corruption. The Torah mentions that Cham is the father of Canaan to teach the Jewish people that the root of Canaan's downfall was his father Cham, who showed no respect for his father Noach. Cham invaded Noach's privacy at his time of shame. He then went out and described the scene to his brothers, with all its details. A nation whose patriarch shows no respect for his parents will ultimately fall.

Contrast this with Klal Yisrael, the nation that honors its elders. Inheritance in Klal Yisrael is called "nachalah", like the word "nachal", a flowing stream of water. Our mesorah (tradition) is passed down from generation to generation, like a stream passes water from place to place. All of this is based upon respect for the older generation. Klal Yisrael was being warned that the nation of Canaan was about to perish due to their corruption. The root of this was Cham's lack of respect for his father Noach.

Kinderlach . . .

We know that the mitzvah of honoring and respecting our parents is important. It completes the first of the two luchot ha'brit. Now we see that it is the foundation of society. We respect our parents, therefore we learn from them. We become a link in the chain of tradition from Har Sinai. Without this, we are lost. Without respect, we are left on our own, and will ultimately fail due to our lack of wisdom. Respect your parents, kinderlach, and keep the chain strong.

Kinder Torah Copyright 2013 All rights reserved to the author Simcha Groffman

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