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NOVEMER 3-4, 2000 6 HESHVAN 5761

Pop Quiz: How long did it take Noah to build the ark?

- Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

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 Reuven Semah

"And he called his name Noah saying, 'This one will bring us rest from our work and the toil of our hands.'" (Beresheet 5:29)

At the end of last week's perashah, we are told of the birth of Noah. According to Rashi, they called him Noah because he will give rest or relief. This was said prophetically in reference to the invention of farming tools, which was attributed to Noah. Until his time, in consequence of the curse decreed upon Adam, the earth produced thorns and thistles when one planted wheat. In Noah's days, this ceased.

In the perashah of Noah, Hashem says, "The end of all flesh has come before me for the earth is filled with robbery through them." The Torah relates that robbery was the final blow that brought about the flood. When people can't stop hurting each other, Hashem says it must stop and makes a new beginning. Noah was the opposite of this. He made inventions to help people, not for any gain for himself. Hashem loved Noah, and the people loved Noah. Hashem blessed Noah because Noah gave and did not take.

I would like to relate a true story told by Rabbi Tzurn in Israel. The Rabbi heard about a certain person who worked in an industrial area not far from where the Rabbi lived. He heard that this pious Jew, who wasn't a Rabbi, was well known amongst the multitude of people who worked there. The most interesting part of the story was that the people went to him for a berachah (blessing) whenever there was a problem, and his blessings always worked. This intrigued the Rabbi to find out what the man's deeds were to cause this to happen. It turns out that this man would not waste one minute of working time. He would not steal anything from his employer by shmoozing with his friends or talking on the phone to anyone. When one asked why he acted so strangely, he explained that he didn't want to violate the halachot of stealing in his relationship with his employer. As if this wasn't enough, the Rabbi found out that every day, when it came time to punch out, he wouldn't do like all the rest of the workers by punching out on time, but he would punch out five minutes later just in case he owed some minutes of work to the boss. He caused a great sanctification of Hashem's name among hundreds of workers. No wonder his berachot were fulfilled!

Let us find grace in the eyes of Hashem and man in the same way.

Shabbat Shalom.


"These are the generations of Noah. Noah was a completely righteous man in his generation" (Beresheet 6:9)

Rashi cites two Talmudic opinions (Sanhedrin 108a) regarding the words "in his generation." Some see this as praise of Noah. Even in an evil generation he was righteous. If he were in a righteous generation, he would be even more righteous. Others see this as a negative statement. Only in his own generation was he considered righteous, but if he were living in Abraham's generation, he would not have been considered anything special.

The Hatam Sofer commented on this that both opinions are correct and there is not really an argument. If Noah would have stayed the way he was in his own generation, then in Abraham's generation he would not have been special. But the reality would be that if Noah were in Abraham's generation, he would have been influenced positively by Abraham, and Noah would have been much greater than he actually was.

This is a fundamental lesson on the importance of being in the presence of elevated people. We are all influenced by our surroundings. When you are close to people who act in an elevated manner, you are automatically influenced in positive ways.

Rabbi Yisrael Salanter was once asked if he had studied under Rabbi Zundel of Salant, who was known to be his teacher. Rav Yisrael replied, "I did not study under him. I saw him."

Just taking a careful look at his actions and habits were already an entire series of lessons in elevated behavior. (Growth through Torah)


"And Ham, the father of Canaan, saw his father's nakedness" (Beresheet 9:22)

The Pirkei DeR' Eliezer contrasts the debased personality of Ham with those of his brothers. While Noah was inebriated, Shem and Yefet respectfully remained outside of his tent. Ham, in contrast, did not hesitate and audaciously entered. His action was aggrieved even more because he was a father himself. His experience with his own children should have sensitized him to act quite differently towards his father. But not only did he see his father's shame, he took pleasure in telling about his father to his brothers with sneers and derision.

Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch continues with an exposition on the brothers' morally correct relationship of parent and child. Man's universe is built entirely upon this relationship. As long as children see their parents entrusted with the Divine mission, as long as children respect the spiritual being within their parents, then humanity will develop in a healthy way. However, when a child lacks the respect due his parents as messengers of Hashem, and views his father only as a physical being with a limited role, he then no longer feels a sense of decency and esteem for his parents. At that point, unfortunately, the relationship is broken; the future can no longer be built upon and benefit from the past. (Peninim on the Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: 120 years.

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