שבת טעם החיים נח תשע”ב
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5772
Noach and Avraham: The Challenge of Transforming Materialism into Spirituality
ויאמר אלקים לנח קץ כל בשר בא לפני כי מלאה הארץ חמס מפניהם והנני משחיתם את הארץ, G-d said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth.” (Bereishis 6:13)
Every year when I read Parashas Noach I am stuck by the same irony. On the one hand the Torah states explicitly that Noach was a righteous person and was deserving of being spared from the flood that eradicated almost the entire world that was in existence. Yet, the Medrashim are replete with references to Noach’s inferiority and how he would not have made it in the generation of Avraham. The question we must ask ourselves is, was Noach a truly righteous person who was worthy of being saved, or were his character flaws so pronounced that he was worthy of being displayed in a negative light by our Sages?
Destruction with the earth
The answer to this question can be found in the first few verses of this week’s parasha. It is said (Bereishis 6:11-13)ותשחת הארץ לפני האלקים ותמלא הארץ חמס וירא אלקים את הארץ והנה נשחתה כי השחית כל בשר את דרכו על הארץ ויאמר אלקים לנח קץ כל בשר בא לפני כי מלאה הארץ חמס מפניהם והנני משחיתם את הארץ, now the earth had become corrupted before G-d; and the earth had become filled with robbery. And G-d saw the earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth. G-d said to Noach, “The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth.” Rashi writes that the words והנני משחיתם את הארץ can either mean I am about to destroy them from the earth, or the words can mean I am about to destroy them with the earth. The second interpretation implies that even the three tefachim of plowing soil was destroyed. What is the significance of this second interpretation? Why do we need to know that even the soil below the surface of the ground was destroyed?
Avraham made earth into heaven
When Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak, it is said (Bereishis 24:7)ה’ אלקי השמים אשר לקחני מבית אבי ומארץ מולדתי ואשר דבר לי ואשר נשבע לי לאמר לזרעך אתן את הארץ הזאת הוא ישלח מלאכו לפניך ולקחת אשה לבני לשם, HaShem, G-d of heaven, Who took me from the house of my father and from the land of my birth; Who spoke concerning me, and Who swore to me saying, ‘To your offspring will I give this land,’ He will send His angel before you, and you will take a wife for my son from there. Rashi writes that previously Avraham had referred to HaShem as the G-d of heaven and the G-d of earth and now he was referring to Him as the G-d of heaven. The reason for this discrepancy, writes Rashi, is because Avraham was telling Eliezer, “now HaShem is the G-d of heaven and the G-d of earth, because I have caused that HaShem’s Presence become know on earth, Previously, however, when HaShem led me from my father’s house, He was only considered the G-d of heaven and not the G-d of earth, because people did not recognize Him and His Name was not familiar amongst people.” This statement of Avraham encapsulates the prime distinction between Avraham and Noach. Avraham was a spiritual person who was focused on earth. It is said (Tehillim 115:16)השמים שמים לה’ והארץ נתן לבני אדם, as for the heavens, the heavens are HaShem’s; but the earth He has given to mankind. The Kotzker Rebbe interpreted this verse to mean that HaShem has given us the earth to make into heaven, i.e. our mission is to transform materialism into spirituality. Noach, despite his great righteousness, was unwilling to descend into the depths of the earth, i.e. to influence those people who were ensnared in the web of materialism. Avraham, however, was willing to pray even on behalf of the wicked people of Sodom and its environs, because Avraham truly felt that even people who were submerged in materialism were capable of ascending to a level of spirituality.
Noach reflects the potential of transforming the weekday into Shabbos
There is no doubt that it is easier to study Torah and pray than to help another Jew do the same. Nonetheless, HaShem has charged us with the task of returning our lost brothers and sisters to their eternal heritage. Throughout the week we are also connected to the fabric of the earth, as we must earn a livelihood and we come under the influence of the nations that surround us. On Shabbos, however, we experience the Source of all blessing, and the Holy Shabbos transforms materialism into spirituality. We can consume every morsel of food on this Holy Day “in honor of the Holy Shabbos.” Our mundane speech now becomes sanctified, and by sanctifying the day, we have transformed our materialistic lives into a purely spiritual existence. The Zohar states that Noach reflected Shabbos, and perhaps the meaning of this cryptic statement is that Noach, like ourselves, had the potential to transform the material into spiritual. HaShem should allow us to experience the beauty of Shabbos and merit the day when the entire world will be filled with the knowledge of HaShem, as water covering the sea bed (Yeshaya 11:9).
Shabbos in Action through the Prism of the Parashah
In this week’s parasha the number seven is featured often. Noach took seven pairs of pure animals into the Ark, and he also took seven pairs of birds. Furthermore, HaShem waited an additional seven days, the days of mourning for the righteous Mesushelach, before bringing the flood (Gemara Sanhedrin 108b). We also find that Noach waited a series of seven days before sending out the dove to see if the flood waters had subsided. These references of seven reflect Shabbos, the seventh day of the week. A Torah scholar reflects the Holy Shabbos, and the dove, a pure bird, has its resting place near the righteous (Ibid).
The first two stories were told by Rabbi Pinchus Lipschutz on http://www.matzav.com
Eliyahu Hanovi Saves the baby
My son Yishai was privileged to eat a Shabbos Seudah at the Kanievsky home. The Rebbetzin told him a story about her grandmother, Rebbetzin Levin, wife of Rav Aryeh Levin. Back in the Yerushalayim of a century ago, homes were equipped with neither cribs nor running water. Water was drawn periodically from a well and kept in a large tub inside the house for use. Babies slept on beds, often sharing the space with several siblings.
One day, Rebbetzin Levin prepared to leave her home to do some errands, her baby sleeping soundly on the bed. She made her way down the street, when a man suddenly stopped her and asked for a drink, telling her that he was thirsty. The Rebbetzin assured him that her errands would take her a moment and that she would soon be home, where she would accommodate him.
The fellow insisted that he couldn’t wait, claiming that he needed a drink immediately or he would faint. The Rebbetzin turned around and hurried back to her house to get him a drink. When she came in to the apartment, she saw that the baby she had left sleeping soundly had fallen off the bed and landed in the large tub of drawn water! She grabbed her baby from the water and placed her on the bed. She quickly ran out to bring a cup of water to the thirsty man, but he was nowhere to be found. He had disappeared.
Later, Rebbetzin Levin told her sister, Rebbetzin Frank, what happened. Rebbetzin Frank related the incident to her husband, Rav Tzvi Pesach, who said that the thirsty man was Eliyahu Hanovi, who had come to save the baby because she would one day marry the gadol hador!
My son was advised by a friend to go to the Kanievsky apartment before Shabbos in order to be there when the Rebbetzin lit Shabbos candles. He described her copious tears as she stood there in Tefillah for a full hour, beseeching her Creator on behalf of the people who turned to her. Then the smile returned as she welcomed Shabbos with her characteristic joy.
Fromm Tears to Joy
From where did this supply of Simcha come?
Perhaps the answer lies in another story that the Rebbetzin shared with my son. She related that her own mother, Rebbetzin Elyashiv, was personable, outgoing and very popular. At her chasunah, she had many friends with whom to rejoice and the mood was festive.
On the other side of the mechitzah, the chosson seemed so serious, surrounded by relatives, neighbors and only a few friends. He had never learned in a formal yeshiva, and the walls and seforim of the Ohel Sarah – his “companions” since childhood – were “unable” to dance.
The kallah’s friends asked the bubbly kallah why she was so happy, while her new husband seemed so reticent. “Why am I happy?” answered the kallah. “Ich hob chasunah mit der Toirah alein!” (”I am marrying the Torah itself!”)
Saved From Intermarriage by Tehillim Recital
The story was related this past Shabbos by Rav Yitzchak Zilberstein, brother in law of Rav Chaim Kanievsky and rav of the Ramat Elchonon neighborhood of Bnei Brak.
A young woman named Riva from Bnei Brak went a few weeks ago to Rebbetzin Kanievsky for a bracha before her wedding. The only thing strange about the request was that she was going to be marrying an Arab fellow.
When Rebbetzin Kanievsky heard that she is marrying an Arab, she was shaken. She tried to convince the bride to call it off, to cancel the wedding. Alas, it was to no avail, and the girl insisted she would not back out of the wedding.
Rebbetzin Kanievsky made one more request before the bride left. She asked the bride to at least recite one chapter of Tehillim every day.
A week later the bride comes back to Rebbetzin Kanievsky and informs the Rebbetzin that she has decided to cancel the wedding, and she is breaking up with her Arab fiancée.
When asked what had changed, why now she was willing to break up, she responded pointing to the Tehillim she had said. Riva said that she opened up her Tehillim to a random place and read the chapter that it had opened to.
The chapter she read was perek 43, and the passuk that caught her attention was verse 1: שָׁפְטֵנִי אֱלֹקים, וְרִיבָה רִיבִי מִגּוֹי לֹא-חָסִיד;
מֵאִישׁ מִרְמָה וְעַוְלָה תְפַלְּטֵנִי, avenge me, O G-d, and champion my cause against an unkind nation; deliver me from a man of deceit and iniquity.
The fact that she saw her name in the passuk, and with the request to “deliver me from a man of deceit and iniquity” was too much for her. She saw this as a sign and knew she had to break it off. (www.kikarhashabat.co.il)
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5772
Is sponsored in honor of the marriage of Dovid and Chaya Yittie Gottlieb. May they be zoche to build a Bayis Neeman BiYisroel
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler
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Zmanim for Oak Park, MI for Shabbos
October 29 (according to http://www.ou.org)
Sof Zman Krias Shema: 10:02/10:38
Sof Zman Shacharis 11:31
Tzeis Hakochavim:7:43 (72 minutes)