Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim: Noach 5776

Noach 5776

New Stories Noach 5776

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5776

Punishment can be a Reward


In this week’s parashah the Torah records how HaShem nearly destroyed the world by bringing a flood. The only survivors of this devastation were Noach and his immediate family members. While we are accustomed to understanding the flood as a punishment for the corrupt actions of that generation, it would seem to be difficult to view the destruction as a reward. This would be similar to one contracting a life-threatening illness and his friend would attempt to comfort him by stating that he should view the illness as a reward. Let us examine the concepts of reward and punishment and we will see that the idea that destruction can be viewed as a reward is not as preposterous as it sounds.

Is Punishment HaShem’s Form of Revenge?

We must first ask ourselves why HaShem brings destruction to the world. The Ran in his Derashos (Derush 10 Version 2) poses the following question. If HaShem observes the laws that are written in His Torah, how can HaShem punish someone for violating His will? It would seem that if HaShem exacts retribution from someone for his actions, it is a form of revenge, and the Torah states explicitly that one is forbidden to take revenge. The Ran answers that when HaShem punishes a person, he is not taking revenge. Rather, HaShem is afflicting the person in this world or in the next world so that one will earn atonement and be cleansed from his sin. Thus, the term punishment regarding one who suffers because of his sins is not a correct term. Rather, one is being rewarded with afflictions that will ultimately bring him closer to HaShem. While it is true that the generation of the Flood forfeited their portion in this world and in the World to Come (Gemara Sanhedrin 107b), Noach and his family were allowed to live and to rebuild the world.

Noach and Shabbos

The Zohar states that Noach represented Shabbos. The real Shabbos will be in the World to Come, when those who have merited will be rewarded with an eternal rest. We must adopt an outlook that what may at times appear to be a punishment is in essence a reward. There are times when all those who appear to be punished are in essence being rewarded, and there are times when only some of those who are being punished are really being rewarded. Yet, the Meshech Chochmah (beginning of Parashas Vaera) writes that the whole liberation from the bondage of Egypt was justified so that Yehoshua and Calev were the only Jews over twenty years of age and under sixty years of age who entered Eretz Yisroel. Based on a Gemara in Sanhedrin (111a), the Meshech Chochmah posits that the Final Redemption could occur in the same manner, where HaShem will bring the redemption for only two individuals. The salvation of Noach was akin to redemption. The whole world was destroyed and only Noach and his family were allowed to live, and that life was granted to them so they could continue serving HaShem in this world.

The Shabbos Connection

Every Shabbos we merit the neshama yeseira, an extras soul, and this allows us to be liberated form the shackles of the exile and the drudgery of the weekday. When Shabbos ends, however, the neshama yeseira leaves us, and we are once again cast into the bondage of the external world in which we are forced to toil. If all of world Jewry were to observe one Shabbos, we would be liberated from the exile. Scripture (Yeshaya 54:9) refers to the flood as mei Noach, the waters of Noach. We can interpret these words homiletically to mean that the waters of The Flood themselves were the reward that HaShem granted Noach and his family. Noach reflects Shabbos, as Shabbos is the greatest reward that HaShem proffers upon the Jewish People in this world. Noach was saved by building an ark for himself and his family. Shabbos is our spiritual “ark” where we can bask in HaShem’s Presence. The Torah states that Noach sent out a dove to see if it would find dry land to rest. The dove was unable to find a resting place, and it returned to Noach. Noach then waited and sent the dove out again. Pirchei Shoshanim quotes the Zohar that states that the dove finally found a place to rest on the day that was Shabbos. Thus, the true liberation from The Flood occurred on Shabbos. Hashem should grant us respite from the long and bitter exile, and we should merit the fulfillment of the verses that are said prior to the mentioning of mei Noach, (Ibid 7-8) birega katon azavtich uvirachamim gedolim akabtzeich, bishetzef ketzef histarti fanai rega mimeich uvichesed olam richamtich amar goaleich HaShem, for but a brief moment have I forsaken you, and with abundant mercy will I gather you in. With a slight wrath have I concealed My countenance from you for a moment, but with eternal kindness shall I show you mercy, said your Redeemer, HaShem.

Shabbos in the Zemiros

Yom Zeh LiYisroel

Some opinions attribute the authorship of this Zemer to the Arizal.

חַדֵּשׁ מִקְדָּשֵׁנוּ זָכְרָה נֶחֱרֶבֶת, renew our Sanctuary, remember the ruined city. This passage is bewildering, as we first request that HaShem renew our Sanctuary, and then we ask that He remember the ruined city. One would think that once the Sanctuary is renewed there is no need to remember the ruined city.  Perhaps the answer to this question is that while our priority is that the Bais HaMidkash be rebuilt, we must always remember the suffering that we went through while the Bais HaMikdash lay in ruins. Although the standard format, such as by the Pesach Seder is to first invoke the tragedy and then to mention the good, here the  author felt it necessary to first focus on the positive and only afterwards to recall the hard times.

Shabbos Stories

A Tale of Two Letters

The Picciotto family of Aram Tzova in Syria functioned as consuls for various European countries. They were known for their integrity and for their wisdom and the rulers of the countries would often turn to the members of the Picciotto family for assistance in various matters. A king once sought to purchase fine horses in Syria and the king dispatched a trusted minister to travel to Aleppo to contact the consul, Señor, Moshe Picciotto. The king wished that Señor Moshe would use his keen eye and business acumen to locate for the king the swiftest and most beautiful horses available. The minister arrived in Aram Tzova with much pomp and ceremony on a Shabbos morning. The gentile authorities lavished the minister with great honor, precious gifts and long, flattering speeches. Everyone in a position of power in Aleppo was in attendance, except for the consul himself, Señor Moshe Picciotto. Although the visit of the minister warranted ones attendance, Señor Moshe served a greater King, and he would not even dare to contemplate desecrating the holy day of Shabbos for a visitor, no matter how distinguished that personage may be. The gentiles used Señor Moshe’s absence as an excuse to poison the minister’s mind against Señor Moshe. The minister was already upset that Señor Moshe had not been there to greet him, and by the end of the day the minister was prepared to believe the worst stories about Señor Moshe. When Señor Moshe arrived on Sunday morning, the minister only spent a few moments conversing with him, and then he dismissed him without even mentioning the purpose of his visit. The minister chose instead to solicit the services of the flattering non-Jewish officials, who sought out the most magnificent horses in Aleppo. Subsequent to procuring the horses, the minister visited the consul in Damascus and informed him how he had been treated by Señor Moshe. The minister then told the consul that he would avenge his honor and upon returning to the king, he would recommend that the king remove the Jew from his post. The consul, a friend of Señor Moshe, remained silent, and when the minister left, the consul immediately composed a letter to Señor Moshe, warning him of the danger. The consul hoped that Señor Moshe would find a way to protect himself from the minister’s schemes. The consul, however, left the letter on his desk, where it was buried beneath a pile of papers. The minister was en route to the palace of the king on one of the finest steeds that he had purchased, when suddenly, without warning, the horse reared up on its back legs, and its front legs hit a nearby wall. A stone dislodged from the wall and pierced the minister’s skull, killing him instantly. The king, who cared more about his beautiful horses than his dead minister, was excited about the new additions to his stables. “Señor Moshe has outdone himself,” he murmured, admiring the beautiful high bred beasts. The king then sent a letter to Señor Moshe, thanking him for his keen insight in choosing the fine horses. As an afterthought, the king mentioned the minister’s untimely death. The letter was sent to the consul in Damascus, who would ensure that the letter would reach Señor Moshe. When the secretary of the consul saw the letter from the king that was to be forwarded to Señor Moshe, he recalled that another letter had recently been written to this same consul in Aleppo. After rummaging around on the consul’s desk, the secretary found the first letter, and, afraid that the consul would be angered that the letter had not been sent, the secretary had both letters sent to Aleppo. Señor Moshe first opened the letter from the consul, and when he read its contents, he paled. This was bad news, as the minister had been offended and was planning revenge. Señor Moshe knew very well how damaging a few lies could be. His heart was racing as he cautiously opened the second letter. This letter contained the seal of the king himself. Could this be even worse news? Was it possible that the king believed the libels of the minister? Was Señor Moshe now to face the wrath of the monarch? Upon reading the letter, however, color returned to Señor Moshe’s face. He lifted his eyes to HaShem in gratitude and wonder, as the king had heaped praises upon him and had thanked Señor Moshe for his efforts. Upon reading of the minister’s strange death, Señor Moshe realized what had occurred. Señor Moshe immediately summoned the scholars of the city and informed them how he had been saved by a great miracle, and that there was a miracle within the miracle. Hashem caused that on that day he should receive the first letter so that he should not have to worry even for a moment, thus allowing him to spend all his time helping his Jewish brethren.

Shabbos in Halacha

לישה – Kneading

  1. Practical Applications
  1. Baby Cereal (Loose Mixture)

One may prepare baby cereal with milk, formula, water, or applesauce to form a loose mixture, as long as one employs the proper shinuim. One must reverse the order of adding together the ingredients (i.e. pour the milk first, then add the cereal), and the stirring must be done in an irregular manner (crisscross, bare handed or using a knife or handle of a utensil). One should be sure to use a lot of liquid to avoid forming a thick mixture.

Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Noach 5776

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New Stories Noach 5776

The Rainmaker

Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehilas Zichron Mordechai, tells the following story.

In a small town there was a severe drought. The community synagogues each prayed separately for rain, but to no avail. The tears and prayers failed to unlock the sealed heavens, and for months, no rains came.

Finally, the town’s eldest sage held a meeting with prominent community rabbis and lay leaders. “There are two items lacking in our approach, faith and unity. Each one of you must impress upon his congregation the need to believe. If we are united and sincere, our prayers will be answered!” He declared that all the synagogues in the city would join together for a day of tefilah. Everyone, men women and children would join together for this event. “I assure you,” he exclaimed, “that if we meet both criteria – faith and unity – no one will leave that prayer service without getting drenched!”

There was no shul large enough to contain the entire community so the date was set to gather and daven in a field! For the next few weeks all the rabbis spoke about bitachon and achdus (faith and unity). On the designated day the entire town gathered in a large field whose crops had long withered from the severe drought. Men, women, and children all gathered and anxiously awaited the old sage to begin the service.

The elderly rabbi walked up to the podium. His eyes scanned the tremendous crowd that filled the large field and then they dimmed in dismay. The rabbi began shaking his head in dissatisfaction. “This will never work,” he moaned dejectedly. “The rain will not come.” Slowly he left the podium. The other rabbis on the dais were shocked. “But rebbe everyone is here and they are all united! Surely they must believe that the rains will fall! Otherwise no one would have bothered to come on a working day!”

The rabbi shook his head slowly and sadly.

“No. They don’t really believe,” he stated. “I scanned the entire crowd. Nobody even brought a raincoat.”

Torah is Sweeter than Candy

One of America’s largest kosher confectioners was a major supporter of Beth Medrash Govoah, the Yeshiva and Kollel founded by the late Rabbi Aaron Kotler and led for twenty years by his late son Rabbi Shneur Kotler. At one major national function this industrialist had the occasion to introduce Reb Shneur. He did so in a most unique manner.

“Actually,” he proclaimed, “both Reb Shneur and I have much in common. We both went to cheder in Europe, survived the war, and now we both run major institutions. We provide the public with an excellent product, one that is both sweet and enjoyable. Many people stand in line to speak to me, and many wait in line to speak to the Rabbi. We both are well known and try hard to help others.

“However there is one major difference between us.” The magnate paused and smiled. “I make lollipops and Rabbi Kotler makes men.”

The Only Refuge is Torah

The Tchebiner Rav, HaRav Dov Berish Weidenfeld zt”l, was a Torah scholar of great renown, and a leader of Torah Jewry after the Holocaust. During the War, he lost his wife, two sons, and three daughters – may Hashem avenge their blood – narrowly escaping the jaws of death himself. Two of his daughters also survived. One of them married Rav Goldshtof zt”l, and the other married the renowned Torah giant Rav Baruch Shimon Shneerson zt”l.

One night in Jerusalem, his son-in-law Rav Goldshtof paced nervously outside the door to the Rav’s study. Recently, the Rav’s family had been in high spirits, after a son had been born to Rav Shneerson – a first grandson for the Rav! It was, in some way, a degree of consolation; a statement that although the Nazis – may their names be blotted out – might have extinguished the lives of most of their family, they had now begun to build anew. However, just days after the child’s birth, doctors had informed them that the baby’s life was in danger.

The Tchebiner Rav was sitting in his study, wrapped up in Torah study, when the devastating news came from the hospital: The baby had passed away. The dreadful task of relating the news to the Gaon had been placed on the shoulders of Rav Goldshtof.

Anxious and grieving, he knocked on the door. When it opened, he found himself standing face to face with the splendorous figure of the Rav, deep in thought. A volume of the Rashba’s commentary lay open on his desk. Rav Goldshtof’s eyes began to well with tears when his father-in-law asked him, “How is the child?” Without saying a word, the look on his face said it all. “It’s all over.”

No doubt, this must have razed the Rav’s universe all over again. During the horrors of the War, he had lost the people dearest to him. Now, hoping to rebuild and breathe new life into the family, his building had once again collapsed.

Years later, Rav Goldshtof described the encounter: “I had no idea what kind of reaction to expect. When I broke the news, my father-in- law placed a hand upon the door frame, and leaned his head against it. There was a terrible silence as he stood there, absorbed in his thoughts. Then he turned to me, and quoted the words of the Psalmist (Tehillim 119:92), ‘If not for Your Torah, my delight, I would have perished in my distress.”” The horrific news must have scorched his heart; his first grandchild was gone. His only refuge was the delight of Torah study. (Me’oros HaDaf HaYomi Kiddushin 69.)(

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