Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5776
Noach and Shabbos
This week the Torah discusses Noach, a person who is depicted as a righteous person and who is saved from the Great Flood that destroyed the populated world. Noach appears to be a mystery, however, as the commentators and even the Medrash struggle to understand what it was about Noach that he merited salivation. One Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 29:1) even goes so far to say that Noach himself should have been destroyed, but he found favor in HaShem’s eyes and thus he was saved.
Why does the Torah elaborate on the sins of the Generation of the Flood?
Let us understand what occurred in the Generation of Noach and then we can begin to gain an appreciation for Noach’s salvation. The Medrash and the Gemara tell us that the Generation of the Flood was corrupt and immoral. Yet, we know that the Torah does not enumerate the sins of mankind just for the sake of running a daily blotter. The Torah is coming to teach us how to act, so what lesson is there for us to learn from the behavior of that generation?
Answer part 1:
Rashi in Devarim offers us a brand-new perspective on the behavior of the Generation of the Flood.
There is an interesting Rashi that may pass under the radar screen regarding Noach and the people of his generation but it would seem that within this Rashi is the key to the whole puzzle. In the parasha of shema that we read twice daily, it is said (Devarim 11:16-17) hishamru lachem pen yifteh livavchem visartem vaavaditem elohim acheirim vihishtachavisem lahem vicharah af HaShem bachem viatzar es hashamayim vilo yihyeh matar vihaadama lo sitein es yevulah vaavaditem miheira meial haaretz hatovah asher HaShem nosein lachem, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and prostrate yourselves to them. Then the wrath of HaShem will blaze against you; He will restrain the heaven so there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will be swiftly banished from the goodly Land that HaShem gives you.
Rashi comments that from the fact that the Torah states that the Jewish People will be swiftly banished, we learn that HaShem will not tolerate the iniquity of the people. Why, then, did HaShem tolerate the misdeeds of the Generation of the Flood for one hundred and twenty years? Rashi answers that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from, whereas the Jewish People had who to learn from.
Answer part 2
Two questions on Rashi in Devarim
This Rashi should strike us as puzzling. First, what does it mean that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from? Were those people created wicked and without any conscience that we could say that they were helpless? Furthermore, Rashi tells us in this week’s parasha that HaShem instructed Noach to build the Ark for one hundred and twenty years so they should see him building it. When they would ask Noach regarding the purpose of the Ark, Noach would respond that HaShem was bringing a flood to the world and they should repent. How can it be said that they did not have who to learn from?
Answer part 3
Hashem only made a pact with the Jewish People.
The answer to this question is that although he Generation of the Flood could have learned from Noach how to serve HaShem, it would have been futile, because HaShem did not make a pact with that generation. In fact, it is noteworthy that it was specifically with Noach that HaShem made several pacts to ensure his survival. Regarding the Jewish People, however, HaShem had promised the Patriarchs that He would give them the Land of Israel, but this pact was conditional on the Jewish People observing the Torah. Were the Jewish People to violate this agreement, they would immediately be banished from the Land.
Answer part 4
Noach was only deserving of a pact for himself and not for his generation.
Rashi points out in the beginning of the parashah several contrasts between Noach and Avraham. One difference between them is that Noach needed HaShem to help him spiritually whereas Avraham was able to walk by himself. One must wonder, though, why there is a need to contrast Noach with Avraham. It would seem that the contrast is teaching us something regarding the reason that HaShem only saved Noach and not his generation. The explanation for this is that while Noach was seeking spiritual growth, he did not demonstrate a great concern for his generations or even for future generations. This idea is highlighted by the fact that the Torah states that he was a righteous and perfect man in his generations, i.e. he only was concerned for himself and not is generation or for future generations. Avraham, however, walked ahead, i.e. he was looking for the future of his generation. It was for this reason that Avraham prayed that Sodom and Amorah not be destroyed, as Avraham presumed that there would be some potential for good that would arise from the inhabitants of those cities. Hashem saw that Avraham was concerned for the people of his own generation and future generations, and HaShem specifically made a pact with Avraham, referred to as The Pact of the Parts.
Summary of answer
We have seen that Noach perfected himself but in a sense he abandoned his generation and future generations. Hashem will save a righteous person for his own merits, but the generation could not possibly be saved, as they did not have who to learn from. They could have watched Noach build the Ark and then reflect upon their misdeeds, but they could not learn from Noach how to save others. Although this may sound strange, the truth is that every person has a societal pull, and unless he sees people who are attempting to help others, it will be very difficult to help himself. Avraham, however, maintained that one has to be concerned about others, both in the present and in the future. It was for this reason that HaShem made a pact with Avraham only.
The Shabbos connection
What does Noach have to do with Shabbos? The Zohar states that Noach is in the category of Shabbos. In a simple sense this means that the word Noach means menuchah, rest, and Shabbos also means rest. On a deeper level, however, perhaps the association between Noach and Shabbos is that Shabbos is a part from the rest of the week. One must always seek to reach out to others, but at the same time one has to be careful not to be influenced by other’s misdeeds. In this regard Noach is compared to Shabbos, as it is logical to suppose that Noach did not wish to be influenced by their corruption and immorality. HaShem should allow us to reach out to our fellow Jews and to observe the Shabbos in a state of holiness and purity.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
This mystical Zemer was composed by Avraham Maimin, whose name with the addition of chazak, is formed by the acrostic. Avraham was a student of Rabbi Moshe Kordevero, a member of the Kabbalistic school of the Arizal, and he lived from 5282-5330 (1522-1570 C.E.)
עִלַּת הָעִלּוֹת מוּכְתַּר בְּכֶתֶר עֶלְיוֹן. כֶּתֶר יִתְּנוּ לְךָ יְ-ה-ֹו-ָה, Primary Cause, crowned with the most exalted crown – they give You a crown, O HaShem. We can interpret this passage in the following manner. The Maharal writes that the reason we pray is so that we show our dependence on HaShem. When we pray, writes the Baal HaTurim (Devarim 26:19) we are crowning HaShem, and in the future HaShem will return those crowns to us. Thus, HaShem, Who is the Primary Cause and we are dependent on Him, is crowned with the most exalted crown, the crown that we give Him when we pray.
Belief in HaShem
Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehillas 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 tefillah. 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.” (www.Torah.org)
Shabbos in Halacha
Wringing and Laundering
Activities Affected by These Prohibitions
Cleaning a Dirty Surface
One is prohibited to rub a dirty surface with a wet rag (or any other wet material) because, while cleaning, water will be squeezed from the rag. However, one may use a damp rag from which the water cannot be wrung.
Shabbos Ta’am HaChaim: Noach 5777
Is sponsored לזכר נשמת האשה החשובה מרת חיה אסתר בת ר’ משה צבי הלוי אוקוליקא ע”ה ת.נ.צ.ב.ה.and as a zechus לרפואה שלימה חיה דינה חביבה בת שושנה בתוך שאר חולי ישראל.
Have a Wonderful Shabbos!
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New Stories Noach 5777
A True Jewish Baseball Hero
Meet the most inspiring player of this World Series season.
by Ilana Rubenstein
The Cubs and the Indians may be battling for the World Series title, but I know a young man who is this season’s true baseball hero. Meet Josh Schwartz *, a regular 6th grader at a local public school in Toronto. Only, he’s not so regular: he keeps Shabbat. Which means that even though he has a passion for baseball (and quite the throwing arm), he can’t join the local league – their games are all on Shabbat. It also means that when the school team was slated to play this fall, his parents made sure none of their games were on Rosh Hashanah or Yom Kippur.
First round he pitched five games and his team made it to the conference finals. Amazing. Josh pitched a 2-hour game in the rain. And pitch he did, leading his team to a 6-0 victory. It’s the stuff baseball dreams are made of; they were going to the city tournament. But here’s the clincher: the tournament was scheduled for Simchat Torah. And suddenly Josh’s dream-come-true turned into a nightmare. How could he let his team down? How could he miss this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity?
While the school board had been aware of the “major Jewish holidays,” Simchat Torah was deemed a “minor festival”. And just like that, Josh was faced with his Sandy Koufax moment. He and his parents talked it over. Yes, some of his Jewish team mates would be at that game; he would be the only one missing. But observing the holidays was not a sometimes kind of commitment. The baseball field was over an hour’s drive away; there was no way to get to the game and play while observing Simchat Torah. Staying true to his values meant only one thing: he could not play. And so with a heavy heart, Josh told his team and school.
I’m not sure how many of us could stand by our convictions with a team depending on us and the lure of winning. Would you try to bend the rules? Find some wiggle room or make a “just-this-once” exception? But Josh stood strong. And then he received a call from the school principal: he had taken matters in hand – the tournament date was changed to Friday. And not only that, the school board was beginning a process where all Jewish holidays would be marked as “the same level of significance” on the calendar, ensuring this struggle will hopefully never be repeated.
Josh may have simply been standing by his own values, but he won a victory far beyond his 11 years.
Whichever team wins four games will take the World Champion title. Here are four winning lessons we can all take to heart from Josh’s victory:
- The real winning happens off the field
Josh might have been focusing on his curve ball, but just like most pro-athletes, he learned that what happens between games is also crucial. Michael Jordan knows this well. He was cut from his high school varsity team, wasn’t recruited by his choice college and wasn’t drafted by the first two NBA teams that could have chosen him. Jordan remarks, “the mental toughness and the heart are a lot stronger than some of the physical advantages you might have”. It’s easy to look at what happens when the world is keeping score, but it’s how we navigate the in-between challenges that defines our mental toughness. We might not be baseball players, but we can all dig deep into our hearts when life throws us challenges.
- When we do the right thing we inspire others
There is something truly amazing about someone who stands in their truth. No excuses. No apologies. Simply living according to their values. It is even more amazing when sticking to those values means swimming against the popular current. And that’s exactly what Josh did, and why his principal went to bat for him. When we are brave enough to do the right thing, we create the possibility for others to do so as well.
- Sometimes holding the line is the kindest thing
It was not easy for Josh to make this decision. It was equally challenging for his parents. It might have been tempting to compromise “just this once”. Like the child who begs for one more cookie, it’s harder to stick to saying ‘no’ than it is to give in and say ‘yes’. Sticking to the lines we draw for ourselves and our relationships is a true act of love. When we maintain the perimeters we commit to, we allow those we love to rise to the occasion. Had Josh’s parents wobbled on this point, he never would have achieved such greatness.
- Our greatest victories happen when no one is cheering
When Josh’s team won, the crowd went wild. Granted, it was mostly parents and friends in the stands, but the cheers and applause were infectious. Talk about a feel-good moment. We all love validation, hearing we’ve done a good job. But no one was cheering when Josh was struggling to decide he wouldn’t be playing on Simchat Torah. The truth is, most of our life defining moments will happen in the quiet of our homes, the privacy of our relationships. No one will do the wave when we are patient with a child or give us a round of applause when we struggle to take the higher road. But, like Josh, we will know our private victories.
I am watching the World Series but I already know who is the true winner this baseball season: a young man who stood up to the world and proclaimed, “I am a Jew and that comes before baseball.” Now that deserves a standing ovation.
*The family requested to use a pseudonym. (www.aish.com)