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October 15-16, 1999 6 Heshvan 5760

Pop Quiz: What happened to the fish during the flood?

by Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"In the middle of the day, Noah went into the Tebah." (Beresheet 7:13)

Rashi tells us that Hashem heard the people of the generation saying, "If we see Noah enter the ark we will harm him and break the ark." Therefore, Hashem allowed Noah to enter in the middle of the day as if to say, "Let's see what anyone will really do." And indeed, nothing was done to Noah.

The question is obvious: the people didn't believe that a flood would take place and they used to mock Noah while he was building the Tebah.

If so, why would they care if he went into the Tebah right before the flood, if according to their understanding there would be no flood? Noah would have to come out of the ark in humiliation and they would be vindicated! The answer is, although they didn't think the flood would really come, deep down in their hearts they thought perhaps they were wrong and maybe there would be a flood.

When a person does something wrong and rationalizes that it's OK, he doesn't want to believe that there will be retribution and he might even challenge those who say there will be punishment. But in his heart of hearts he will question himself and say maybe they're right and he is wrong, and so he may try to prevent those who warn him against his deeds, rather than accept their words. The human mind is very complex and there can be very contradictory feelings inside of us. Only through Torah and mussar can we unravel our emotions and feelings and get them where they are supposed to be. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Reuven Semah

Continuously all the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest...shall not cease" (Beresheet 8:22)

Our perashah tells us of the greatest human tragedy, the Great Flood. Hashem created a beautiful world, a world that could be used by mankind to reach the greatest heights of goodness and happiness. Instead, mankind fell into moral decay. Hashem decreed that He would bring the Flood to start a new world. The Midrash relates that the world in the pre-flood era was very fertile and man hardly had to work, giving man much free time. His idleness was a cause of his downfall. In the new world, Hashem says that there will be planting seasons and harvesting seasons every year, and this will keep man busy.

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 58:) states that from this phrase - "lo yishbotu - shall not cease", we learn that a gentile is not allowed to observe Shabbat. The logic is that Hashem wants man to be productive, always to be busy, never wasting time. Now we seem to have a little problem. This statement "shall not cease" was said to all of mankind, including the Jewish people. How are we allowed to rest on Shabbat without violating this command of never to rest? The answer is that a Jew who lives according to Torah and does not work on Shabbat is not idle at all. On the contrary, Shabbat is his most productive day of all. He is producing spiritual growth, which is the most creative activity of all. For six days we are productive physically and spiritually. On Shabbat we concentrate on our spiritual growth. The rest of the nations have a different job, a very important job, to populate the world, and keep it running smoothly. Since their job is the physical productivity, they may not rest from it. Our main job is spirituality and we may never rest from it either.

If both groups would do their jobs properly with enthusiasm, our world would be perfect as Hashem intended it to be. Shabbat Shalom.

by Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

"These are the products of Noah, Noah, a righteous man, was morally pure in his times: with G-d did Noah walk" (Beresheet 6:9)

The name of Noah is mentioned three times in this pasuk. Rabbi Yehudah Sadka, (zecher sadik l'brachah), comments that even the last pasuk of the previous perashah, Beresheet, also ends with the words, "Noah found favor in the eyes of G-d." The word "noah" also means "agreeable." If a person is soft and easy-going, then he will surely find favor in the eyes of G-d. However, our perashah is teaching us that there are two ways to be agreeable - "noah labriyot and noah lamakom" - A person can satisfy his Creator and he can satisfy others. Such a person is very particular in fulfilling both the misvot with his fellow man and those with G-d Himself. Sometimes a person can find himself in a predicament. He wants to learn Torah or do a misvah, but social pressures are trying to force him to do the opposite. The Torah comes and tells this person what to do in such a case. "Noah walked with G-d." Here, he must forget about the "noah labriyot," making his friends happy, and choose the right "noah" - following Hashem and the Torah. May we always have the privilege to do all the misvot together with our friends, Amen. Shabbat Shalom.


"G-d said to Noah: Enter, you and all your family, into the Ark" (Beresheet 7:1)

What practical lesson can we learn from G-d's command to Noah to enter into the Ark?

The Hebrew word "tebah" used for "Ark" (meaning here a large, floating box) also means "word." G-d is telling us too, to "enter" into the words of Torah and prayer.

Sometimes when we study Torah we forget its holiness and the One who gave it; we say our prayers without sincerity or attention to their meaning.

Just as Noah was commanded to "enter" with his entire being, into the Ark (tebah), so are we told to "enter" with all our heart and soul, into the words (tebot) of Torah and prayer, reading the words carefully from the Torah book or prayer book, saying each word with feeling.

In this way we will fulfill, in the spiritual sense, a previous command G-d gave to Noah: "A light shall you make for the tebah" (6:16) - you shall illuminate the words (tebot) of Torah and prayer with deeper feeling and holiness, till they become "bright and shining" words that illuminate one's whole being with G-d's holiness. (Vedibarta Bam)


And they said: Come, let us build a city, and a tower with its top in heaven, and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered about upon the face of the whole earth" (Beresheet 11:4)

The Midrash states that when the people of the generation of the dispersion (Dor Haflagah) were in the middle of their project of building the tower, the following occurred: If a human being fell off the tower and was killed, they ignored it and just continued working. But if a brick fell and broke, they sat down and cried.

This Midrash is a poignant lesson in how easy it is to get sidetracked from your main goals. They wished to make a tower for the benefit of mankind. But after a while the project itself became the goal and the lives of people were considered unimportant. Similarly, a person can work for Klal Yisrael, the Jewish people, and become so involved with the bureaucratic details of his work that he is rude to individuals. When you are doing things for the benefit of people, remember your goals. Do not allow your devotion to a cause make you callous to people. Keep reminding yourself of the need to be sensitive to the needs of each individual. (Growth through Torah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: They survived.

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