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Haftarah: Yishayahu 66:1-24

OCTOBER 31 - NOVEMBER 1, 2008 3 HESHVAN 5769

Remember to move your clocks back one hour on Saturday night.


"He sent out the raven…until the drying of the waters from upon the earth" (Beresheet 8:7)

During the lifetime of Noah, Hashem decreed that a generation that behaved so immorally had given up its right to exist. Hashem brought a terrible flood and destroyed all of mankind except for Noah and his family. Hashem commanded Noah to build an ark and he would be saved. After the flood destroyed the world, the water receded and Noah sent out the raven to find out if the land was dry. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein wonders why Noah sent out the raven at all. The purpose was to find out if the land was dry so he could leave the ark. But, Noah didn't leave the ark until he was commanded to do so by Hashem. Why did he have to know if the land was dried?

The answer is that Noah was in the process of doing teshubah (repentance). He decided he would not leave the ark until he got the command. This was to make up for his mistake when he first entered the ark. At that time Hashem commanded him to enter before the flood began. This would show that Noah believed in Hashem's prediction that the flood was coming. But, Noah entered only after the flood began when he had no other choice but to save his life to escape the flood waters. Now Noah wanted to repent. He sent out the raven to get the report that it was safe to leave. Now Noah did not leave even though he could have, in order to show that he didn't leave until he got the command to leave.

Sometimes in life we get opportunities to make up past mistakes. It could be because Hashem has mercy on us and gives us another chance. Try not to miss those opportunities. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

"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. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka


"A light/window you shall make for the ark." (Beresheet 6:16)

There are two definitions stated by the Torah's commentators of the meaning of the word tzohar. One explanation is that it was a brilliant jewel which lit the ark. The traditional approach, however, is that it was simply a window. The purpose of this window is difficult to understand. What great sights would they behold that would necessitate incorporating this window into the ark's structure? The Ateret Mordechai poignantly explains the purpose of this window. Hashem hereby enjoins Noah to bear in mind his responsibility to mankind. While he sits in the ark, calm and tranquil, secure in his being spared from the terrible fate meted out to the rest of humanity, he is to look out of this window, gaze upon the terrible sight before him and reflect. He must realize the terrible spiritual danger which hangs over him were he to ignore this sight and divorce himself from the pain and anguish of those less fortunate than himself. He must not be happy and relieved at his own rescue and ignore the sorrow of others. The window served as a symbol of his moral obligation to others and as a reminder of his unrelenting obligation to acknowledge and show his gratitude to Hashem for His everlasting beneficence. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And Noah, master of the land, planted a vineyard" (Beresheet 9:20)

When Noah went ashore following his lengthy journey on the ark, his first activity was to plant a grapevine. Later, he drank its wine "and became inebriated." This act ultimately lead to an embarrassing situation which culminated in his cursing his grandson, Canaan. When we view the positive and negative actions of our forebears, we must delve into their origins in order to learn from them. What was Noah's mistake and what lessons may be derived from it?

Rav A.H. Lebowitz cites Seforno who interprets Noah's violation in the following manner. "And Noah began" - his mistake lay in the manner he generated his activity upon arriving safely on the land. He began with an action which lacked refinement and did not reflect appropriate judgment. This impropriety led to a tragic misdeed. A slight error at the onset can create havoc and tragedy in the end. Because wine is not a nourishing substance, Noah should not have made it his first priority upon debarking from the extended trip on the ark.

This seems peculiar. Wine does have both practical and holy uses. Indeed, wine is required in the observance of many misvot. Undoubtedly, someone of Noah's noble character must have planted the grapevine with the proper intentions, for the sake of Heaven. Wherein lay his sin? Rav Lebowitz explains that the sin originated in a misdirected sense of priorities. Planting a grapevine is a prerequisite for serving Hashem, but it does not take precedence over other activities necessary for rebuilding the world. The grapevine symbolizes pleasure and not necessity. This should not have been Noah's first act. This slight indiscretion led to disaster for himself and for his descendants.

With this thesis, we are confronting a transgression in the form of unbecoming behavior. We tend to overlook certain types of inappropriate behavior, with the common defenses, "What am I doing wrong?" or "Where is it cited in Halachah?" As Rav Lebowitz explains, activity unbecoming a Torah observant Jew need not be written explicitly in the Torah. A mandate issued from our Torah leadership deeming a certain activity or manner of dress unbecoming should be sufficient. As Hashem's chosen people, we are especially obligated to act in a dignified manner consistent with our royal status. Transgression is relative to the sinner and the One before Whom one sins. (Peninim on the Torah)

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