OCTOBER 19-20, 2012 4 HESHVAN 5773
"And tar it inside and out with pitch." (Beresheet 6:14)
Hashem instructed Noah how to build the ark. The ark was to be coated with tar inside and out. Rashi explains that the ark of Moshe, that was floated on the Nile River was only coated on the outside. One reason for the difference was that the waters of the Nile were tranquil. Therefore, one coating was enough. But here, due to the force of the water, tar was needed in and out to keep out the water.
When reading this explanation of Rashi, one gets the feeling that the construction of the ark was strong and able to weather the storm. But, nothing could be further from the truth. The flood was so powerful that no man-made structure survived. The surface of the earth was pulverized. Only an open miracle from Hashem protected the ark. If so, why the tar; it didn't make any difference? The fundamental answer is that Noah was required to do his due diligence as much as he could to save himself and his passengers. The rest is up to Hashem. This is what we call hishtadlut, effort, which is always required, and not merely leaning back and relying on a miracle.
A year ago at this time the famous prisoner Gilad Shalit was freed after five years of captivity in the hands of Hamas. The government of Israel is to be commended for all of their efforts to get his release. The hard decision to free the many terrorists was difficult to make. They negotiated tenaciously for two and a half years, and achieved what they believed was the best possible deal. And believing that the window of opportunity would not long remain open, they decided to go ahead with it. All of this was required effort on the part of Israel. It was the G-d of Israel Who saved Gilad Shalit. It was the G-d of Israel Who saved him in that initial attack on his tank, which two of his fellow soldiers did not survive. The same G-d of Israel watched over him during those 1,942 days of captivity and the complex and delicate arrangement for his return. He is the G-d of Israel Who neither slumbers nor sleeps, Who will watch over the Jewish people in Eress Yisrael and all over the world.
At that time an amazing article appeared in the NY Times. It went on at length to explain the misvah of pidyon shebuyim, the freeing of a Jewish captive, and how the Torah requires us to go to all lengths to free a captive. At the end of the article a crucial statement was made, "And Israel remains vulnerable to further kidnappings."
I say that that vulnerability is our strength. That weakness forces us to come to the realization that Ein lanu elah Abinu Shebashamayim, we have no one else but our Father in Heaven. All the very strong nations are gone, and only we who are weak, remain. 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
"For the earth is filled with robbery through them." (Beresheet 6:13)
The generation of the Flood did it all. Their behavior deteriorated to the point that immorality and idolatry had become a way of life. Their immoral conduct extended even to animals, whereby they completely disregarded the parameters of human decency and the separation between species. Yet, Hazal note that it was neither idolatry nor immorality that catalyzed the final decree for their total extinction. It was hamas, gezel, robbery, thievery, that brought them down. The commentators present a number of explanations concerning why robbery was the ultimate deterring factor in their punishment. Ramban comments that robbery is a common-sense transgression. One need not be a rocket scientist to see the evil in stealing; no one wants to have his possessions misappropriated. He worked for them; he earned them; they are his. Thus, a sin of such comprehensible proportions is considered by Hashem to be an abomination. It is inexcusable and, thus, should be punished to the fullest extent.
The Melo Ha'Omer teaches us a significant, albeit frightening lesson. The Midrash Vayikra 17:4, teaches that Hashem does not harm human beings immediately. He first metes out His punishment on the individual's possessions as a signal to repent and correct his behavior. It is only after the subtle and, at times, not-so-subtle reminders have been ineffective that Hashem has no other recourse but to punish the person by inflicting pain and ultimately worse on him. This, explains the Melo Ha'Omer, can occur only if the money/material possessions which he owns are really his. This means that his claim to their ownership is legal. If he has appropriated them through illegal means, then his possessions are not really his. They belong to someone else. Thus, they cannot protect him. The generation of the Flood paid dearly for their sins, with their lives. (Peninim on the Torah)
Silence is a great attribute. Rabbi Shimon says: "All my days I grew up among the Sages, and I have found nothing better for the body than silence!" (Pirkei Abot 1:17)
The spoken word can be harmful. The prophet Yirmiyahu compared a word to an arrow. Just as an arrow is irretrievable once it leaves the bow, so, too, a word that leaves the mouth is irreversible. Rabbi Shimon points out that the wrong words may cause harm to the body, not only to the soul. A person may suffer great physical discomfort and depression because a word was said in a moment of anger or frustration. Harsh criticism may not leave black and blue marks, but it has the potential to bruise - even more than physical blows.
The Sage Shammai used to preach: "Say little and do much" (Pirkei Abot 1:15). Out holy books say that people are allotted a specific number of words to speak during their lifetime, and when they are used up, life ends. Therefore, if we speak less we will live longer, and - bottom line - do more!
Communication is not limited to speaking. You can convey a great deal by your actions. Doing something helpful for a friend at work indicates how much you like and respect that individual. A little help at home says a lot to your spouse or your parents about how you really feel about them.
When you are about to say something, ask yourself, "Is there something I can do that will better express how I truly feel about this person?" It takes some self-control, but it makes for healthy relationships and a longer life for you. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
Call to 646-279-8712 or email firstname.lastname@example.org (Privacy of email limited by the email address)
Please pass this message along. Tizku L'misvot.
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