Haftarah: Yeshayahu 66:1-24
OCTOBER 4-5, 2013 1 HESHVAN 5774
"Noah, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard." (Beresheet 9:20)
When Noah emerged from the ark, he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk. It seems that while Noah did nothing wrong by planting a vineyard, the Sages teach that he was remiss in making that his first priority upon leaving the haven in which he had been spared from the destruction. He was supposed to replant the world, and he should have started with necessities, not wine. The word k¤j²H³u comes form the word ihˆkuj, which means mundane and not special.
Rabbi Frand quotes Rabbi Leibel Hyman who explains that what made Noah mundane was that he chose to look at his past accomplishments, his heroic salvation of all animal life in the ark, and say, "I did enough. Now it's time to retire, to relax with a glass of wine."
This lesson applies to each and every Jew, to this very day.
Some commentators write that the most difficult test for Abraham was the need to obtain a burial plot for Sarah after all he had been through with the test of the sacrifice of Isaac. But how could that compare to the test of the sacrifice? There he was commanded to sacrifice his only son!
The answer is that one of the most difficult tasks is to keep moving, to keep building, no matter what our prior accomplishments may have been. Abraham could justifiably have said, "I did more than enough." But he didn't. He kept on moving and doing, and every Jew, as a descendent of Abraham, doesn't rest on his laurels. He keeps going.
One of the greatest myths that American culture has invented is the marvel of early retirement. Every American dreams of the day when he will be able to relax on his porch with a cup of wine (or a bottle of beer perhaps). But this is a fallacy. At the age of 82, Sumner Redstone, CEO of Viacom, said, "You retire, you die."
Even if retirement is the great American dream, it shouldn't be ours. Americans, as sons of Noah, earn their retirement honestly. It is their heritage from their great-grandfather Noah. These are not wicked or evil goals, just plain and mundane.
We trace our roots back to Abraham Abinu, who at the ripe old age of 137 was still overcoming daunting challenges, without looking to put up his feet to relax. While those around us follow the ordinary path of Noah, we follow Abraham and build as long as we can. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And from the animals that are not pure..." (Beresheet 7:2)
Noah was commanded to take from each specie seven pairs of animals which are kosher and one pair of animals which are not kosher, and bring them into the ark. The Torah calls the kosher animals ruvy (tahor) - pure - and the non-kosher ones are called ruvy tk rat (asher lo tahor) - those that are not pure. The Rabbis point out that the proper word to use when describing the unacceptable animals is tny (tameh) - unclean, and yet the Torah uses the longer phrase ruvy tk rat (asher lo tahor) - which is not pure. This is to teach us the importance of not using negative words when talking about someone or something. The Gemara tells us that once three Kohanim were describing what kind of a portion each one received and one of them used a negative word to describe his share. They checked up after him and saw that there was something wrong with his lineage.
The lesson is very simple yet extremely important. The way we speak says so much about ourselves. Not only what we say, but the kind of words we use reflect on our character and on our spirit. We should always try to use words of purity and beauty and stay away from vulgarities and the like. It is especially difficult in today's day and age, when the sharper the word, the more recognition one gets. But it is much more meaningful if we put some thought into the choice of words we use. If the Torah, in which every letter counts, saw fit to add extra words in order to speak in a positive way, shouldn't we do the same? Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
An infant spending most of his day in the cramped confines of a crib is under the mistaken impression that the universe revolves around him. A teenager might not leave the house for fear that everyone will immediately notice the pimple on her forehead. "Everyone is watching," she thinks.
Membership in the human race pressures people to conform, to try and gain approval from others regarding what they wear, drive, say, and even think. Individuals live in a world full of self-imposed fears and doubts generated by feeling that everyone is watching them, and worrying about what the neighbors will think.
As mentioned in the Talmud (Berachot 28a) the students of the great Sage, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai, asked him for a blessing. He replied: "May the fear of Heaven be upon you as much as the fear of other human beings." They asked: "Is that all?" He replied: "If only!"
The truth of the matter is that people are too self-centered to think about you. They don't give much thought to what you are doing/ wearing/ driving/ saying, either. They are too busy thinking about themselves.
When your life is inhibited by what others might think, keep in mind that the neighbors don't really evaluate your behavior as much as you think they do. Go on and do what your values tell you is the correct thing to do. Looking inside rather than out will give you real freedom to enjoy your day as you would like to spend it. (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.
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