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Haftarah: Yeshayahu 54:1-10

NOVEMBER 4-5, 2016 4 HESHVAN 5777


"Make yourself an Ark of gopher wood." (Beresheet 6:14)

Hashem commands Noah to build the Ark. Rashi asks: "Why did Hashem trouble Noah (Hashem has many ways to bring salvation)? So that the people of the generation of the flood should see him, busy with the Ark for a hundred and twenty years, and ask him, 'Of what use is this to you?' He would say to them, "In the future the Holy One Blessed Be He is going to bring a flood upon the world.' Thus, they might repent."

Rabbi Yaakov Haber asks: If the purpose of all this was to encourage people to do teshubah, would it not have been more sensible for Noah to build Yeshivas for Ba'alei Teshubah, or go on speaking tours? Why build a gigantic boat in the middle of the field?

The answer is that the best way to persuade others to change their lifestyle for the better is by our own deeds, by our example. By watching Noah invest 120 years in building a boat that would protect from flood waters that Hashem was readying to send, the worry became real. But that generation was so corrupted, that it was able to push the worry completely out of mind.

To see something is greater than words. Rabbi Dovid Kaplan illustrates this with a story.

Rudy's constant hacking cough was driving his wife Francine crazy, as well as causing her a lot of worry. At just under two packs a day, Rudy was considered a heavy smoker. "I'm fine," Rudy would assure her any time she suggested a visit to a doctor, which was every hour or so. Finally, after a ten minute coughing fit one day, which included a little blood, he agreed to go.

"Here are the results," the doctor said, as he handed Rudy his lung X-ray across the table.

"They overexposed the film, huh?" Rudy commented as all he could see was a black mass.

"Uh, no, Rudy, they did not overexpose the film," the doctor said. "That black mass is not the result of overexposure of the film, it's the overexposure of your lungs to cigarette smoke, tar, and nicotine."

Rudy stopped smoking. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah

We are all familiar with the story of the mabul, the flood which Hashem brought in the time of Noah. Because of the wickedness of the people, Hashem wanted to destroy the world and commanded Noah to build an Ark, which ultimately saved him and his family and all different species of animals, birds, etc. We are under the impression that what saved Noah and his family was the fact that they were in the Ark, "protected" from the elements outside. Over the last many months, we have seen that even a strong house can be meaningless in the face of a storm, let alone a wooden Ark of Noah. The Rabbis tell us that what protected him was the hesed, kindness, which he performed in the Tebah. For one full year he was running around with his family to provide different food for every type of creature at different feeding times. The world was being destroyed because of corruption which is based on selfishness. The salvation came about through kindness which is based on selflessness.

In times of trouble and especially in the days leading to Mashiah, hesed, kindness, and selflessness will be the attributes which will save us from the floods of the world. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

Stolen Goods

"And the earth had become filled with robbery." (Beresheet 6:13)

Rashi explains that the fate of the people of that generation was sealed as a result of theft. The members of the dor hamabul, generation of the Flood, were guilty of many other and more egregious transgressions. Why did theft play such a critical role in their fate? Furthermore, it is a well-established maxim that Hashem does not exact punishment on a person's body until He has exhausted all other avenues of punishment. We see that the individual who is guilty of behavior which brings on the onset of sara'at, spiritual leprosy, first notices the plague on his house and his possessions before Hashem strikes him personally on his body. Hashem gives him various hints concerning his deficient behavior, various opportunities to repent and change his ways, thereby circumventing the sara'at that affects his body. Why, then, did the dor hamabul not receive Hashem's message enacted on their possessions prior to receiving the ultimate punishment?

The Maharam Schick, zl, explains that it is only when one obtains his possessions through appropriate means that they can save him, that they serve as a medium for delaying his personal punishment. If, however, his material belongings have found their way into his possession through illegal avenues, then they are not really his. That which is not his cannot protect him. Thus, if one steals, his possessions do not protect him, because they are not his. This is the meaning of the idea that the fate of the dor hamabul was sealed as a result of theft. Their possessions could not protect them, because they had been obtained illegally.

This is a powerful message to those who feel that they can "have their cake and eat it too." One who obtains money through means that are less than honest loses the protective coating that his possessions could potentially avail him. Not only is he a thief, but he will pay dearly with his health and welfare for his corruption.

In an alternative exposition, the Tiferet Shlomo explains that "The earth had become filled with robbery," was actually a measure for measure payback for the way the people of that generation were treating one another. He begins by asking how theft could have such a powerful condemning effect that the entire generation was wiped out as a result of this form of corruption. Animals steal from one another all of the time. So, these people had descended to the level of animals. Does this behavior mandate such severe punishment?

He quotes the Midrash that relates that Abraham Abinu met Shem ben Noah and asked him in what merit his family had been spared from the effects of the Flood. Shem replied that he did not know, other than the fact that they had devoted themselves for an entire year, day and night, to serving the needs of all the creatures on board the Ark. Perhaps, in this merit, Hashem had spared them.

As a result of their incredible compassion for the creatures in their charge, Hashem repaid them with exceedingly great compassion. The members of the dor hamabul, however, were thieves who did not care for one another. Another person's feelings meant nothing to them. If they would have exhibited compassion to others, Hashem would have had compassion on them and not sent the waters of the Flood. When the members of a generation are steeped in hamas, theft, when they show no feeling towards others, then they deserve none for themselves. Hashem has rahmanut, compassion, for those who manifest compassion towards others. (Peninim on the Torah)


"And behold! An olive leaf it had plucked with its bill." (Beresheet 8:11)

The Midrash teaches that, in addition to representatives of every living creature which Noah brought with him into the Tebah, Ark, he also brought seeds and shoots from all types of vegetation. The purpose was simple: He and all the creatures would survive, but what would they eat? From what would they sustain themselves? There was one plant which he did not take: the olive. In their commentary to the Torah, the Baalei Tosafot explain that the olive cannot endure one full year out of the soil. Thus, it would not have survived on the Ark. Therefore, it is interesting that when Noah sent the dove out to investigate if the Flood waters had finally receded, it returned with an olive leaf. How did the olive survive the Flood? Everything else perished. This teaches us that, when Hashem commands us to do something, it is not necessarily for our sake as our only means of salvation. Hashem can do anything, and every option continues to be available to Him. He decided that Noah should spend one hundred and twenty years building an ark, and that he and all the living creatures which were spared the effects of the Flood should escape on it. This does not mean that the Ark was the only medium of rescuing Noah. Hashem could have saved him through a host of different paths. He wanted the Ark! Indeed, the olive had no ark, yet it remained standing in full bloom despite the waters of the Flood.

Every avenue for escape and salvation is open to Hashem. He does not require Noah or the Ark. He simply wanted to provide Noah an opportunity for zechut, merit, to go down in history as the man who rescued humanity. Hashem does not require man's assistance. This is one of the principles of our belief. We have been gifted a plethora of Torah to study and misvot to observe, purely for our own reward. The world does not require our input in order to achieve its purpose. Our activities are solely for our own benefit.

Following the European Holocaust, during which the world of Torah was almost destroyed, some of the remnants, firebrands plucked from the burning flames of destruction, assembled in Yerushalayim to discuss how these few remaining Roshei Yeshivah could band together to create a renaissance, a rebuilding of the Torah world that once was. Everyone spoke passionately about the terrible loss, the irreparable damage that the Torah world had sustained, and each gave his advice concerning the future. They knew that they had to build, but how?

In the midst of the discussion, the Ponevezer Rav, zl, rose from his seat and declared, "Rabbotai, my dear colleagues! You are all mistaken in your approach toward rejuvenating Torah. The Torah does not need our help! Hashem made a promise Ki lo tishkach mipi zaro, 'It (the Torah) will not be forgotten from His children.' The world of Torah will blossom with or without us. The question that confronts us is not, 'What will happen to the world of Torah?' No! The question is: 'How can we be involved? How can we share in its rebuilding?' What are we willing to do in order to have a zechut in the regeneration of Torah in the post-Holocaust era? What are we prepared to do to have a part in Torah study in which future generations will be involved?" (Peninim on the Torah)

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