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Torah Attitude: Parashas Noah: Learning how to overcome our challenges
G'd instructed Noah to build an ark and to make appropriate accommodations for his family and all the animals. Satan came to Noah and offered him to go into a partnership. The shrewd "snake" convinced Eve that nothing in the Garden of Eden compares to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. The Satan and the Evil Inclination downplay whatever is permissible and make us believe that only the "forbidden fruit" is the "real thing". We all have our custom-made unique evil inclination that comes to challenge us in every situation. Men have their challenges and women have theirs. G'd created the evil inclination and created the Torah as an antidote.
In this week's parasha, the Torah gives a detailed description of the great flood G'd brought upon the earth. Mankind had gone corrupt and people lived a life of immorality and dishonesty. Only Noah found favour in G'd's eyes, and he and his family were saved together with representatives of each species. G'd instructed Noah to build an ark and to make appropriate accommodations for his family and all the animals. Noah even brought some delicate plants into the ark as they would not have survived the massive flood (see Rashi 9:20).
Partnership with Satan
Not long after the flood, Noah started to cultivate the land and planted some of the seedlings he had taken along in the ark. The Torah (ibid) relates that the first thing Noah planted was a vineyard. This was a major mistake and eventually brought him to get intoxicated and behave inappropriately. The obvious question is, how could Noah, who is described in the Torah (Bereishis 6:9) as a completely righteous person, fall so low that his first priority was to supply himself with grapes and to produce wine? The Midrash explains that the Satan came to Noah and offered him to go into a partnership. However, that does not seem to be an excuse. Noah had free choice and could have declined the business offer.
A similar question arises in last week's parasha (Bereishis 3:1-6) when the snake managed to entice Eve and Adam to eat of the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. Obviously, this was not a regular snake, but, as the Zohar explains, the personification of the Satan. But how did the Satan manage to bring Adam and Eve to sin? They had been created by G'd Himself and were on an extremely high spiritual level. The Or HaChaim (ibid) points out an additional difficulty. G'd had clearly instructed Adam and said to him: (ibid 2:16-17) "You may certainly eat from all the trees in the Garden, only from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, from it you may not eat." So how could the Satan suggest (ibid 3:1) that G'd had prohibited them from eating from all the trees. The Or HaChaim answers that this was the shrewdness of the "snake" that the Torah refers to (ibid). He managed to convince Eve that nothing in the Garden of Eden compares to the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. As long as she did not eat this fruit she had not tasted the "real thing", and it was really as if G'd had prohibited them from eating from all the fruits of the Garden.
The "real thing"
This was the tactic the Satan used to bring Adam and Eve to sin, and this was the same tactic he used to bring Noah to his downfall. Of course, there were more important issues to deal with after the flood than to produce a tasty wine. But the Satan convinced Noah that if he does not have wine to drink, he will be missing the "real thing". And, says the Or HaChaim, it is this very tactic our evil inclination constantly uses to challenge us. For, as the Talmud (Bava Basra 16a) teaches, the Satan and the Evil Inclination are one and the same. He will downplay whatever is permissible and make us believe that only the "forbidden fruit" is the "real thing".
Custom-made evil inclination
We all have our custom-made unique evil inclination that comes to challenge us in every situation. One person's evil inclination will came and say: "If you have not tasted the steak of a particular restaurant then you have not tasted a good steak." He will downplay the fact that this particular restaurant has no reliable kashruth supervision. Another person's evil inclination will push him to make a certain business deal although it will include some dishonesty. "All the money you have made", says the evil inclination, "is nothing compared to what you will be able to make on this deal."
Challenges of men and women
Men have their challenges and women have theirs. The evil inclination will challenge a man to be attracted to the "forbidden fruits" of other women that he should not watch or get involved with. On the other hand, the evil inclination often challenges women to wear garments that do not adhere to the Torah standard of modesty. They want to look attractive and "forget" the problems they thereby cause themselves and the male members of society. "This dress is just gorgeous", says the evil inclination, "and you have absolutely nothing else to wear."
The Torah relates to us how the Satan, right from the first day of man on earth, has the shrewdness to challenge us and bring us down. The purpose of this is so that we shall "know our enemy" and seek ways how to avoid these pitfalls. The Talmud (ibid) teaches that G'd created the evil inclination and created the Torah as an antidote. It is up to us to utilize the lessons taught in the Torah to overcome our personal challenges and reach our potential and purpose in life.
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto.
Shalom. Michael Deverett
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