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Torah Attitude: Parshas Noach: Praying for others
G'd decided to destroy the entire creation and start all over again with just one person and his family. G'd instructed Noach to build an Ark for himself and his family. G'd blessed Noach and his family and made a covenant with them. In a sense, G'd held Noach responsible for the flood and referred to it as "Noach's waters". This teaches us the huge power of prayer and the obligation we all have to pray when we hear about people in distress, whatever their problem may be. We have been blessed with the "voice of Jacob" and it is up to us to make full use of this blessing both for individuals in distress and for our entire nation.
G'd destroys creation
Last week we started a new cycle of the weekly parshiyos with Parashas Bereishis, where the Torah relates how G'd created the world. From the time of creation, G'd had provided the world with a perfect climate throughout the year and everyone was affluent and in good health all their life. This easy lifestyle brought people to forget about G'd and they sank into a life of corruption and immorality. In Pirkei Avos (5:2), the Mishnah teaches that although mankind angered G'd by their behaviour, G'd in His great patience waited ten generations to see whether they would change their ways and return to follow the six instructions that He had given Adam. The Rambam (Laws of Kings 9:1) enumerates these instructions based on the teachings of the Talmud: (1) do not serve idols; (2) do not blaspheme G'd's name; (3) do not kill; (4) do not commit adultery; (5) do not steal; and (6) install a judicial system to enforce the aforementioned prohibitions. (After the Flood, when G'd permitted mankind to eat meat, the seventh of the Noachide Laws was added: (7) do not eat any part of a live animal.) At the end of Parashas Bereishis, the Torah describes how G'd finally decided to destroy the entire creation and start all over again with just one person and his family. As it says (Bereishis 6:8): "And Noach found grace in the eyes of G'd."
Build an Ark
At the beginning of this week's parasha, the Torah describes how G'd informed Noach that He was going to bring a flood upon the earth to destroy all of creation. G'd instructed Noach to build an Ark for himself and his family, and that he should take along one couple of each species. G'd added that Noach should take seven of each of the kosher animals along in the Ark.
G'd blessed Noach
After the Flood, Noach left the Ark and built an altar and brought offerings to G'd from all the kosher species. After that, G'd blessed Noach and his family and made a covenant with them. As it says (Bereishis 9:11): "And I will keep My covenant with you … and there will not be again a flood to destroy the earth."
The waters of Noach
In the Haftorah of this week we read from the Prophet Isaiah that refers to G'd's oath after the flood in the time of Noach. Isaiah says in the name of G'd (54:9): "As I have sworn that the waters of Noach will not pass again over the earth." The Zohar (Vayikra 14b) asks, why G'd refers to the flood as the waters of Noach? The Zohar explains that when the Heavenly Court sees a need to punish people for their sins, G'd looks for a righteous person that could pray for mercy on their behalf. G'd then informs this righteous person about the plan to punish the people and that only he, the righteous one, will be saved. This is what happened when the Jewish people sinned when they made the "golden calf". G'd spoke to Moses and said to him (Devarim 9:14): "Let go of Me and I shall destroy them… and I shall make you a stronger nation more numerous than them." In response, Moses started to pray for the Jewish people and said that he would rather die himself than see the Jewish people destroyed. He did not "let go" until G'd agreed to forgive the Jewish people for their sin. But when G'd informed Noach that He was going to destroy everyone, Noach asked G'd what would happened to him, rather than to realize that he was expected to pray on behalf of everyone. In a sense, G'd therefore held Noach responsible for the flood and referred to it as "Noach's waters".
Huge power of prayer
This teaches us the huge power of prayer and the obligation we all have to pray when we hear about people in distress, whatever their problem may be. For, as the Midrash Rabbah (Shemos 21:4) says: "Everyone is equal in prayer, men and ladies, rich and poor." In regards to Moses, says the Midrash, it says (Tehillim 90:1): "A prayer by Moses", and in regards to a pauper it says (Tehillim 102:1): "A prayer of the poor." Every individual has the ability to pray, but the more sincere the prayer and the more righteous the person, the stronger is the power of the prayer. When we hear about a person or a group of people in a difficult situation, we must understand that this is like a message from G'd giving us the opportunity to pray. And if we do not utilize this opportunity, we may be held responsible in a sense just like Noach. In fact, the Talmud (Berachos 12b) teaches that a person who refrains from praying on behalf of a fellow being is considered a sinner.
Voice of Jacob
Throughout our long exile our enemies have tried to destroy us in any possible way. We have suffered a lot but at the end of the day we have survived against all odds. The Jewish nation has always bounced back despite inquisitions, crusades, pogroms and concentration camps. This is, in a large measure, due to our constant prayers asking for G'd's mercy. We are still surrounded by enemies who only wait for an opportunity to harm and kill us. We have been blessed with the "voice of Jacob" (see Bereishis 27:22 and Rashi Bamidbar 20:16) and it is up to us to make full use of this blessing both for individuals in distress and for our entire nation.
These words were based on a talk given by Rabbi Avraham Kahn, the Rosh Yeshiva and Founder of Yeshivas Keser Torah in Toronto. Chag Sameach and Gemar Tov to you and your family!
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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