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   by Jacob Solomon

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Noah found grace in the eyes of G-d (6:8)

On three occasions in the Book of Genesis, a piece of what should be the next Parasha finds itself at the end of the current one. The above concluding verse of Parashat Bereishit: Noah found grace in the eyes of G-d (6:8) ought to be at the head of Parashat Noach as it sets the scene and the tone for that entire Parasha. The same thing occurs at the end of Parashat Noach, where the final verses introduce the Patriarch Abraham and his family, still living within their native Mesopotamia. Those sentences would seem to be more suited to open the next section, Parashat Lech-Lecha, which recounts their earlier lives and developments. And later on, the Parasha Vayeiras final narrative of Akeidat Yitachak the Binding of Isaac ends with the brief, but rather surprising mention of the birth of his future wife Rebecca who, in turn, becomes the subject of the next Parasha Chayei Sarah. Why were the Parashiot such divided when the present annual weekly cycle of Torah readings became standard practice?

R, Zeev Zechariah Breuer (Siach Hashulchan p.16) deals with this issue. He suggests that the above division of the Parashiot is deliberate, designed to covey a specific message to the student. That is that problems do not solve themselves by running away from them. Thus G-d did not recreate Man in a new location, but He kept him on at the same place. Out of the decline of Mankind might emerge a new beginning. That start was Noah.

Similarly (following the Talmud Avot 5:2), Mankind did not spiritually distinguish itself until Abraham. Indeed, the narrative of the Tower of Babel suggests that humanity was once more on the downward path in Babylon. But the spiritual savior came from that same region . That savior was Abraham.

In the same vein, Rebecca emerged from the idolatrous environment (see Josh. 24:2) of Abrahams ancestors. Despite her background, the Torah records that she was worthy of carrying and developing Abrahams spiritual legacy as his son Isaacss wife as G-d had spoken (24:51). Out of the spiritual abyss came spiritual greatness.

This idea may be applied to individual people. There are many who would like to leave their homelands and make a new start to life. On a simple level, a person may be full of religious, domestic, and employment problems, and decide, purely as means of escape, to leave everything and just go the program being anything from a months vacation in Florida to starting a new life in Israel very likely under the banner of Lech-Lecha: go for your-self.

But Lech-Lecha does not always work out that way. Abraham (following the extensive Midrashic tradition) was already a spiritual giant in his own negative territory before getting the Call of Lech-Lecha So was Noah. And so was Rebecca. Their very making came about as they worked on their spiritual growth within their own hostile environment, and did not run away from them.

By contrast, the young, or not so young, hopeful, who hopes to come back from Florida or set up in Israel as a new man with a new, rather that self-improved, slate will probably be disappointed. He will find that his unfinished business will accompany him on his travels and into his new home85 He will not be able to run away from himself.

That is a message to be learnt from the divisions of the Parashiot. Unless there are other overriding issues, a person who is derailed should first get himself on track as far as possible in his home environment. Only then he can extend himself by moving further afield.



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