Thursday, October 30, 2008

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Noach 5769

שבת טעם החיים פרשת נח תשס"ט
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Parashas Noach 5769
Noach and Shabbos
This week the Torah discusses Noach, a person who is depicted as a righteous person and who is saved from the Great Flood that destroyed the populated world. Noach appears to be a mystery, however, as the commentators and even the Medrash struggle to understand what it was about Noach that he merited salivation. One Medrash (Bereishis Rabbah 29:1) even goes so far to say that Noach himself should have been destroyed, but he found favor in HaShem’s eyes and thus he was saved.
Why does the Torah elaborate on the sins of the Generation of the Flood?
Let us understand what occurred in the Generation of Noach and then we can begin to gain an appreciation for Noach’s salvation. The Medrash and the Gemara tell us that the Generation of the Flood was corrupt and immoral. Yet, we know that the Torah does not enumerate the sins of mankind just for the sake of running a daily blotter. The Torah is coming to teach us how to act, so what lesson is there for us to learn from the behavior of that generation?
Answer part 1:
Rashi in Devarim offers us a brand new perspective on the behavior of the Generation of the Flood.
There is an interesting Rashi that may pass under the radar screen regarding Noach and the people of his generation but it would seem that within this Rashi is the key to the whole puzzle. In the parasha of shema that we read twice daily, it is said (Devarim 11:16-17) hishamru lachem pen yifteh livavchem visartem vaavaditem elohim acheirim vihishtachavisem lahem vicharah af HaShem bachem viatzar es hashamayim vilo yihyeh matar vihaadama lo sitein es yevulah vaavaditem miheira meial haaretz hatovah asher HaShem nosein lachem, lest your heart be seduced and you turn astray and serve gods of others and prostrate yourselves to them. Then the wrath of HaShem will blaze against you; He will restrain the heaven so there will be no rain, and the ground will not yield its produce; and you will be swiftly banished from the goodly Land that HaShem gives you.
Rashi comments that from the fact that the Torah states that the Jewish People will be swiftly banished, we learn that HaShem will not tolerate the iniquity of the people. Why, then, did HaShem tolerate the misdeeds of the Generation of the Flood for one hundred and twenty years? Rashi answers that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from, whereas the Jewish People had who to learn from.
Answer part 2
Two questions on Rashi in Devarim
This Rashi should strike us as puzzling. First, what does it mean that the Generation of the Flood did not have who to learn from? Were those people created wicked and without any conscience that we could say that they were helpless? Furthermore, Rashi tells us in this week’s parasha that HaShem instructed Noach to build the Ark for one hundred and twenty years so they should see him building it. When they would ask Noach regarding the purpose of the Ark, Noach would respond that HaShem was bringing a flood to the world and they should repent. How can it be said that they did not have who to learn from?

Answer part 3
Hashem only made a pact with the Jewish People.
The answer to this question is that although he Generation of the Flood could have learned from Noach how to serve HaShem, it would have been futile, because HaShem did not make a pact with that generation. In fact, it is noteworthy that it was specifically with Noach that HaShem made several pacts to ensure his survival. Regarding the Jewish People, however, HaShem had promised the Patriarchs that He would give them the Land of Israel, but this pact was conditional on the Jewish People observing the Torah. Were the Jewish People to violate this agreement, they would immediately be banished from the Land.
Answer part 4
Noach was only deserving of a pact for himself and not for his generation.
Rashi points out in the beginning of the parashah several contrasts between Noach and Avraham. One difference between them is that Noach needed HaShem to help him spiritually whereas Avraham was able to walk by himself. One must wonder, though, why there is a need to contrast Noach with Avraham. It would seem that the contrast is teaching us something regarding the reason that HaShem only saved Noach and not his generation. The explanation for this is that while Noach was seeking spiritual growth, he did not demonstrate a great concern for his generations or even for future generations. This idea is highlighted by the fact that the Torah states that he was a righteous and perfect man in his generations, i.e. he only was concerned for himself and not is generation or for future generations. Avraham, however, walked ahead, i.e. he was looking for the future of his generation. It was for this reason that Avraham prayed that Sodom and Amorah not be destroyed, as Avraham presumed that there would be some potential for good that would arise from the inhabitants of those cities. Hashem saw that Avraham was concerned for the people of his own generation and future generations, and HaShem specifically made a pact with Avraham, referred to as The Pact of the Parts.
Summary of answer
We have seen that Noach perfected himself but in a sense he abandoned his generation and future generations. Hashem will save a righteous person for his own merits, but the generation could not possibly be saved, as they did not have who to learn from. They could have watched Noach build the Ark and then reflect upon their misdeeds, but they could not learn from Noach how to save others. Although this may sound strange, the truth is that every person has a societal pull, and unless he sees people who are attempting to help others, it will be very difficult to help himself. Avraham, however, maintained that one has to be concerned about others, both in the present and in the future. It was for this reason that HaShem made a pact with Avraham only.
The Shabbos connection
What does Noach have to do with Shabbos? The Zohar states that Noach is in the category of Shabbos. In a simple sense this means that the word Noach means menuchah, rest, and Shabbos also means rest. On a deeper level, however, perhaps the association between Noach and Shabbos is that Shabbos is a part from the rest of the week. One must always seek to reach out to others, but at the same time one has to be careful not to be influenced by other’s misdeeds. In this regard Noach is compared to Shabbos, as it is logical to suppose that Noach did not wish to be influenced by their corruption and immorality. HaShem should allow us to reach out to our fellow Jews and to observe the Shabbos in a state of holiness and purity.
Shabbos in the Zemiros
Askinu Seudasa
Composed by the Arizal, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria
Seventy crowns excel the Patricidal blessing of fifty
Naaveid lihon kirsin bimilin yakirin bishavin aturin dial gabei chamshin, we will fashion them crowns with the precious words. With seventy crowns that excel the Patriarchal blessing of fifty. This passage refers to the seventy precious words of Kiddush which are crowns of glory fashioned for the spiritual worlds. These crowns rise above the blessings given to the Patriarchs, who were each blessed with the word kol, meaning everything, whose numerical value is fifty. Alternatively, I would like to suggest that seventy and fifty equals one hundred and twenty, and this alludes to Moshe who lived for one hundred and twenty years. The Zohar stats that although the Jewish People forfeited their crowns when they sinned with the Golden Calf, Moshe restores to us the crowns every Shabbos. Thus, by observing Shabbos we merit the crowns that we were rewarded with at Sinai.
Shabbos in Tefillah
The Jewish People are the purpose of creation
Lifichach yifaaru vivarchu laKel kol yitzurav, Therefore let all that He has fashioned glorify and bless G-d. It would seem from this passage that despite the fact that the celestial beings praise HaShem Who rested on Shabbos, the ultimate goal is that HaShem’s Chosen People should raise Him. We therefore declare here lifichach, therefore, as if to say that that the praise of the angels is what prompts us to praise HaShem, as the Jewish People are the purpose of creation.
Shabbos Story

Belief in HaShem
Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehillas Zichron Mordechai, tells the following story. In a small town there was a severe drought. The community synagogues each prayed separately for rain, but to no avail. The tears and prayers failed to unlock the sealed heavens, and for months, no rains came. Finally, the town's eldest sage held a meeting with prominent community rabbis and lay leaders. “There are two items lacking in our approach, faith and unity. Each one of you must impress upon his congregation the need to believe. If we are united and sincere, our prayers will be answered!” He declared that all the synagogues in the city would join together for a day of tefillah. Everyone, men women and children would join together for this event. “I assure you,” he exclaimed, “that if we meet both criteria - faith and unity - no one will leave that prayer service without getting drenched!”
There was no shul large enough to contain the entire community so the date was set to gather and daven in a field! For the next few weeks all the rabbis spoke about bitachon and achdus (faith and unity). On the designated day the entire town gathered in a large field whose crops had long withered from the severe drought. Men, women, and children all gathered and anxiously awaited the old sage to begin the service. The elderly rabbi walked up to the podium. His eyes scanned the tremendous crowd that filled the large field and then they dimmed in dismay. The rabbi began shaking his head in dissatisfaction. “This will never work,” he moaned dejectedly. “The rain will not come.” Slowly he left the podium. The other rabbis on the dais were shocked.
“But rebbe everyone is here and they are all united! Surely they must believe that the rains will fall! Otherwise no one would have bothered to come on a working day!” The rabbi shook his head slowly and sadly. “No. They don’t really believe,” he stated. “I scanned the entire crowd. Nobody even brought a raincoat.” [Reprinted with permission from]
Shabbos in Navi
Shmuel I Chapter 14

Shabbos is redeeming and the Evil Inclination cannot cause harm

In this chapter we learn how Yonasan, the son of Shaul, and his armor-bearer ascended to battle, the Plishtim and they were victorious. Subsequently, King Shaul issued an oath prohibiting anyone from eating while they were at battle. Yonasan, however, was unaware of the oath, and he tasted some honey. Shaul sought to have Yonasan killed but the people redeemed Yonasan as he had brought about salvation from the Plishtim. This chapter can be interpreted homiletically to be alluding to Shabbos. The whole week we struggle with the Evil Inclination, and at the end of the week we are famished for spirituality. It is considered praiseworthy if one goes hungry on Friday so he will enter Shabbos with an appetite. Once he enters Shabbos he is redeemed and the Evil Inclination no longer has a hold on him as with the onset of the Holy Shabbos all harsh judgments depart.

Shabbos in Agadah
Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh awaken a person

The Lev Simcha writes that in Kabbalas Shabbos we recite the words uri uri shir dabeiri, awaken, awaken, utter a song. The reason that the word uri is repeated is because this alludes to Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh. On Shabbos and on Rosh Chodesh the gates are open. Similarly, we recite the words hisoriri hisoriri, wake up! Wake up! twice, because both Shabbos and Rosh Chodesh awaken a person

Shabbos in Halacha

Pots removed from the blech on Shabbos

If one took off from the blech a pot on Shabbos with intent of returning it there, and then he unintentionally placed the pot down, he is allowed to return the pot to the blech. Similarly, if one raised a pot from the blech and his intention was to not return it, but he is still holding the pot in his hand, he is allowed to return it. As long as some of the last two conditions exist, he is permitted bidieved (ex post facto) to return a pot to the blech. One can only rely on this leniency in case of necessity.

Shabbos Challenge Question

Last week we posed the question: what is the significance of Shabbos Chol HaMoed? The Lev Simcha writes that on Shabbos by Mincha we recite the words Avraham yagel Yitzchak yiranein Yaakov uvanav yanuhcu vo, Avraham would rejoice, Yitzchak would exult, Yaakov and his children would rest on it. On Shabbos of Sukkos it is even more relevant that Yaakov and his children will rest in the Sukkah. Yaakov reflects the festival of Sukkos, so it is fitting that we say that Yaakov and his children rest on it.

This week’s question is, what is the association between Shabbos and teshuvah, repentance? If you have a possible answer, please email me at and your answer will be posted in next week’s edition of Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim.

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim
Parashas Noach 5769
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I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Beis Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, a half an hour before Minchah. I will be giving a class on the Agadata in Gemara Rosh HaShanah at Beis Haknesses HaGra on Sunday morning at 10 AM
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