Thursday, October 22, 2009

Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770

שבת טעם החיים נח תש"ע
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770

Noach Reveals Too Much
In this week’s parsha the Torah records how Noach built a Teiva, an ark, that protected his family, himself, and numerous animals from the Great Flood that HaShem brought upon the world. Subsequent to the flood, Noach left the Teivah and it is said (Bereishis 9:20-21) vayachel Noach ish haadama vayita karem vayeisht min hayayin vayishkar vayisgal bisoch ahalo, Noach, the man of the earth, debased himself and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent. Rashi cites the Medrash that states that Noach made himself chullin, profane, as he should have chosen a different planting instead of grapes. One must ask the obvious question. While it is true that grapes can lead to one get intoxicated, what is wrong with the actual act of planting grapes? Furthermore, if planting grapes was inappropriate, then why did Noach act in such a manner?
Noach was supposed to act discreetly
Much has been written regarding the contrast of Noach’s conduct prior to entering the Teivah and his behavior subsequent to exiting the Teivah. Perhaps we can suggest a new approach that will help us gain a perspective of how we are supposed to conduct ourselves. Prior to Noach entering the Teivah, it is said (Bereishis 7:16) vayisgor HaShem baado, and HaShem shut it on his behalf. The Baal HaTurim (Ibid) writes that this passage alludes to the fact that HaShem prohibited Noach and his family from cohabiting while on the Teivah. While in the Teivah, Noach certainly followed this instruction to be constrained. Yet, when Noach exited the Teivah, the Torah states explicitly that he revealed himself, and this was the antithesis of his conduct while inside the Teivah.
One who witnesses depravity should abstain from wine
The Pinei Menachem adds a fascinating insight into what was expected of Noach. The Pinei Menachem adds a fascinating insight into what was expected from Noach. Prior to the flood, the people had been engaged in promiscuous behavior. The Gemara states that one who witnesses a Sota (adulteress woman) in her state of shame should abstain from wine. Similarly, after witnessing firsthand the depravity of his generation, Noach should have abstained from wine. Instead, Noach became intoxicated and was shamed by his youngest son, Cham. In our own lives, we are often witness to acts of depravity, but we choose to ignore them and carry on with what we are doing. The Torah is teaching us that being witness to such acts should lead us to sanctify our actions and search for loftier goals and pursuits.
The Shabbos connection
Every week HaShem affords us with the opportunity to transcend the decadence of society and enter into the holy realm of Shabbos. It is noteworthy that in addition to the evening prayers that we recite with the onset of Shabbos, the first act that we perform is the recital of Kiddush on wine. Wine can be detrimental effect when used inappropriately. Nonetheless, one can sanctify his actions by reciting Kiddush on Shabbos and demonstrating that everything belongs to HaShem. This thought should remain with us throughout the week, and then we will merit rectifying the world and meriting the arrival of Mashiach Tzidkeinu, speedily, in our days.
Shabbos Stories
To be outdone by a dog
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffman writes: A student of the holy Chafetz Chaim zt”l once heard him chastising himself: “Yisroel Meir, do you not appreciate the kindness that HaShem has done with you that he gave you the wisdom and understanding to compile an entire sefer on the laws of lashon hara (slanderous speech)?! Aren’t you thankful that by the grace of HaShem many thousands of people have purchased the sefer, and learn from it daily?! Don't you realize that if you don't show appreciation for these gifts, then the lowly dog is greater than you?!”
The next morning, the student, puzzled by his rebbe’s cryptic statement, had the boldness to ask its meaning. The Chafetz Chaim explained: “The Medrash says HaShem gave Kayin a dog. Why a dog? There is no animal on earth quite like the dog - that shows such love, appreciation, and devotion to its owner in exchange for little more than a few scraps and morsels that would likely have gone in the garbage (the Chafetz Chaim lived before the times that dog foods received more supermarket shelf- space than baby foods). No animal is more faithful and grateful to its owner than a dog. And no act could be more the contrary than Kayin's taking advantage of Hevel's kindness, and using it to kill him. By giving him a dog, HaShem was giving Kayin a constant reminder of his lack of hakaras hatov (recognition of kindness). That’s why I told myself that if I fail to appreciate the gifts HaShem has given me, I'll be outdone by a dog!”
One can always rebuild
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky writes: A renowned Rosh Yeshiva tragically lost his son to a debilitating disease at the prime of his life. Not long married, the son left a widow and a young child. The Rosh Yeshiva and his Rebbitzen were devastated at the loss and the shiva period was a most difficult time.
One of the hundreds of visitors was the Bluzhever Rebbe, Rabbi Yisroel Spira, whose entire family was wiped out during the Holocaust. He sat quietly, taking in the pain of the bereaved family. Finally, when it was time to say something, Rabbi Spira turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and spoke. “Your loss is terrible, but at least your son will have a living remnant, his child. He will also have a resting place and stone where the family can visit. I do not even know where any of my children who were killed by the Nazis are buried.” Then he added, “Yet, somehow HaShem has given me the strength to rebuild my family and life.” Those words truly helped console the Rosh Yeshiva.

True belief
Rabbi Kamenetzky writes further: Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Congregation Kehilas 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]
Dream while you are awake
Rabbi Shimshon Sherer, Rav of Kehilas Zichron Mordechai, told over the following story. Rabbi Shimshon Zelig Fortman was the Rav of Congregation Knesseth Israel in Far Rockaway during the 1940s. During that period, many naysayers had all but discounted any chance of a rebirth of Orthodox Jewry. Torah observant Yidden had hardly a voice in Washington, they were disorganized and fragmented, and the destruction of European Jewry was almost the last nail in the alleged coffin of traditional Torah Yiddishkeit. Rabbi Fortman had a young son-in-law, Moshe, who had studied in Yeshiva Ner Israel in Baltimore. He would tell his father-in-law how he saw a future for Orthodox Jewry that was filled with honor and power, with representatives that would have direct access to Congress, the Senate, and even the President of the United States. They would influence legislation with their values and fill stadiums and coliseums with Torah assemblies and prayer gatherings! Rabbi Fortman was very concerned about his young son-in-law’s ivory towered dreams. He felt that he these dreams distracted him and he would never accomplish anything. Rabbi Yosef Kahanamen, the Ponovezher Rav had recently come to America to raise funds for his Yeshiva in Israel, and was staying by Rabbi Fortman in Far Rockaway. “Surely,” Rabbi Fortman thought, “Rabbi Kahanamen will end Moshe's fantasies and teach him about the realities of accomplishment.” Moshe and Rabbi Kahanamen met for nearly an hour. The Rav listened intently and then told young Moshe, “Dream my son. Continue to dream. In fact you can continue to dream as long as you live. But remember one thing. Never fall asleep.” Young Moshe was eventually known to hundreds of thousands of Jews world over as the man who may have been one of the most influential personalities in the emergence of Torah Jewry today. This man was Rabbi Moshe Sherer, the President of Agudath Israel of America.
Shabbos: Ta’am HaChaim Noach 5770
I will be giving a class in Navi on Shabbos afternoon at Bais Haknesses HaGra 14561 Lincoln in Oak Park, half an hour before Mincha.
Have a wonderful and delightful Shabbos
Prepared by Rabbi Binyomin Adler.
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