VOLUME 53 NUMBER 1
October 9th, 2010
1 Cheshvan, 5771
Holy Life Raft
By Rabbi Raphael Leban
A friend was once telling me about an important conversation he had. It was with a 100 year-old man. He had asked the aged fellow for the secret of maintaining oneself and one’s sanity throughout the course of life. This person had lived through both World Wars, through the Great Depression, through thick and through thin. What was his secret?
The old man’s response? Do something for yourself, every day. Pick something and do it no matter what is happening around you. What had the old man done every single day of his century of life? Read the newspaper. Every morning without fail, he read the paper. It was his secret to life.
In Parshas Noach the Torah teaches us about Noach’s survival of the flood. G-d commanded him to build an ark, and inside the ark he would be saved. Outside the ark, the flood was ravaging the planet. All life was being destroyed—human, animal and even vegetable. The whole world was being violently rebooted in a sodden chaos. Only Noah and the other residents of the ark survived.
The Chassidic Masters ask, what is our ark today? In every generation there is a storm that must be weathered. It may not carry the power to erase all life on the planet, but it certainly is enough to drown us in depression and despair. How do we stay afloat? What’s the ark into which we run today?
They give many answers, although I don’t think one of them is reading the newspaper. (In fact, reading the paper is decidedly not a solution for angst of any kind.) They do, however, give one answer which sounds vaguely reminiscent of the old man’s advice.
Take one mitzvah, one aspect of avodas Hashem, the service of the Almighty, and cling to it. No matter what happens in life, no matter what distractions rain down upon us, we should have one thing that we really make our own, that we really emphasize and elevate and champion. For some people it’s hachnosas orchim, entertaining guests. For others, it’s daf yomi, the daily page of Talmud study. For still others it might be tzedaka, or prayer or visiting the sick. Whatever it is, we should have one thing in particular which is our lifeboat of sanctity and connection to G-dliness in the tempestuous waters of life.
And in that little ark of sanity and safety, may we live until 120, dry and connected to life!
The Individual World
By Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum
In Parshas Noach Hashem is seemingly ‘angered’ that His handiwork has failed. All has gone awry. People are stealing from each other and even animals and plants have deviated from their original programs. Self initiated interbreeding of species was now commonplace and one could not plant with the certainty that the seed would produce fruit of its own type. Therefore, Hashem ‘decided’ to end life and to renew it with an influx of kindness and concern for others. Noach would serve and tend to the residents of the ark for an entire year and the forthcoming civilization would be based upon care and consideration for others. Self-effacement would replace self-centeredness.
When the Torah states Hashem’s plan to erase mankind due to its inappropriate conduct, the Torah then says that Noach found favor in the eyes of Hashem. These two statements seem incongruous. Is man good or is he evil?
Malbim explains that the Torah is teaching us a very penetrating insight into the purpose of this world. If all of mankind would have been corrupt, there would not have been a need to destroy the world. After all, why would Hashem punish if there wouldn’t be a gain? However, in this situation, Noach was indeed a righteous person and the world would benefit if he would restart the world’s engine. Although he was the only righteous individual for whom it was worthwhile to destroy mankind and rebuild from the ground up, it was well worth the effort.
However, there is another point contained within this insight. Even though there was only one person for whom it was worthwhile to save the world, nonetheless it was a valuable project. This means that the entire world and all that is contained within it exist for the sake of even one righteous individual. In fact, the Talmud states that a person is obligated to say that the entire world was created just for me!
Rashi explains that this dictum means that each person is as significant as an entire world. Could one person truly be equal to the prominence and righteousness that exist in the entire world?
Maharsha enlightens us with yet another point. Man was the only creation where the female was created after the male. And not only was she created afterwards, but she was created from man himself. Adam was the foundation Chava’s creation. In other words, the creation of mankind, the purpose of the universe, came through just one person, Adam.
Each and every person contains tremendous potential as far as they themselves are concerned, and furthermore, each person is the foundation of potential for the future generations that are destined to come from him or her.
As we embark upon a new year it is interesting to note that although the dancing with the Sefer Torah was a community event, the charge to continue to inspire others and create an environment conducive to serving Hashem is incumbent upon each of us.
Byte for Shabbos
The final straw in Noah’s generation was that people robbed each other. Although the Torah indicates that forbidden relationships were the cause for their downfall, if it were not for the breakdown of civil and peaceful society, they would not have been destroyed.
From the SFAS EMES