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This Issue's Halacha Article

Parshat Noach

6 Cheshvan 5767

October 28, 2006

Vol.16 No.6

In This Issue:

The Ark of Shabbat

by Rabbi Scott Friedman

After Rosh HaShanah, a friend of mine approached me and told me that something was bothering him. This friend does not observe Shabbat, but does observe Rosh HaShanah. He told me that since he forgot to keep a light on in his closet for reading and was used to watching television or being on the phone or computer at night, but was unable to do so tonight, he tried to go to sleep early. He couldn't fall asleep. He started to think about what he should be doing with his life. He wondered, why are we here?

I have thought about what he said to me and have realized that, in fact, he had experienced what Shabbat truly is. In Parshat Noach, Hashem instructs Noach to build a boat to protect himself from the coming flood which will wipe out the world. The Slonimer Rebbe cites a passage from the Zohar which tells us that just as the boat protected Noach from the raging storm outside, Shabbat is "protection" from the world around us. Noach's world had become filled with corruption. Ramban explains that everyone would steal from one another and there was therefore no order. He clarifies that the reason that stealing was so bad was because common sense alone should have dictated that it is wrong and that it creates a chaotic environment.

Our world is a fast paced one. We are constantly busy and forever moving. This is the way the world works and we know that we must keep up with it and juggle all of our responsibilities. Shabbat is a great gift from Hashem. The world continues to move around us, but on Shabbat, we rest. We show that we trust that Hashem runs the world and that we will be secure independent of our abstention from our weekly activities. A friend of mine who attends Columbia Graduate School told me that when leaving on a Friday, he told a non-Jewish woman to have a good weekend. She responded, "Have a good Shabbat," and added that she wished she had Shabbat. My friend asked, "Don't you have the weekend off to rest as well?" She said, "Theoretically, but I go out with friends every Friday night and Saturday. Even if I rest on the weekend, I do not feel rejuvenated because my weekend feels like a continuation of the week."

I believe this woman clarifies the essence and beauty of Shabbat. Just as Hashem tells Noach to build the boat, so too we are told to build a "boat". Shabbat is that boat. The Mesillat Yesharim says that in Parshat Shemot, Paroh says (Shemot 5:9), "Intensify the men's labor," in order that the Jewish People would be so tired and overworked that they would have no time or energy to think of rebelling. Our world is now moving faster than ever. Everything has been made faster and easily accessible. This is positive phenomenon in many ways, but also makes us move more quickly. Shabbat is the day when we put everything aside and focus on Hashem. It is a time to reflect on our lives. This Boat of Shabbat allows us to tread through the waters of the week, and then reassess and rejuvenate.

This non-Jewish woman had the right idea. Shabbat is not just a day of physical rest. On it, we must rest from all of our distractions. If we do so, maybe we will hear and see things which we have been too busy to realize. Hashem is everywhere, we can find him in everything, but we first need to know to look for Him. A story about the Kotzker Rebbe illustrates this point. A student traveled a long distance to learn with the Kotzker. Upon his arrival, he met with the Rebbe and told him how far he had come to learn. The Kotzker asked, "What did you come to find?" "I came to find Hashem," he answered. "How foolish," the Kotzker said, "Hashem is everywhere. You didn't have to travel here to find Him. Once you find Him yourself, you'll see Him everywhere." So too, on Shabbat we should merit to truly rest and connect with The Master of the World.

Sign of Colors

by Michael Billet

After Noach and his family came out the ark, Hashem showed Noach a rainbow. The Pasuk states (Bereishit 9:13) "Et Kashti Natati BeAnan, VeHayeta LeOt Berit Beini UVein HaAretz," "I (Hashem) have set a rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth"

Hashem made a promise that this rainbow shall be a sign for all future generations. The Shulchan Aruch (Orach Chaim 229:1) states that every time we see a rainbow, we should take it as a sign from Hashem that He will never again bring a flood to completely destroy the world. Therefore, we recite the Berachah, "Zocher HaBrit VeNe'aman BeVrito VeKayam BeMaamaro," "Who remembers His covenant, is trustworthy in His covenant, and fulfills His word." We acknowledge that Hashem remembers the covenant he made to Noach.

When does this rainbow come, and when was it created? Just like this rainbow came after the rainstorm of the flood, today the rainbow comes after a rainstorm. The Ibn Ezra believes that Hashem created the rainbow when it first appeared after the flood. On the other hand, many other Meforshim say the rainbow was created when Hashem created the rest of the world.

So next time you see a rainbow, remember what it means.

Cruel Kindness

by Yitzchak Richmond

Noach's generation committed three Aveirot. They practiced idolatry, engaged in sexual immortality, and stole. Interestingly, Rashi, commenting on (Bereishit 6:13) "Keitz Kol Basar Ba Lefanei Ki Male'ah HaAretz Chamas MiPeneihem VeHinnini Mashchitam Et HaAretz, "The end of man has come because violence has become rampant and behold I will destroy the earth, notes that the straw that broke the camel's back was stealing.

This seems very puzzling. Why would stealing be the reason to destroy the world and not idolatry and sexual immortality? After all, idolatry and sexual immortality are two of the three Mitzvot for which one must be willing to give his life rather than commit! If the reason would be because stealing is Bein Adam LaChaveiro, between man and man, sexual immortality can also be Bein Adam LaChaveiro, such as in a case of adultery.

The Griz (Shemos 22:21-22) answers by citing a Pasuk in Parshat Mishpatim: "Kol Almanah VeYatom Lo TeAnun Im Anei Te'anah Oto Ki Im Tzaok Yitzak Elei Shamo'a Eshma Tzaakato, "Don't oppress any orphan or widow; if you do mistreat him, when he cries out to Me, I will indeed hear his cry. Now, surely Hashem will help the downtrodden whether they cry out or not. But if the pain is such that they cry out, then He will take up their cause more speedily. When it comes to stealing, the oppressed cry out. This is not the case regarding idolatry and sexual immortality because these sins are committed with the consent of all parties involved. Therefore, Hashem brought the Mabul only because of stealing.

Rav Elyakim Getzil Livyatan offers a different explanation. Chazal teach us (Rosh HaShanah 17b, see Rashi ibid. s.v. ULeVasof) that when HaKadosh Baruch Hu created the world, He at first wanted the world to be run solely in accordance with Midat HaDin. However, once He realized that it wouldn't work, Hashem added Midat HaRachamim. The way Midat HaRachamim works is that Hashem lessens punishment for the sin. However, when it comes to stealing there can't be any Rachamim on the behalf of the perpetrator because the Rachamim is required for the victim!

This can be explained with a Mashal. There was once an evil man who was beating up a poor, defenseless old man. An angry man who often hits people witnessed this happening but wasn't bothered by it and just passed on. Then came a delicate man who was always concerned for everybody's feelings. The man was overcome with anger and beat up the evil man, thereby saving the old man. When asked how he could strike the evil man, the delicate man replied that he couldn't just stand idly by when the poor old man was being beaten up. The mercy that he felt for the old man overcame his natural aversion to hurting others.

This is the essence of the Midat HaRachamim. Hashem "can't express mercy for the perpetrator when He is expressing mercy for the victim. This is why stealing was the last straw, because Midat HaRachamim could not defend the Dor HaMabul.

As Jews we unfortunately know very well the dangers of standing idly by our brethren are being harmed. We must always look out for our fellow Jews whenever they are in need. If someone feels they should be merciful and not take action, in reality he just being cruel.

Helping with Care

by Eitan Westrich

The Torah states in Parshat Noach (8:11), "VaTavo Eilav HaYonah LeEit Erev, VeHinei Alei Zayit Taraf BeFeeha, "And the dove came to him in the evening and, behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth.â€

Rashi quotes the Gemara (Eruvin 18b) which says that it was unnatural for the dove to eat the bitter tasting olive leaf. By bringing this leaf to Noach, the dove was showing that it would rather eat bitter food provided by Hashem than eat sweet food provided by a human. Chazal explain that Noach fed every animal its preferred food at its preferred time. Even though Noach was so considerate, the Yonah chose to eat a bitter leaf from Hashem instead of the food provided by Noach.

Based on this, HaRav A.H. Leibowitz Shlita suggests that it is also unnatural for us to rely on other humans for help, especially if we are helped only grudgingly or half-heartedly. Our Neshamah is bound to Hashem, and it feels pain when it must turn to a human for sustenance. It can accept a favor only with difficulty, even if the help is from a close friend. This shows us that we should be as caring and compassionate as possible to others when we help them.

Staff at time of publication:

Editor-in-Chief: Josh Markovic

Executive Editor: Avi Wollman

Publication Managers: Gavriel Metzger, Yitzchak Richmond

Publishing Managers: Shmuel Reece, Dov Rossman

Publication Editors: Gilad Barach, Ari Gartenberg, Avi Levinson

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Staff: Tzvi Atkin, Josh Rubin, Doniel Sherman, Chaim Strassman, Chaim Strauss, Ephraim Tauber, Dani Yaros, Tzvi Zuckier

Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter