Towards the end of our Parashah (BeReishit 6:8), the Torah writes “VeNoach Matzah Chein BeEinei Hashem,” “And Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem.” The Gemara in Sanhedrin (108a) teaches us that originally, the punishment of the generation (that it would be wiped out) included Noach and his family, but Noach was spared only because he “found grace in the eyes of Hashem.” If finding grace in the eyes of Hashem has so much power to save everyone from death, then certainly we should see to it that we are favorable in His eyes to ensure that no harm comes upon us!
Rav Moshe Feinstein zt’l, in his Darash Moshe, quotes a Gemara (Yoma 23a) which states that “anyone who forgives people who wrong them will be forgiven by Hashem for all their sins.” The reason behind this is the rule of “Middah KeNeged Middah,” a measure for a measure – Hashem judges each person as each person judges others. However, “finding grace” is a different idea. When one finds grace in His eyes, Hashem not only forgives one’s sins, but also places His love upon that person. Rav Moshe explains that in order to find grace in Hashem’s eyes, one must not only perform the Mitzvot, but one must also do so gracefully. This essentially means that we must perform the Mitzvot with joy and happiness, illustrating that serving Hashem is the most important part of our lives.
Some people do Mitzvot in an angry way, feeling no joy in the performance, acting almost as if there is a yoke around their necks. This attitude, however, is the opposite of the gracefulness which Hashem requests. When these people are to be rewarded, Hashem, following Middat HaDin (strict justice), demands that their Mitzvot should be examined carefully. As a result of this careful analysis of their performance, problems can usually be found in their observance. On the other hand, if one performs Mitzvot happily, with a sense of joy, that person will find grace in the eyes of Hashem. As an outcome of this grace, Hashem will want to forgive the individual and silence the Middat HaDin, resorting to Middat HaRachamim, the way of mercy, instead, as He did for Noach.
Rav Moshe was once asked how it was possible that so many people who immigrated to America as observant Jews now saw the next generation not follow the same principles. He answered that when the newly immigrated closed their shops for Shabbat and Yom Tov, they closed them with a sigh, as if to say that they wished that they did not have to do so. Their children remembered that sigh, and they decided to choose a lifestyle where they would not have to sigh.
May we show our children, students, and future generations how much we enjoy doing Mitzvot and serving Hashem, as it says in Tehillim (100:2): “Ivdu Et Hashem BeSimchah,” “serve Hashem with joy” – not only on Yom Tov, as we are commanded “VeSamachta BeChagecha,” “rejoice on your holidays”, but throughout the entire year. Let’s ensure that the joy of Sukkot and Simchat Torah permeates in every Mitzvah, and may Hashem bestow grace upon us as He did upon Noach.