Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 

Parshas Noach

By Nosson Chayim Leff


This class is dedicated by Ephraim Sobol in loving memory of his father, Shlomo Mordechai ben Yaakov a"h.

Noach, 5639

The parsha begins (Bereishis, 6:9): " ... Noach ish tzadik ...; es HaElokim hishalech Noach." ("Noach was a righteous man ...; Noach walked with God."). Chazal -- and Rashi -- note the contrast with Avraham, of whom the Torah says (Bereishis, 17:1): "... walk before me ... ". Chazal and (Rashi) comment that, to conduct himself as a righteous person, Noach needed heavenly support. That is, he needed HaShem to hold his hand. By contrast, Avraham was able to attain and handle the role of tzadik on his own.

The Sfas Emes begins this maamar by telling us that, certainly ("be'vdai"!), in contrasting Noach with Avraham, it never entered Chazal's mind to diminish Noach's stature. (Parenthetically, note the Sfas Emes's koach hachiddush -- his unhesitating, sheer innovative power to view received texts through his own discerning eyes.)

Rather, the Sfas Emes tells us, the world had to progress with a certain unavoidable order. Thus, first there had to appear on the scene a tzadik who needed HaShem's support. Only thereafter could someone come who could fill the role of tzadik wtihout needing HaShem to hold his hand.

Why so? The Sfas Emes tells us that the cosmos simply could not function with a tzadik like Avraham unless it had first experienced a tzadik on the level of Noach. Note: This explanation does not really answer the question of "why so?". But we may find it comforting to know that the world functions with a fixed order. From that perspective, the question of "why so?" in this context is as meaningless as asking "why so?" regarding the law of gravity.

The seforim speak of three fundamental domains in the world "Olam, Shanna, vNefesh" (space, time, and soul). And the seforim tell us to expect similar patterns in each of these three domains. Hence, we should not be surprised to see the Sfas Emes applying this perspective in the present context. Thus, he tells us that the nefesh (soul) of a Jewish person also goes through a pattern of growth in stages. The first stage is that of a child. The Sfas Emes describes a child as "tohu" -- as in Bereishis, 1:2: "tohu vavohu." (ArtScroll: "astonishingly empty". A more colloquial translation: "a complete mess.") Parents and teachers may find consolation in the Sfas Emes's certification of their charges as "tohu".

But just as HaShem intervened to save Noach and his family from the disaste that awaited the rest of humankind, so too does HaShem protect a particle of kedusha (sanctity) within a child. And that bit of kedusha can subsequently expand within the child as he/she grows, and enables him to develop midos tovos (proper behavior).

Continuing with this perspective, the Sfas Emes now refers us to the maxim "Derech eretz kadma laTorah." That is, proper behavior must precede and is therefore a prerequisite to the proper observance of Torah and mitzvos. In support of this sequence, the Sfas Emes cites the lives of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov. It was necessary for the lives of the Avos, with their exemplary personal conduct, to precede our people's receiving the Torah.

The necessity of this sequence is neither self-evident nor easily grasped. For this reason, the Sfas Emes concludes with a phrase of advice and admonition that he rarely utters: "Vedok vehavein" That is: "think it through, and you will understand!"

--------

The Sfas Emes has taught us a two-fold mussar haskeil (take-home lesson) in an area in which he, as Gerer Rebbe, had special knowledge. First, he has told us that, in fact, people can grow in their Avodas Hashem. And second, he advises us that growth does not come in a linear fashion, but rather in stages ; i.e., unevenly. For this reason, we should not become discouraged if we see that, despite a serious effort to progress, we are at any given time only treading water in ruchniyus (spiritual matters). The Rebbe is telling us: Persist!


Text Copyright 2005 by Rabbi Dr. Nosson Chayim Leff and Torah.org.


 






ARTICLES ON REEH:

View Complete List

The Jewish Calendar
- 5773

We Are His Children
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5760

No Middle Road
Shlomo Katz - 5763

> Even Closer to HASHEM
Rabbi Label Lam - 5765

Non Prophet Organization
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5761

The Tree Hugger
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5771

ArtScroll

Serve Hashem "His" Way
Shlomo Katz - 5761

What Yichus!
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5759

A Tale Of Two Mountains - Part I
Rabbi Aron Tendler - 5763

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Curse of Freedom
Shlomo Katz - 5758

Seeing is Believing
Rabbi Dovid Green - 5758

Life Choices
Shlomo Katz - 5765

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

Tomorrow - Today
Rabbi Label Lam - 5770

The Tree of Knowledge
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5773

Let's Stick Together
Shlomo Katz - 5766

Creating Holiness
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5765



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information