Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Noach

Now - A Hopeful Place

By Rabbi Label Lam

HASHEM smelled the pleasing aroma, and HASHEM said in His heart, “I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man, since the imagery of man’s heart is evil from his youth, nor will I continue to smite every living being, as I have done. (Breishis 8:21)

There’s something awfully incongruous about this verse. After “taking in” the “pleasing aroma” of the offering brought by Noach after “The Flood”, The Almighty justifies a decision not to destroy the world again with a portrayal of the human condition that is hauntingly similar to the depiction that substantiated the destruction of the world, as it says, “And G-d saw that the evil of Man was great upon the earth and that every imagery of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all day”. (Breishis 6:5) “The evil imaginings of man’s heart from his youth” should be cause for less not more Divine forbearance.

Some false religionists have wrongly employed this description to justify their picture of man as an irredeemably damned and evil being. Nothing could be further from the truth. Why should that be the cause of a greater tolerance? Is it just a lowering of the standard of expectation? What then is the relevance of the “pleasing aroma”?

There’s a rugged sounding Mishne in the 3rd Perek of Pirke Avos that states: Rebbe Yaaov says, “One who is going along the way and learning and he interrupts his learning and says, “How nice is that tree!? How nice is that newly plowed field?!” the verse speaks about him as if he had placed himself in mortal danger!” What had he done so terribly wrong? The Mishne is certainly not attempting to discourage people from admiring the kindliness, genius, and unity embedded in every swirling molecule of creation. What’s so bad? He interrupted his learning to do so. He is in the process of meditating on and hearing more deeply the messages of HASHEM and he allows himself to be distracted. He is like a mother that neglects to feed her child because she is too occupied admiring pictures of her child.

Assuming that point is understood, why does the Mishne mention a “tree” and a “plowed field”? We know that Mishne is very terse and sparing

with its words. It could easily have said apple or flower or just a tree or just a field or any other object of beauty! Why pick on specifically those two items? I have searched all over for an answer to this question. I didn’t find yet anyone who even asks the question. Therefore, forgive me if I make a wild swinging attempt on my own!

There’s a curious phenomenon that I have observed. It’s not a fast rule but a generalization. In Jewish homes across the world there are usually two types of pictures that adorn the walls. There are pictures of Tzadikim-great personalities and pictures of little children. Rarely do you find portraits of middle aged people. Inspiration is to found in the faces of little children and holy men. Included here are newly-weds as well. Why?

When we gaze at the countenance of a Tzadik, like a full tree in an open field we attach ourselves to an image of actualized potential. That’s a portrait of what’s possible when the seed of life is optimally nurtured. When we behold the cherubic likeness of a little child we are struck by the endlessness of pure potential, as a newly plowed field. Who can know what orchards of goodness the furrows of that innocent mind will bear for mankind. The person who interrupts the seeding of his mind with holy ideas which if developed fully could produce supple branches weighted with nourishing fruits, and seeing both a newly plowed field together with a fully developed tree fails to connect them and be inspired to return to his task but rather sits back admiringly – he has put himself in mortal danger by missing the message.

Similarly, Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch ztl. explains “from his youth” refers to the ability of the young to “shake off”, to endure- survive and transcend the effects of evil. Like a newly plowed the youth represent the “hope that beats eternal within the human breast”. The offering of the Tzadik –Noach with its “pleasing aroma” is like that single tree. Seeing both of these, side by side, the presence of individual Tzadikim in every generation with the ever emergence of youth, the whole world, like a fragile ark, is now - a hopeful place.


DvarTorah, Copyright © 2007 by Rabbi Label Lam and Torah.org.


 

ARTICLES ON ACHAREI MOS AND KEDOSHIM:

View Complete List

The Value of Reverence
Rabbi Yosef Kalatzky - 5764

Make Your Parents and Teachers Proud
Shlomo Katz - 5763

Get a Life!
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5757

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Message of the Lottery of the Two Goats
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5774

Remainding Sons
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5759

In Pursuit Of Holiness
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5761

> (Re)Counting the Omer
Rabbi Eliyahu Hoffmann - 5760

Don't Ignore History
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5757

They Died And They Died Again
- 5769

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Love Your Neighbor: Who Needs Friends?
Rabbi Osher Chaim Levene - 5766

The Senior Partner
Rabbi Raymond Beyda - 5767

A Critical Difference
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5768

ArtScroll

The Passover Order
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5774

Motherhood & Shabbos Pie
Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky - 5759

It's None of Your Business
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5759

Who Has To Honor Whom?
Rabbi Yissocher Frand - 5773



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