Hamaayan / The Torah Spring
Edited by Shlomo Katz
Contributing Editor: Daniel Dadusc
Volume XIV, Number 2
6 Cheshvan 5760
October 16, 1999
Hamaayan extends heartfelt wishes of Mazal Tov
to Daniel Dadusc and his wife Rachel
on the birth of their daughter, Sarah
Orach Chaim 177:1-3
Bavli: Mo'ed Kattan 9
Yerushalmi: Yevamot 74
R' Joseph Breuer z"l (1882-1980) writes: "The common origin of
the human race . . . explains the phenomenon that the memory of
the Torah-recorded Noachidic flood continues to live on in
Noach's descendants, albeit in frequently distorted form.
According to a profound comment by our sages, the nagging fear of
a possible recurrence of a like world-catastrophe was the cause
for mankind's single-minded determination to meet this danger
with joint force by mounting the heaven-conquering attack against
G-d [i.e., building the Tower of Bavel]. The goal: to 'unseat' G-
d and erect, in His place, the throne of human might."
R' Breuer continues, explaining that the same method that
Hashem used to foil the plans of those first Tower-builders is
what continues to foil man's attacks on G-d and G-dliness today,
i.e., individuality and egotism. These traits stand in the way
of unity, thus making coordinated efforts impossible; instead man
has used his vast abilities to pursue war, and to bring himself
to the brink of the very destruction which he so fears, through
the mindless pursuit of the nuclear arms race.
As Jews, we know that the world's existence is threatened less
by atom bombs than it is by an absence of men who are overwhelmed
by G-d's wisdom, which is demonstrated in the tiny atom. Our
testimony to that wisdom (part of the wisdom of creation in
general) is our observance of Shabbat. This observance
demonstrates as well our knowledge that the existence or
destruction of the world is in Hashem's hands alone. (A Time to
Build II, p.55)
Rabbi Chaninah said (regarding Iyov 24:16), "'In darkness
burrowing into houses, by day they seal themselves shut, they do
not know the daylight' - this is what the generation of the Flood
did: They would mark the place and come at night to burgle it."
After Rabbi Chaninah taught this in the town of Tzippori, 300
houses were burrowed into.
(Talmud Yerushalmi: Ma'aser Sheni 28b)
R' Eliyahu Hakohen of Izmir z"l (author of Shevet Ha'mussar;
died 1729) explains this gemara as follows: Before burglars would
burrow into houses at night, they would make "seals" or marks by
day to identify the houses that looked like good prospects.
Thus, their primary evil was during the day; although they robbed
houses at night, they conspired and planned during the daylight
The question must be asked, however: The gemara (Sanhedrin 98a)
teaches that the generation of the Flood was very wealthy. If
so, why did they steal at all?
One possible answer is that they stole in order to test G-d -
if He really exists and He really sees our deeds, why does He not
punish us?! Alternatively, they were very stingy, and if they
saw that someone else had a nice object, they preferred to steal
it rather than to buy or make a similar object for themselves.
In any case, writes R' Eliyahu, we can learn several things
from the above gemara. First, rabbis should not publicize the
tricks that were used by sinners of earlier generations. After
all, after Rabbi Chaninah lectured in Tzippori about the
generation of the Flood, 300 houses in Tzippori were broken into
in the very manner that he had described.
Also, we learn that even the sinners among the Jewish people
are full of mitzvot "as pomegranates are full of seeds." We see
this from the fact that even the town's burglars attended Rabbi
(Aggadat Eliyahu: Ma'aser Sheni Ch. 5, No. 1)
"G-d blessed Noach and his sons, and He said to them, 'Be
fruitful and multiply and fill the land. The fear of you
and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth
and upon every bird of the heavens, in everything that moves
on the earth and in all the fish of the sea; in your hand
they are given. Every moving thing that lives shall be food
for you; like the green herbage I have given you
R' Mordechai Breuer shlita observes that man has two
conflicting natures. On the one hand, man is made in the image
of G-d. Man, like G-d, is a ruler, a conqueror, a creator, and a
builder. Man, like G-d, can harness creation for his own
purposes. Man has free will. On the other hand, man is a slave
to the world. He eats, drinks, and desires, and, in general, is
influenced by the world.
These two aspects of man are reflected in Hashem's blessing to
Adam (Bereishit 1:28-30):
G-d blessed them and G-d said to them, 'Be fruitful and
multiply, fill the earth and subdue it, and rule over the
fish of the sea, the bird of the sky, and every living
thing that moves on the earth.'
G-d said, 'Behold I have given to you all the herbage
yielding seed that is on the surface of the entire earth,
and every tree that has seed-yielding fruit; it shall be
yours for food. And to every beast of the earth, to
every bird of the sky, and to everything that moves on
the earth, within which there is a living soul, every
green herb is for food.
G-d's first statement addresses the "higher man," while His
second statement addresses the "lower man." (To draw attention
to this distinction, the Torah separates verses 28 and 29 by
repeating the phrase, "G-d said.")
In contrast, when Hashem speaks to Noach after the flood, these
two blessings are combined into one, as quoted above. The gulf
between man's two natures had become blurred. This is why, in
verse 3, Noach is permitted to eat meat, something that had been
prohibited to previous generations. Adam and the early
generations recognized the tension between man's two natures and
man's obligation to rise to the higher level of one who is
created in the Divine image. Man did not have to eat meat in
order to recognize that he was not just another animal.
Not so after the flood; man had lost sight of the fact that he
was created in the Divine image. Man must eat meat in order to
remind himself that he is supposed to rule over the animals and
lead a loftier existence than they do.
(Pirkei Mo'adot p.25-29)
Many have the custom to recite the poem Shalom Aleichem upon
returning from shul on Friday night. The reason most commonly
given for this custom is the teaching of the gemara (Shabbat
119b) that two angels accompany man home from shul. However, R'
Tzaddok Hakohen z"l (1823-1900) questions this reason - since the
gemara says that one of those two angels is "good" and one is
"bad," how can we call them "malachei ha'shalom"/"angels of
Instead, R' Tzaddok offers the following explanation for our
custom: The gemara (Chagigah 14b) states that when the Sages
studied the deep secrets of the kabbalah, the angels gathered
around to listen "as people gather to watch dancing at a
wedding." Every Shabbat, explains R' Tzaddok, there is a
revelation of the Shechinah similar to that which the Sages of
the Talmud experienced. Since the angels come to watch, we greet
The Friday night meal, continues R' Tzaddok, it is a time of
yichud/seclusion between Hashem and the Jewish people. The
angels must leave before the meal begins. This is why we
conclude Shalom Aleichem with the words "Tzeitchem
le'shalom"/"Depart in peace . . ."
(Pri Tzaddik: Noach p.14d)
Letters from Our Sages
This week's letter was written by R' Reuven Dov Dessler
z"l to his son R' Eliyahu Eliezer z"l (1892-1953; author of
Michtav M'Eliyahu). The writer was a successful businessman
and, with his brother, was the primary supporter of the
"Talmud Torah" of Kelm, the yeshiva founded by R' Simcha
Zissel of Kelm z"l for the study of mussar.
This letter is printed in Kitvei Ha'Sabba Ve'talmidav
Mi'Kelm, p.546 (No. 41).
We say in Birkat Hamazon, "And through His great goodness, we
have never lacked, and may we never lack, nourishment, for all
eternity." This is wondrous! Mortals do not need nourishment
after they die. "All eternity" is after death; what good is a
candle in the sunlight? [In other words, what good does
nourishment do in a place where no one eats?]
Apparently, nourishment for the soul is needed - even for the
dead, even for all eternity - so that one can "live." If one
does not toil on Erev Shabbat, what will he eat on Shabbat? [If
one does not prepare nourishment for his soul in This World, on
what will he "live" in the World-to-Come?]
The verse (Yishayah 65:13) has already warned: "[Therefore,
thus said My Lord, Hashem Elokim,] 'Behold, My servants will eat
and you will starve; behold, My servants will drink and you will
thirst . . . '" This [realization] is one of the key things that
mussar [study] calls upon a person to picture.
May we merit to make the necessary preparations successfully,
and may it go well with us.
Your father, who loves you with his soul
Mrs. Esther Liberman and family
in memory of husband and father
Yaakov Azriel ben Aharon David a"h
The Rozen and Donowitz families
in memory of grandfather
Irving Peskowitz a"h
Copyright © 1998 by Shlomo Katz
and Project Genesis, Inc.
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