Investing in the Land
Volume 21, No. 2
6 Cheshvan 5767
October 28, 2006
Mrs. Esther Liberman and family
in memory of husband and father
Yaakov Azriel ben Aharon David a”h
The Vogel family
on the yahrzeit of father and grandfather
Aharon Shimon ben Shemayah a”h (Arthur Kalkstein)
Daf Yomi (Bavli): Sukkot 56
Begin Masechet Beitzah on Sunday
Daf Yomi (Yerushalmi): Bikkurim 8
Our parashah relates that, after the flood, Noach sent a dove to search for dry land. On the second attempt, the dove returned with an olive branch in her beak. The Midrash Rabbah asks: If the entire world was destroyed by the flood, where did the olive branch come from? The midrash answers that the rains did not fall in Eretz Yisrael. This is alluded to in the verse (Yechezkel 22:24), “You are a land that has not been cleansed, that was not rained upon on the day of fury.” (See also Zevachim 113a; Pirkei D’Rabbi Eliezer chapter 23). R’ Moshe ben Nachman z”l (Ramban; 1194-1270) explains that Eretz Yisrael was also flooded. However, the rain did not fall directly there and the flood-waters came only indirectly, since there obviously was no wall to keep the rain-waters from flowing from the neighboring lands. Thus, the force of the water was weaker in Eretz Yisrael and some of the trees were not destroyed.
R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) observes that Noach should have perceived his being imprisoned in the teivah / ark while Eretz Yisrael remained relatively unscathed as a form of exile from that Land. This experience should have motivated him to take affirmative steps to secure a future settlement in Eretz Yisrael, much as, ten generations later, Avraham invested in land in Eretz Yisrael. Early in the parashah, Noach is called “Tzaddik tamim” / “A perfect tzaddik,” but later the adjective “tamim” is dropped. A “tamim” is a person who furthers the Jewish People’s inheritance in Eretz Yisrael, as Tehilim (37:18) states, “Hashem knows the days of the temimim / perfect, their inheritance will be forever.” This is why our Sages compare Noach unfavorably with Avraham. (Shemuot Ra’ayah)
“Make a window for the Ark . . .” (Bereishit 6:16)
Why? It was so that Noach would be aware of the destruction that was taking place around him. In this vein, R’ Menachem Ben Zion Sacks z”l (rosh yeshiva in Chicago; died 1987) writes that this verse calls to every Jew to open his window and look out from his comfortable life at the suffering of his brethren. He continues:
Noach is compared unfavorably to Avraham. Avraham said about himself (Bereishit 24:20), “Elokim before whom I walked.” Noach, in contrast, only “walked with Elokim” (6:9). This refers to the fact that Noach never extended himself beyond the four cubits of his own Divine service, while Avraham constantly reached out to the world around him.
Our Sages say that one should always pray in a room that has windows. The greatest tragedy is that people insulate themselves and pray for their own needs, oblivious to the needs of the world around them.
“Then Hashem said to Noach, `Come to the Ark, you and all your household, for it is you that I have seen to be righteous before Me in this generation’.” (Bereishit 7:1)
R’ Yaakov Yosef z”l (maggid / preacher in Vilna and Chief Rabbi of New York; died 1902) asks: This verse explains why Noach was saved, but why were his sons–especially Cham–saved? He answers:
We see here an example of a son benefitting from the good deeds of his father. Indeed, the Gemara (Berachot 7a) says that if you see a wicked person living a life full of good things (“rasha ve’tov lo”), it is very likely that his father was righteous. This is why we repeatedly invoke the merit of the Patriarchs in our prayers.
Nevertheless, we should not expect the merit of our ancestors to outweigh our own deeds. Thus, for example, the Torah says about Yishmael (Bereishit 21:17), “G-d has heeded the cry of the youth in his present state.” Our Sages explain that Yishmael was righteous at that moment and was judged accordingly. However, the implication is that had Yishmael been unworthy, even the merit of his father Avraham could not have helped him.
Where, then, is the line drawn? After all, Noach’s merits did save his wicked son Cham! R’ Yosef explains that the merit of a person’s forefathers can protect him so long as he does not reject that for which his forefathers stood. Noach possessed fear of G-d, says R’ Yosef, but he did not serve Hashem in a way that allowed his children to inherit his beliefs. It follows that Cham did not reject Noach’s beliefs, which were never really offered to him. Thus, he was able to enjoy the fruits of Noach’s good deeds.
(L’bet Yaakov: Drush 11)
From the Haftarah . . .
“For like the waters of Noach shall this be to Me; as I have sworn never again to pass the waters of Noach over the earth, so have I sworn not to be wrathful with you or rebuke you.” (Yishayah 54:9)
R’ Yitzchak Arama z”l (1420-1492) writes that the correct interpretation of this verse is closely tied to a proper understanding of the rainbow’s role as a sign that G-d will not bring another flood upon the world. He explains:
A rainbow cannot appear when the sky is completely covered with clouds. Some sunlight is necessary in order for a rainbow to be created. The rainbow thus symbolizes that the world will never again be destroyed because some good will always be found in mankind. (This does not mean that there is good in every person; for example, the cities of Sdom and Amorah did deserve complete destruction. However, mankind as a whole will never again descend to the level of complete depravity that characterized the pre-flood generation.)
Why? Because mankind as a whole learned the lesson of the Flood. The flood-waters were purifying waters like those referred to by the prophet Yechezkel (36:25-26), “I shall sprinkle pure water upon you, that you be cleansed; from all your contamination and from all your filth I will cleanse you. And I shall give you a new heart, and a new spirit shall I put within you; I shall remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” Thus, the appearance of a rainbow does not mean that Hashem is ready to destroy the world but he is letting us off easily, so-to-speak. Rather, it is a reminder that whatever evil mankind does, there is still good within mankind as a whole. This is why Hashem has sworn never to repeat the flood.
In light of this recognition, we can understand why the image of the flood is invoked in this prophecy. We read earlier in the haftarah (Yishayah 54:4-6): “Fear not, for you will not be shamed, do not feel humiliated for you will not be mortified; for you will forget the shame of your youth, and the mortification of your widowhood you will remember no more . . . For like a wife who had been forsaken and of melancholy spirit will Hashem have called you, and like a wife of one’s youth who had become despised — said your G-d.” R’ Arama explains: The Jewish People are like a wife whose husband left her twice, once at the destruction of the first Bet Hamikdash and again at the destruction of the second Bet Hamikdash. Such a wife would have good reason to be skeptical if her husband asked her to live with him again. However, Hashem, through the prophet, assures us that He knows that we, the Jewish People, have learned the lessons of the destruction (or will have learned those lessons by the time this prophecy is fulfilled at the End of Days), just as mankind as a whole learned the lesson of the Flood. Thus, Hashem is confident that we will never sin to the same degree that warranted the destruction of the two Temples and He will have no reason to leave us again.
(Akeidat Yitzchak: Sha’ar 14)
This week we present an excerpt from Ma’agal Tov, the diary of R’ Chaim Yosef David Azulai z”l (“Chida”). Chida was born in Yerushalayim in approximately 1724 and was possibly the most prolific rabbinic author of the 18th century. His more than 70 works cover the fields of halachah, mussar, chumash and rabbinic biography and bibliography and have been extremely influential among Sephardim and Ashkenazim alike. He died in 1806.
Ma’agal Tov [available in English as “The Diaries of Ha’im Yosef David Azulai”] is Chida’s detailed account of his travels in Western Europe during the years 1753-1757 as a “Shelucha D’rabbanan” (“Shadar” for short) on behalf of the Jewish community of his hometown, Chevron. (In today’s terminology, Chida was a “meshulach.”) The diary describes Chida’s travels, his successes, otherwise unknown rabbis and wealthy men that he met, and the many humiliations he experienced.
This week’s excerpt is paraphrased from Chida’s introduction. It should be noted that much of the original consists of Biblical verses strung together, sometimes in rhyme and sometimes used as puns, all of which is lost in translation.
These are the toldot / happenings of the young one–all the happenings and great events that passed over me from the day I went out to the townships, went into the cities of the lands of the nations, various kingdoms and different peoples, traversing the sea and traveling by every sort of vehicle, sedan and ark [a Talmudic reference], in wagons, by mule and camels–ha gufah kashya [a Talmudic reference used as a pun to mean “It was difficult on the body”].
I, a minor person among the men of Yerushalayim, may it be rebuilt and reestablished, have taken in my right hand a pen and say, “I will put down the order of my journeys to the cities and towns among the holy communities on this holy errand from the city of Chevron, may it be rebuilt, numbered by their days and weeks [i.e., in diary form]. [I will describe] the wondrous kindnesses that the Master of Mercy has dealt me, the tiny of His support and wonders that are recognizable and that can be seen, as one must make these known so that He will be praised and thanked. . .
I am unworthy of all the kindness, for He has dealt me only goodness . . . May He return me from my exile to Yerushalayim, may it be rebuilt, and here find all my relatives alive and well. So let us merit that we may live and serve Him with whole hearts and tranquility. So may it be His will.
The editors hope these brief ‘snippets’ will engender further study and discussion of Torah topics (‘lehagdil Torah u’leha’adirah’), and your letters are appreciated. Web archives at Torah.org start with 5758 (1997) and may be retrieved from the Hamaayan page.
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