Volume 31, No. 2
4 Marcheshvan 5777
November 5, 2016
Mrs. Esther Liberman and family
in memory of husband and father
Yaakov Azriel ben Aharon David a”h
The Gemara (Berachot 29a) asks: “Why are there seven aliyot in the Shabbat Torah reading?” It answers: “They parallel the seven times that King David referred to a ‘kol’ / ‘voice’ in connection with water [in Tehilim ch.29].” R’ Avraham Yitzchak Hakohen Kook z”l (1865-1935; Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi of Eretz Yisrael) explains: At first glance, attaining shleimut (“perfection” / “completeness”) seems to be the result of work and action, while rest seems to be unproductive and lacking value. In reality, though, the shleimut that is attained through action is possible due to the rest that preceded the action. Being at ease mentally enables the actions that one takes to be focused and productive.
R’ Kook continues: Similarly, in the world at large, shleimut seems to result from actions such as building, while there seems to be no wisdom or value in destruction. But, when we observe the shleimut that results from destruction, we recognize that everything is guided by the wisdom and counsel of the Great Counselor (paraphrasing Yirmiyah 33:19). Regarding this, King David said (Tehilim 46:9), “Go and see the works of Hashem, Who has wrought devastation in the land.”
In this vein, King David refers to seven ‘kolot’ / ‘voices’ in connection with water. Water is the opposite of an inhabited settlement, which is a manifestation of man’s intelligence and represents the pinnacle of creation. Yet, it is in seas that we see the Hand of Hashem and hear the Voice of Hashem [Tehilim 29:3–“The Voice of Hashem is upon the water”], just as we see His Hand and Voice in destruction, as in (Tehilim 29:5), “The Voice of Hashem shatters the cedars of Lebanon”–a reference to the Bet Hamikdash, which was constructed of that wood. Within that destruction, says the verse (29:10), “Hashem sat enthroned at the Flood; Hashem sits enthroned as King forever.” Through the destruction of the Flood, the world was cleansed of evildoers who were not fit to accomplish the purpose of creation, which is bringing about the revelation of Hashem. (Ein Ayah: Berachot, Ch.4 No.43)
“Noach was a righteous man . . .” (6:9)
What is the defining characteristic of a righteous man? R’ Yosef Kahaneman z”l (1886-1969; the “Ponovezher Rav”) would regularly say: A tzaddik is good-hearted. This is illustrated in our parashah, where Noach is described as a tzaddik. What do we know about Noach? That he cared for thousands of living things. (Quoted in Otzrotaihem Shel Tzaddikim)
“Kush fathered Nimrod. He was the first to be a gibbor / mighty man on earth.” (10:8)
Rashi z”l writes: He was mighty in encouraging others to rebel against Hashem by building the Tower.
Ramban z”l writes: He was the first person who used his might to rule over other people. Before Nimrod’s time, there were no wars and no kings.
R’ Yerucham Levovitz z”l (mashgiach ruchani of the Mir Yeshiva; died 1936) asks: Why is any of this information important? What is it teaching us? He explains:
We read that an angel said to Yaakov Avinu (Bereishit 32:29), “You have wrestled with the Divine and with man and have overcome.” We see from these words that there is a parallel between wrestling with Divine forces and wrestling with man. Just this is true in the case of holiness (i.e., where Yaakov is involved), so it true in the case of the impure (i.e., where Nimrod is involved). The traits that make a person a warrior against other men are the same traits that make him a warrior against Hashem. As Ramban writes, Nimrod was the first person to rule over other people and to start a war. That, writes R’ Levovitz, followed naturally from being the Nimrod that Rashi describes: He was a leader and innovator when it came to rebelling against G-d. Indeed, our Sages say that Nimrod “knew his Master and intended to rebel.” And, that rebelliousness against G-d made him fight against people also.
R’ Levovitz continues: The work Chovot Ha’levavot [by R’ Bachya ibn Pakudah z”l (Spain: 11th century)] tells of a pious man who met soldiers returning from war and said to them, “You have returned from the small war. Now prepare for the big war!” When they inquired what he meant, he explained, “The big war is the war against the Yetzer Ha’ra and its soldiers.” At first glance, this requires explanation, R’ Levovitz writes. What parallel is there between physical wars and spiritual battles? The answer is as explained above: Not only do the two wars involve the same traits, one–i.e., physical war–is the result of man’s failure to win the other–i.e., the war against the Yetzer Ha’ra. (Da’at Torah)
“When Terach had lived seventy years, he fathered Avram, Nachor, and Haran.” (11:26)
R’ Yosef Gikatilla z”l (1248-1310; Spain; author of the kabbalistic work Sha’arei Orah) writes: Terach’s name signifies that he caused G-d’s anger “to boil.” Why was it G-d’s Will that a great tzaddik such as Avraham be born from such a wicked person? He explains:
G-d did man a favor by giving him free will, for otherwise man could not be rewarded for his good deeds. Likewise, if man did not have free will, G-d could not have a “Chosen People,” for that would cause the other nations to complain, “Why did you force that nation to do Your Will? It’s Your fault that we are distant from You!”
To highlight the impact of man’s free will and the fact that G-d chose the nation whose ancestor chose Him voluntarily, Hashem arranged for Avraham to be fathered by Terach, someone who could not have been a positive influence on his son. (Haggadah Shel Pesach Tzofnat Paneach)
“Sarai was barren, ‘ain la’ / she had no child.” (11:30)
Rabbi Levi said: Wherever a verse says, “Ain la” / “She did not have,” she eventually did have. Regarding Sarai, it says, “Sarai was barren, she had no child,” and eventually she did have, as is written (Bereishit 21:1), “Hashem remembered Sarah.” It says (Shmuel I 1:2), “Peninah had children, but Chana had no children,” and eventually she did have, as is written (Shmuel I 2:21), “For Hashem had remembered Chana.” It says (Yirmiyah 30:17), “She is Zion – she has no one who seeks her,” and eventually she will have, as is written (Yeshayah 59:20), “A redeemer will come to Zion.” [The midrash concludes by quoting Yeshayah 54:1, the opening verse of today’s haftarah:] “Sing out, barren one, who has not given birth, break out into glad song and be jubilant.” (Midrash Bereishit Rabbah)
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1783-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) writes: Based on the above midrash, we can understand the verse (Yirmiyah 31:14), “So said Hashem: A voice was heard on high — wailing, bitter weeping — Rachel weeps for her children; she refuses to be consoled for her children, for ‘ainenu’ / they are absent.” Why does Rachel refuse to be consoled? Because her children are only “ainenu” / “absent.” (“Ainenu” is a form of the word “ain,” which the midrash indicates is a temporary condition.) As Rashi z”l writes regarding Yaakov’s refusal to be consoled over Yosef’s absence, the heart does not accept consolation if the missing person is still alive. Likewise, writes R’ Kluger, the fact that the Jewish People have never reconciled themselves to the exile is the clearest proof that there will be a redemption. (Kohelet Yaakov: Aseret Yemei Teshuvah p.275)
A Torah Tour of the Holy Land
The Mishnah (Keilim 1:6-9) teaches: “What is the Kedushah / holiness of Eretz Yisrael? That the Omer, the Bikkurim and the Two Loaves offered on Shavuot must come from the produce of Eretz Yisrael, not from the produce of other lands.” [Until here from the Mishnah]
Many commentaries ask: Why did the Mishnah mention only the Omer, the Bikkurim and the Two Loaves offered on Shavuot, and not agricultural Mitzvot such as Terumah (giving part of the crop to a Kohen), Ma’aser (giving a tenth of the crop to a Levi), Pe’ah (leaving part of the unharvested crop for the poor), etc.?
R’ Michoel David Kritzler shlita (Bnei Brak, Israel) suggests the following answer: There are two different aspects to the holiness of Eretz Yisrael. One is the holiness of the “place.” Eretz Yisrael is the place that G-d has chosen to rest His Shechinah and, as a result, He commanded that certain Mitzvot (i.e., those listed in our Mishnah) be performed with the produce that originated in that place. The second aspect is the holiness of the “earth” of Eretz Yisrael, which requires that produce that grew in that earth be subject to certain laws–for example, Terumah, Ma’aser, Pe’ah, etc. Thus, those Mitzvot are not in the same category as those listed in our Mishnah.
R’ Kritzler continues: This seemingly subtle distinction between the holiness of the “place” of Eretz Yisrael and the holiness of the “earth” of Eretz Yisrael could have important Halachic ramifications. The Gemara (Gittin 7b) discusses whether the rivers of Eretz Yisrael are part of the Holy Land. For example, is produce that grows on a barge floating in a river within the borders of Eretz Yisrael subject to Terumah, Ma’aser and other agricultural laws? The two sides of this question could depend on the distinction described above–i.e., whether the agricultural laws apply whenever the produce is from the “place” of Eretz Yisrael (which includes the rivers), or only when the produce is from the “earth” of Eretz Yisrael. (Sefer Esser Kedushot Vol.I p.166)