Volume 32, No. 2
1 Marcheshvan 5778
October 21, 2017
Mrs. Esther Liberman and family
in memory of husband and father
Yaakov Azriel ben Aharon David a”h
R’ Moshe Zuriel shlita (Bnei Brak, Israel; former Mashgiach Ruchani of Yeshivat Sha’alvim) writes: The Zohar Chadash comments on Noach’s name, “He was Noach / calm in his thoughts, calm in his words, and calm in his ways. A person who behaves this way is worthy of being called a Tzaddik.”
At the same time, R’ Zuriel notes, the Zohar Chadash does not withhold its criticism of Noach: Come and see the difference between the Tzaddikim of Yisrael and Noach. Noach did not protect his generation and did not pray for his contemporaries as Avraham did. When Hashem told Avraham (18:20), “The outcry of S’dom and Amorah has become great,” immediately (18:23), “Avraham came forward and said, ‘Will You also stamp out the righteous along with the wicked?’” [Until here from the Zohar Chadash.] The fundamental difference between Noach and Avraham, R’ Zuriel writes, was that the former worried only about himself, while the latter worried even about the welfare of wicked people.
What led Avraham to behave this way? R’ Zuriel explains: Through his own intellect, he arrived at the lesson that R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (Maharal of Prague; died 1609) would later teach us: “One who loves Hashem loves His creations.” If Hashem saw fit to create those creations, who are we to think we know better?!
This does not mean, R’ Zuriel adds, that a Tzaddik accepts the wicked as they are. To the contrary, one who loves another feels compelled to point out his mistakes and help him to improve, not because he feels superior but rather because of a feeling of a shared destiny. (Otzrot Ha’Torah: Noach #1)
“Elokim said to Noach, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them; and behold, I am about to destroy them from the earth’.” (6:13)
Rashi z”l comments: “Their fate was sealed only on account of their sin of robbery.”
How was the flood an appropriate punishment for robbery? R’ Itamar Schwartz shlita (Yerushalayim) explains: Stealing involves moving or blurring boundaries between what belongs to one person and what belongs to someone else. Similarly, a flood blurs the boundary between land and water. Indeed, the Hebrew word for the flood–“Mabul”–is related to the word “Bilbul” / “confusion” or “chaos,” which is the blurring of boundaries.
R’ Schwartz adds: Similarly, when there is confusion in a person’s mind, it is because the lines are blurred between one type of information or knowledge and another type. This is the cause of confusion about matters of Emunah / faith, as well as the reason people have difficulty understanding teachings of our Sages [see below].
We read about the time of Mashiach (Yeshayah 11:6), “A wolf will dwell with a sheep . . .” R’ Schwartz explains: The light of Mashiach will remove all confusion, and no being will cross its proper boundaries. Therefore, people will no longer have questions about matters of Emunah and, as the quoted verse states, all beings will live in peace. This is why the era of Mashiach is called, “A day which is entirely Shabbat and Menuchah / rest for all eternity.” On Shabbat, we rest and do not push any boundaries. [Notably, the person who was saved from the Mabul was named “Noach,” which means “rest.” See Rashi to 5:29.] (B’lvavi Mishkan Evneh Al Derech Hashem p. 15)
R’ Yehuda Loewe z”l (Maharal of Prague; died 1609) writes: There are those who scoff at our Sages’ explanations of natural phenomena–for example, the teaching of the Gemara (Sukkah 29a) that a solar eclipse occurs because of four sins [and, similarly, the Torah’s explanation in our Parashah of why rainbows occur]. Such people think that the Sages were naive or ignorant; after all, the occurrence of an eclipse can be predicted with precision, Maharal notes.
Such people are mistaken, Maharal explains, because they fail to understand the boundaries of our Sages’ area of interest. Specifically, our Sages had no interest in the scientific mechanics of an eclipse or a rainbow. Rather, they were interested in “the reason behind the reason,” i.e., the spiritual cause for the physical phenomenon. In the case of eclipses, Hashem programmed them into creation as a response to certain inevitable sins. [Maharal explains at length how an eclipse is an appropriate response to each of those sins.] (Be’er Hagolah: Ha’be’er Ha’shishi)
“Noach did in accordance with everything Elokim commanded him; so he did.” (6:22)
R’ Avraham Yoffen z”l (1887-1970; rosh yeshiva of the Novardok Yeshiva in Bialystok, Poland; New York and Yerushalayim) writes in the name of R’ Simcha Zissel Ziv z”l (1824-1898; the Alter of Kelm): The Torah is testifying here that Noach built the ark because it was G-d’s Will, not in order to save himself and his family.
We read (7:7), “Noach . . . went into the Ark because of the waters of the Flood.” Our Sages interpret this verse to mean that Noach delayed going into the Ark until the flood waters forced him to. R’ Yoffen writes: This is further proof that he built the Ark only because Hashem told him to. Had he been worried about saving his own and his family members’ lives, he would have hurried into the Ark at the earliest possible time.
R’ Yoffen concludes: It is said in the name of R’ Yisrael Salanter z”l (1810-1883; founder of the Mussar movement) that man’s job is to fulfill G-d’s Will and not to worry about the consequences. The consequences of performing the Mitzvot are G-d’s business, not ours. (Ha’mussar Ve’ha’da’at)
From the Haftarah . . .
“It shall be that, from New Moon to New Moon [literally, ‘at the New Moon in his New Moon’], and from Shabbat to Shabbat [literally, ‘on the Shabbat in his Shabbat], all flesh shall come to prostrate themselves before Me, said Hashem.” (Yeshayah 66:3 – Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh Chodesh)
R’ Shlomo Kluger z”l (1785-1869; rabbi of Brody, Galicia) asks: What is the meaning of, “At the New Moon in his New Moon and on the Shabbat in his Shabbat”? Why didn’t the verse say simply, “At the New Moon and on Shabbat? Also, since Shabbat occurs more frequently than Rosh Chodesh, why is it not mentioned first?
He explains: All days belong to Hashem until we acquire them by performing the Mitzvot applicable to the day in question. Thus we read (Bereishit 24:1), “Abraham was old, coming along with [literally, ‘in’] days.” Avraham acquired all of his days through his good deeds. Similarly, through the Mitzvot that a person performs on Rosh Chodesh, he makes it “his” Rosh Chodesh, and through the Mitzvot that a person performs on Shabbat he makes it “his” Shabbat; only then can he “bring that day” with him when he comes in the future to prostrate himself before Hashem.
We now understand, as well, why Rosh Chodesh is mentioned before Shabbat, R’ Kluger concludes. Because Shabbat has more Mitzvot than Rosh Chodesh does, it takes greater effort to make it one’s own; therefore, it is mentioned last. (Shema Shlomo)
A Torah Tour of the Holy Land
The Gemara (Ta’anit 10a) teaches: The last pilgrims returning to Babylon after spending Sukkot at the Bet Hamikdash in Yerushalayim took two weeks to reach the Euphrates River in northeastern Syria. Therefore, in Eretz Yisrael, one does not begin to pray for rainfall (i.e., to recite “V’tein Tal U’mattar” in Shemoneh Esrei) until two weeks after the festival, on the seventh day of Marcheshvan. In the diaspora, says the Gemara, we begin to pray for rain on the sixtieth day of autumn. [Today, the custom is to begin reciting “V’tein Tal U’mattar” in the diaspora on December 4 in most years, and December 5 in the year before a leap year. Note that although both in Eretz Yisrael and the diaspora we began reciting“Mashiv Ha’ruach U’morid Ha’geshem” on Shemini Atzeret, the Gemara (Ta’anit 2a) explains that that is not praying for rain, it is only praising G-d as the One Who has the power to bring rain.]
Tosafot (to Pesachim 3b) writes that a person who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is exempt from the Mitzvah of Aliyah L’reggel / making a pilgrimage to Yerushalayim for the festivals. Commentaries wonder where Tosafot learned this Halachah, which is not mentioned anywhere in the Talmud.
R’ S.B. Schreiber shlita suggests that Tosafot learned the law that a person who lives outside of Eretz Yisrael is exempt from the Mitzvah of Aliyah L’reggel from the fact that the date for beginning to recite V’tein Tal U’mattar is tied to the time it takes to journey from Yerushalayim to the Euphrates River. That river formed the northeast boundary of Eretz Yisrael and was the farthest one could travel from Yerushalayim without leaving the Holy Land. Since we are only concerned with how long a person might travel inside Eretz Yisrael before we pray for rain, apparently people living outside of Eretz Yisrael had no particular reason to be traveling at all. Ultimately, however, R’ Schreiber rejects this argument, for it would not explain why communities in the diaspora wait 60 days to pray for rain. (Daf Al Daf: Ta’anit 10a)
Some cite Tosafot’s ruling as an example of a law that was transmitted from generation to generation orally as the entire Talmud once was.