Parshas Noach

Worlds Apart

A little bit can go so far. Two people, two seemingly identical actions, yet, worlds apart.

When Noach left the ark, he planted a vineyard. He drank from the wine, became inebriated and fell asleep in an immodestly dressed manner. Cham, one of Noach's sons, saw this and informed his older brothers, Shem and Yefes. The passuk then relates: "Shem and Yefes, he took a garment, they walked in backwards and they covered their father. (Even as they drew close to their father and had to face him in order to cover him) they turned their faces around and thereby they did not see their father in this revealed state." [9:20-23]

Rashi points out the obvious grammatical difficulty. Throughout, the verbs are in the plural: they walked, they covered, they didn't see, yet, in regard to the garment being taken, it is written in the singular: he took. Rashi explains that Shem put more effort into this mitzvah than his brother, Yefes. As a result, Shem's descendants merited the Tallis garment adorned with the four tzitzis {fringes}, whereas Yefes' descendants merited burial after the war of Gog Umagog {Armageddon}.

Rav Zalman Sorotzkin zt"l explains that each of these merits fit in to the rule of midah k'neged midah {divine measure for measure reciprocity}. They covered their father and thereby merited their own coverings. Inherent in the mitzvah of tzitzis is the blessing that they would have garments with which to cover themselves. Similarly, with burial, the descendants of Yefes were not left exposed but were covered.

They both received this reciprocity, but we see that there are coverings and there are coverings. Shem did his act with vigor and enthusiasm, his whole body was alive in performing this mitzvah. His merit was the tzitzis, a mitzvah that is performed throughout our lifetime. Yefes, however was zombie-like in his performance of the mitzvah. His subsequent reward applied to that eventual state- burial for the dead.

The Talmud [Chagiga 9A] explains that the difference between one who is called a Servant of Hashem and one who is not can result from one having reviewed his studies one hundred and one times as opposed to the other who only reviewed one hundred times...

We mistakenly negate the effect of one more bit of effort. We minimize the power of one extra word of tfilah {prayer}, of an additional attempt to have kavanah {focus} when praying, of one more moment of Torah study and of a single kind word or reassuring smile to a person in need. But it is that extra ounce of effort that transforms a person into an Oved Hashem {a true Servant of Hashem}.

The story is told of a childhood friend of the great Gr"a {the Gaon of Vilna} who met up with him years later. This friend pointed out that he and the Gr"a used to be of almost equal stature and now wondered how he had become such a great Gaon {scholar of the highest degree}. "Did you learn the piece of Gemara that speaks about the tremendous difference between learning the material one hundred and one as opposed to one hundred times?" the Gr"a asked him. His friend responded that he had. "Do you believe those words?" the Gr"a continued. His friend answered that of course he believed it. "I didn't believe it," the Gr"a told him, "I did it..."

He took the garment. One extra effort. One extra review. It can make a world of difference.

Good Shabbos,
Yisroel Ciner

To receive Rabbi Ciner's weekly parsha-insights via email, simply send a blank e-mail to

Rabbi Ciner's email address is ciner@torah.org

List of 5764 (03-04) Parsha Pages
Rabbi Ciner's main page
Back to Neveh Homepage

The webspace for the Neveh Zion site
has been generously donated by

Website hosting and design, 56K and ISDN dialup service,
family filtering and fixed IP addresses available,
reasonable rates. Email Sruli Shaffren for a quote.

Please daven for a Refuah Shelaymah for:

send your comments to webmaster@neveh.org