This is the story of Noach. Noach was a Tzaddik, perfect in his generation. There are those who say that Noach was on the level of a Tzaddik compared to the people of his generation. If he lived in the generation of Avraham (10 generations later), his level wouldn’t be outstanding. The truth is that if Noach lived in the generation of Avraham, he would be on a much higher level than he was in his generation. Avraham would have raised up Noach to a greater level.LESSON:
A Tzaddik can raise the level of his generation.STORY:
There was a Jew who lived a life of stealing and sin. He once spent three weeks living with the holy seer of Lublin (Chozeh MiLublin). This sinner changed his ways and became a righteous Jew. People asked him what the Chozeh had said to influence him to change. The man responded: “Nothing! He said nothing about my behavior, but how could anyone be in the same house with the Chozeh for three weeks and not change?”LESSON:
The generation of Noach was corrupt. Men would steal the wives of other men. The society became immoral. The Possuk reads: “All flesh had corrupted its’ way up in the land.” We learn from this that cattle mated with wild beasts, the dog went after the wolf, the rooster after the pheasant. Animals left their own species to mate with other species.
Q- How can this be? Animals behave according to instinct. G-d created dogs to mate with dogs. How can animals sin? They don’t have free choice?
A- The behavior of man effects the world at large. When man lives a moral life and does kindness etc. he raises the spiritual quality of life.
When you raise your values, the world’s value’s are raised up too. Our actions have global effects. Rav Yisroel Salanter told his Talmidim: “Learn well, so the Jews in Paris don’t intermarry!”STORY:
Q- What does the learning in Lithuania have to do with the intermarriage in Paris??
A- The level we set for ourselves can effect the level of the rest of society. If we are stronger in our commitment to Torah and Mitzvot, the rest of the world will be a tiny bit stronger too.
The two great Chassidic masters, Reb Elimelech and Reb Zusia were brothers. They traveled in disguise from city to city. One night they set down their belongings to sleep in the city called “Ushpetzin.” Reb Zusia told his brother, “Elimelech, I can’t sleep here. There’s going to be the worst horror committed here. This place is filled with the worst evil.” After Reb Zusia’s refusal to stay the night in Ushpetzin, the brothers left.MARVELOUS MEDRASH:
Ushpetzin is the polish name for Auschwitz!!
The generation of Noach were thieves. It was because of their stealing that Hashem decided to destroy that generation in order to build a new society from Noach and his family.
When a man would carry a bundle of twigs everyone would pick one twig. People would justify taking one twig since it's so insignificant. When the man returned home, he found that all the twigs were taken.LESSON:
Don’t justify taking small things. It adds up. Beware of: “The hotel has lots of---, they won’t miss one.” If you want others to respect your property, be sure to respect theirs.STORY:
The Gemorah tells us an incident of a village which suffered the affects of an unknown burglar. One of the Chachomim of the Gemorah saw a man dry himself off using a towel which didn't belonged to him. He realized that this must be the burglar who stole from the village. He was correct, but how did he know?FASCINATING SIDE POINT:
He saw that this man wasn’t sensitive to other people’s belongings. Even though using someone’s towel without permission seems minor to us, yet it shows a lack of sensitivity towards the belongings of another. (According to the Halacha, we are not permitted to use anything belonging to someone else without permission). Being careful with the 'small' areas of honesty helps us be more truthful with the larger areas of honesty. When we justify taking small things, we can end up justifying actual theft.
Hashem told Noach to build a Taivah to house his family and the animals (Seven pairs- kosher, one pair non-kosher). Hashem was setting the stage to build a new world from Noach and his family. The Taivah took 120 years to build.
Why so long? Couldn’t Hashem have made the Taivah to be built in a day or two? Hashem wanted to prolong the construction of the Taivah so people would ask Noach “What are you doing?” Noach explained “Hashem is going to flood the world because of your Aveirot. This Taivah will be protection for me and my family.” This gave them time to do T'shuva (if they wanted to).LESSON:
Hashem doesn’t punish immediately, He gives us time to better our ways (T'shuva). Although Hashem judges us, He punishes only after a lot of time, so we can return to Him. We too must have patience with Jews in order that they better their ways.STORY:
Rav A.I. Kook put a lot of energy into dealing with non-religious settlers in Israel. He visited their Kibbutzim and Moshavim. He hoped that one day, they would come closer to Torah observance. Many times, he was misled and his efforts seemed fruitless. He nevertheless continued in his efforts with the belief that in time they would come around. If you love someone, give them time to change their ways.
The waters rained down for 40 days and nights. Noach and his wife, along with his three sons and their wives took care of the animals, making sure they had enough food to eat along with all other possible duties. The world was destroyed due to man’s selfish nature of taking. This new world had to be built upon man’s selfless nature of giving.STORY: Rav Aharon Kotler -the great Torah sage who came to America from Europe and started "Lakewood
While in the Taivah, Noach and family were not allowed to enjoy the family pleasures as usual. Hashem taught them that having to destroy His creations is sad, even if the people are evil. Hashem wants the people to change their ways, not to destroy them. When mankind is being destroyed, Noach and family have to be sensitive to this sad fact.
Yeshiva" was active in the rescue of the Jews of Europe who were being killed by the Nazis. While in America, he and his wife refrained from eating meat during the week for eight years during the Nazi extermination of the Jews. His wife didn’t buy a new outfit for those years. These were great Jews who were sensitive to the suffering their fellow Jews in Europe.LESSON:
Noach waited in the Taivah for the water to subside. He sent a raven out to see if the water had evaporated. When it returned, Noach realized that he wasn't going to hear much ravin' about the situation. He then sent out a dove which returned with the olive branch. By the third try, The dove found its’ resting place. Noach and his family were finally able to leave the Taivah which they had been in for one year. It was time to branch out.
Noach sacrificed to Hashem for having saved his whole family. Hashem, pleased with Noach’s sign of appreciation, reciprocated by placing a rain-bow in the sky. Hashem told Noach that He'll never destroy mankind by means of a flood.
The rainbow is made up of many different colors. Similarly, Klal Yisroel is made up of different types of people. We have to blend our different 'colors' to make a unified body.
Noach’s three sons, Shem, Cham and Yephet, fathered the new generation. From them came many nations. All the people of the world spoke Lashon HaKodesh (Hebrew).LESSON:
Under the influence of the evil Nimrod, the people built a tower to the heavens. This was a foolish attempt to wage war with with Hashem. They wanted to rule the heavens and the earth. This generation was called the Dor HaFlaga.
'The heavens are to Hashem, the land was given to man.' Our residence is here on earth, not in the heavens. Thousand of years ago it was a tower. Today it’s the Apollo etc. (The Gematria -numerical value of HaFlaga is the same as Apollo). Billions of dollars have been spent to reach the heavens, but we need that money for earth which was given to us.LESSON:
The huge tower was built as a result of team work. Everyone spoke the same language. People understood one another.
People working in unity can accomplish great feats. When working together, let’s try to understand our friends.LESSON:
These rebels were so preoccupied with their work they didn’t notice if a man died on the job. Yet, if a brick fell down, they mourned the loss.
Don’t lose sight of priorities. If you’re so involved in whatever you are doing that you you are not sensitive to others, you’ve probably mixed up what is important.
Hashem mixed up the language of the people so they could no longer understand one another. To each person, everyone else seemed to babble (talk foolishly). They weren't able to communicate and work together since they couldn’t understand each other. This brought about the destruction of the Tower.STORY:
The Talmidim of Rav Yisroel Salanter once asked their Rebbe during Matzoh baking what intentions (mediations) they should have. Rav Yisroel Salanter quickly replied “Have in mind not to rush or upset the woman kneading the dough for she is a widow. The Kashrut of the Matzoh is only complete with the careful observance of Ben Adam L'Chaveiro - your conduct with another Jew.LESSON:
There was one person who showed his disapproval of the building of the Tower. This was none other than Avram Ben Terach.
Those who love Hashem, hate evil. Don’t be indifferent to acts of desecration.
Hashem burnt the top third of the tower, sank the bottom third underground, and the middle third remains. The tower was so high that if you stood on top of the remaining third, the tall palm trees seemed like tiny grasshoppers.
Even though the 'Dor HaFlaga '(Generation of Dispersion) was much worse than the 'Dor HaMabul' (Generation of the Flood) they were spared. For what reason??
They worked together and were friendly with each other.
Avram was born 10 generations after Noach. He discovered that Hashem is G-d of the world. Despite the opposition from the whole world, he remained firm.LESSON:
If you know you’re right, stick to your guns.MARVELOUS MEDRASH:
Avram used pure logic to win people over to believing in Hashem.
When Avram took over his father’s store of idols, he was confronted by an impressive looking man. "Sell me an idol; one that befits my status."
Avram presented to him a large, bold idol.
“How old are you?” Avram asked the customer.
"I’m 50 years old." Avram responded, “Aren’t you ashamed to worship an idol my father built just yesterday?”
The man left in shame.
A woman came to replace her “gods” that had been stolen the previous night. Avram asked, “If your gods couldn’t protect themselves, of what benefit can they be to you?”
“Who shall I serve?” asked the woman.
“The Creator of heaven and earth and all its inhabitants!”
Another woman donated a bowl of flour as an offering for the gods. Avram smashed the idols with an ax which he then placed beside the tallest idol, which remained untouched. When his father, Terach, saw this, he asked his son, "What happened"? Avram answered, “All the idols debated as to which one should get the bowl of flour brought by the woman. The biggest one smashed the smaller ones with that ax.”
Terach angrily responded, "What nonsense are you speaking, Idols can't speak or move!" “Father, listen to your words. If they can’t speak or move, why do you serve them? They are worthless.” Avram passed the first of what would be ten tests. The denial of idolatry and the belief in Hashem.
Terach reported to King Nimrod that his son, Avram, was a rebel. Avram stood up to King Nimrod, proclaiming his belief in Hashem. Avram was imprisoned for ten years and thrown into a huge furnace of burning wood. After three days, the doors were opened and Avram was walking around in the furnace unharmed. An angel told Avram to leave the furnace. Nimrod fearfully asked Avram, How is it that you are still alive? Avram answered, "Hashem saved me." Nimrod along with the others, bowed down to Avram. Avram said, "Don’t bow down to me, but rather to Hashem." When Haran (Avram’s brother) saw how Avram succeeded, he then wanted to be on the winning side, so he threw himself into the furnace but he got burned.LESSON:
We choose to be on G-d’s side when times are good and when times are bad. Remain firm in your belief- Emunah, because even when it seems like we’re not winners, we really are and will always be. Before Moshiach comes, there will be a huge string held on each end of the world and swing violently back and forth. Only those of us who hold on tightly will make it and merit to see Moshiach. At times, it appears that Klal Yisroel aren’t the “winners.” We must reaffirm our belief when we read on Friday night: “When the wicked bloom like grass and all the doers of sin blossom, it is to destroy them for eternity.”
Avram’s Kiddush Hashem paved the way for all future generations till the end of days. Countless simple or even non religious Jews gave up their lives in the most self-sacrificing ways for Hashem. How can we understand this phenomenon? It’s the strength from Avram at Ur Kasdim, when he was willing to give his life for Hashem, that gives his descendants the ability to do the same.STORY:
There was a Jewish butcher that lived in Europe during the beginning of the Holocaust. He was so far removed from Yiddishkeit that no one in the town would have guessed he was a Jew. He lived his entire life without any trace of his Jewish roots. One day, there was a big commotion in the town. He asked the customers in his store what was going on. “Oh nothing, they’re just gathering some Jews in the back of town to shoot them.” The butcher ran out of his store and screamed, “You’re shooting Jews? I’m Jewish. You'll have to shoot me too!”LESSON:
There are countless stories like this. Most we don’t know about. There is a holy spark within a Jew, however small, that ignites and rises to the occasion, even to the point of self-sacrifice for the sake of being Jewish. We would all give up our lives for being Jewish (if it was necessary, G-d Forbid). Everyday, though, we can give our lives to be Jewish.
Avram married Haran’s daughter, Sarai. She was ten years younger than her uncle and husband but equal in righteousness and greater in prophesy. Avram and Sarai were childless. When Avram was 75 years old, he was commanded to leave Charan to travel to Eretz Yisroel. While Avram was in Charan, he held public assemblies speaking to people about Hashem. He gained tens of thousands of followers.LESSON:
The Mitzvah of loving Hashem is fulfilled by bringing others closer to His Mitzvot. Let’s try to have a positive impact on other Jews and bring them closer to Hashem.Good Shabbos
© 1998 by R' Matis Friedman, H.A.F.T.R.
R' Matis Friedman's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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