Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Torah Portion:    Noach (Genesis 6:9 – 11:32)

Cheshvan 6, 5781

Mystical Tour

Sensitivity to Another’s Needs
by Rabbi Max Weiman
When the Torah says, “Noah was righteous in his generation,” it’s sort of a backhanded compliment. Yes, he was righteous, but only in comparison to the people of “his generation,” people who were very bad. Noah rose above his surroundings and this is no easy task. But objectively speaking, he wasn’t perfectly holy, just much better than the rest.
Another curious thing about the story of the Flood is the necessity for Noah to live on a boat and take care of tons of animals for all that time. If God had wanted, He could have obliterated the world in any manner, in a millisecond. Why does God torture Noah by forcing him to live this way, constantly caring for all these species with all their different and various needs for the entire year that Noah was on the Ark?  Perhaps there was something lacking in Noah’s character that was being fixed by this situation.
The verse in Psalms 145:16 says, “You (God) open Your hand, and satisfy the desire of every living thing.” What is the metaphor of the “open hand”?
When the hand is closed, it appears as if all the fingers are the same size. When the hand is open, we see they are slightly different.
God notices the needs of each individual living thing. They are not bottles in a factory.
By forcing Noah to take care of all these animals, God was getting him to notice the needs of the individual. Each animal needs something different, requiring different types of food and at different times. Through the difficulty of the labor involved, Noah’s character was molded into a sensitive caregiver.
There are many commandments in the Torah, both dos and don’ts. Some are easy to relate to and some are more difficult. One in particular is very baffling – the command to be like the Almighty (see Deuteronomy 28:9). Who are we to imitate the Divine? Yet this is what He demands.
There are many ways to come close to the Infinite; in fact all the commandments do this to a greater or a lesser extent. Each and every mitzvah is a path or element of Godliness that we emulate by fulfilling the command. But what about this specific mitzvah to “be like God”?
One way is to focus on what the Psalmist accentuated. Just as God notices the needs of each individual being, so too we should try to develop this same sensitivity and desire to give.
“A righteous person knows the personality of his animal.” (Proverbs 12:10)
To be sensitive to another is not always easy, especially if we don’t speak the same language. It takes extra intuition, and the ability to notice tiny details. It also takes the desire to want to know another’s needs.
For those of us who are oblivious, Jewish law tells us to feed our animal before we feed ourselves. If we were sensitive, we’d do that naturally. Our animal is dependent on us, so we should take care of its needs before ours. That’s common sense…
Great sages from the Talmudic era (100 B.C.E. – 200 C.E.) like Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai were said to be able to understand the “chatter of date palms.” This sensitivity might be thought of as a little far-fetched, unless you’ve seen the research of The Secret Life of Plants by Tompkins and Bird.
Numerous scientific experiments have detected a form of expression and emotions in plants. They “scream,” even though we cannot hear it. But if you were truly in tune with the plant, you should be able to sense it.
I have a friend who has lots of plants, and each one has a name. She says the plants tell her things like “I want water” or “I need sun.” Is my friend deluded, or does she have a highly developed sensitivity that allows her to “hear” their needs?
The world of the spirit is very different from our physical world. We see definitions and division, and are comfortable with labels that separate us from others. Reform, Conservative, Orthodox. Black. White. Asian. American. French.
At the soul level, we are all one. There are no barriers.
When we develop a sensitivity to look past the superficial and at the deeper needs, we become more like the Infinite. We are able to see what the eye does not see. Practice this habit of trying to ascertain a deeper level of understanding with people, animals, or even plants. You will become adept at many areas of spiritual concern.
Spiritual Exercise:
This week, choose one person and ask your intuition: What are one or two of this person’s deeper needs? What is he/she seeking? What does he/she want out of life?
It will open up a beautiful window to the soul.

The Correct Direction

by Rabbi Yehoshua Berman
Where Noah Went Wrong
The Great Flood resulted in the utter and total destruction of the entirety of civilization and of all life. The only exception was Noach and his family because “with Hashem [did] Noach walk (6:9);” and, as such, he merited that he and his family were spared from the destruction. However, there is much more to the saga of Noach’s salvation than meets the eye. The Torah portion describes the desolation of the world and how only Noach remained. Then the Torah says, “And the Almighty remembered Noach…and the Almighty passed a wind upon the earth and the waters calmed (8:1).”
Rabbi Yaakov Weinberg zt”l explained that the Torah’s usage of the concept of remembering in reference to Hashem is an expression of judgment. Meaning, that Hashem takes something under consideration (as it were) in order to decide what to do with it.
In our context, this is quite revealing: that Noach and his family should be spared from annihilation is one thing, but that they should be privileged to leave the ark and start anew in rebuilding the world — that already requires a separate judgment.  The outcome is that Hashem commands Noach to leave the ark with his family and all the animals and to begin rebuilding the world. Talk about a fresh plot of Land!
Noach has before him the opportunity of a billion lifetimes — to determine the course and direction of all world history! The previous civilization was destroyed because it became completely perverse and corrupt. Now, Noach is given the opportunity to oversee and direct the founding of a new and better world. What an awesome responsibility!
Although Noach started off on the right foot by offering sacrifices to Hashem (to which Hashem responded with establishing the rainbow as the eternal sign of the covenant that He would never again destroy the world); we find that, subsequently, Noach made a terrible mistake, as we see from the following pasuk: “And Noach, the man of the land, began and he planted a vineyard. And he drank from the wine and he became drunk and he became uncovered in the midst of his tent (9:20-21).”
Rashi explains that the Hebrew word for “and he began” — va’ya’chel — has the same root as the word chulin, which means mundane or profane. Noach made himself profane because he should have chosen to plant something else. This is further emphasized by that fact that the Torah refers to Noach as the man of the land, which is an indication that he became too involved with the material realm and physicality for someone of his stature and standing.
Noach planted a vineyard. While it is true that wine has many benefits for mankind, it nonetheless remains, for the most part, a beverage for enjoyment. Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with man experiencing enjoyment. In fact, when experienced in the proper manner and for the right purpose, enjoyment can be a very worthwhile activity. For example, one who eats delectable delicacies on Shabbos to express the significance of the day is doing a great mitzvah.
Certainly though, corporeal pleasure that serves the purpose of entrenching man in mundane materialism is quite negative indeed. All the more so when it comes to the man who has the obligation to found the building blocks of the new world! How great must his concern be with the long-term wellbeing of civilization?!
Hashem did not create us to use the world as a free-for-all of uninhibited indulgence. Rather, we are expected to utilize the physical potential of the world for a greater purpose. That greater purpose is the service of the Almighty. When we build schools to give our children a proper Jewish education, we are achieving that purpose. When we use our resources to perform acts of charity and kindness, we are achieving that purpose; and so on and so forth.
We must learn from Noach and not repeat his mistake. In our lives, we are constantly coming across the fresh plots of earth that are just waiting to be tilled, and it is up to us to decide what to plant in them. The opportunities are abundant and we must utilize them to achieve the task that we have been given to accomplish in this world — to serve Hashem.

Family Parsha
Big and Small Stealing
by Nesanel Yoel Safran
To steal a little is to steal a lot. One of the main causes of society’s collapse in Noah’s time was that people used to steal little things from each other, telling themselves that it was okay. They also knew they wouldn’t get in trouble if they got caught (Gen. 6:11). But all this ‘little’ stealing turned them into dishonest people. We can learn from their mistake not to take things — big or small — that don’t belong to us.
Jaw Breaker
“I made these for my friend,” Sarah said, placing a tray of delicious looking chocolate covered peanut butter balls on the kitchen counter, “and nobody’s allowed to touch them.” She gave Jenna, Alan and Steve one of her big sister ‘I mean it’ looks and ran out to the garage where their mom was waiting to drive Sarah to the train station to meet her special, out-of-town friend.
All was going well, until Jenna noticed Steve chewing something.
“Hey, whatcha eating? Anything good — I’m hungry too.”
“Nah,” Steve shrugged.
But Alan wasn’t fooled. “Hey, I smell peanut butter on your breath! You didn’t swipe one of Sarah’s choco balls, did you?”
Steve just grinned. Alan and Jenna, followed by Steve ran into the kitchen, but the tray looked as full as before.
“I don’t get it,” Alan said.
“What’s not to get?” Steve smirked. “There are so many of them. Who would ever even notice if just one was missing? You didn’t!”
“You have a good point,” Alan said, popping one into his mouth.
“Hey, that’s stealing!” Jenna said. “Sarah bought all the ingredients with her own money and made them herself.”
“Oh, come on,” Steve countered. “Something so small is not called stealing. It’s just ‘tasting’.”
“Yeah,” Alan winked, “almost like ‘borrowing’ … and they taste real good.”
Jenna shot her brothers a frown and shooed them out of the kitchen. She was about to follow when something about the combination of Steve’s ‘logic’ and the wafting chocolate-peanut butter smell slowed down her footsteps. There really were a lot there … way more than enough for just Sarah and her friend. She wouldn’t be stealing one — just ‘sampling’ one, she thought as it melted in her mouth.
Sarah’s friend’s train must have been late, because as the afternoon whittled by, each time Steve — and soon his two buddies who came by, or Alan and his friend had reason to pass by the kitchen, just one little choco-ball (each) seemed to disappear off the plate. Even Jenna herself had to admit that her occasional ‘samples’ had turned into quite a sampler. No one knew how it happened, but by the time she and her brothers heard the car pull into the garage there were only two measly little balls left on the whole tray.
The kids looked at each other. “We’re gonna get it big time,” Steve said, shaking his head.
“Oh no!” said Alan.
“How did we ever do that?” Jenna gasped.
No one said it, because they didn’t have to, but to all of the kids it was crystal clear that not even one of the sweet confections — which now were making them feel so bitter with regret — were ever theirs to take and the nearly entire plate’s worth hadn’t been ‘sampled’, ‘tasted’ or ‘borrowed’ — they had been stolen.
Discussion Questions
Ages 3-5
Q. How did the kids feel about taking the treats at first?
A. The felt like it was okay to take a little.
Q. How did they feel in the end?
A. They saw that it had really been stealing and was wrong.
Ages 6-9
Q. What life-lesson do you think the kids learned that day?
A. Because what they were taking was small and there were a lot of them they had convinced themselves it wasn’t stealing, but after it all added up and they saw what they did, they realized that stealing is stealing, whether it’s a little or a lot.
Q. Do you think their older sister did anything wrong by leaving the confections out where her siblings could get to them so easily?
A. While we should really try not to put a ‘stumbling block’ in front of people, tempting them to do wrong, nevertheless, it didn’t justify taking what didn’t belong to them.
Ages 10 and Up
Q. Our sages teach that nearly everyone steals. What do you think that means?
A. Of course, not everyone puts on a mask and commits armed robbery, nor do they shoplift. However, there are so many subtle ways that a person can rationalize taking, pilfering or using something not his that it’s almost impossible not to cross the line of stealing.
Q. Why do you think stealing caused society to go so downhill in Noah’s times that civilization was destroyed?
A. A basic necessity of a stable society is trust between its members and a feeling of security in one’s possessions. Once society has so far fallen — through rampant theft and dishonesty — that this trust has eroded, it’s only a matter of time that a civilization, whether through the Biblical flood or other means, will collapse.

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“A day without laughter, is a day wasted” — Charlie Chaplin

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Shloimi was complaining to his Rabbi how difficult a time he was having in disciplining his teenage son. “When I was a kid and I did something wrong, my parents sent me to my room without supper. But my son has his own flat screen TV, smartphone, computer, and video game system in his room!”
“So how do you handle it?” the Rabbi asked.
“I send him to MY room!”

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