Past Weekly Shabbat Message
Rabbi Dovid Saks
(Torah Portion Noach ) Extra Time!
Lemech was the ninth generation after creation. His son, who was the tenth generation, was named Noach. The Torah tells us that this name was prophetically inspired, for the name Noach means relief and was an indication that Noach would bring relief to society. Our Sages tell us that until Noach, the land produced thorns and thistles because it was cursed due to Adam and Eve's sin of eating from the forbidden fruit of the Tree of Knowledge. This curse came to a halt with Noach's birth and additionally Noach invented the plow which expedited the work in the field.
This innovative advancement also had a drawback. People had more time on their hands and instead of utilizing their extra time productively, society became involved in idolatry, promiscuous behavior and stealing. Society declined to such a degree that G-d decided to destroy all His creations through a massive flood.
Noach stood out due to his righteousness and G-d commanded him to build an enormous vessel. G-d gave Noach specific dimensions and the type of wood and water resistant materials he was to use in building the ark.
It took Noach 120 years to construct the ark. During this time people asked Noach what he was doing and Noach told them that G-d planned to destroy the world if they would continue their abhorrent behavior. Noach's warnings did not get through to them.
Although the time for the flood to begin came, G-d postponed it for an additional seven days in respect for the death of the righteous Mesushelach. G-d granted this extra time out of compassion, hoping the people would change their evil ways and habits and prevent the flood.
Even when the flood's rain began, the Torah calls it Geshem - rain - for it began raining the type of rain associated with blessings, for G-d still hoped people would wake up and realize the truth of Noach's warnings. Only after the people refused to repent and tried to prevent Noach and his family from entering the ark did the fierceness of the flood begin. G-d in His gracefulness and mercy gave plenty of opportunities for the people to change their ways and prevent the flood.
It is difficult to imagine how Noach felt during the year that he and his family were in the ark. It must have been extremely frightening to know that the world was being destroyed, and he must have been overwhelmed with the enormity of the task of keeping all of G-d's creations, including his family and all the animals, fed and alive.
The Medrash relates a conversation that Avraham had with Shem the son of Noach. Avraham asked Shem which merit enabled him to emerge from the ark? Shem answered, "In the merit of the Tzadakah we did by sustaining all the animals." In fact, Noach and his family did not have a decent sleep for the entire year due to their responsibility to feed all the different animals with their different eating times and patterns. Once, Noach was late bringing food to the lion and the enraged lion clawed and wounded him.
Avraham became inspired and said, "If they emerged from the ark due to the Tzadakah they performed for the animals, surely if I perform Tzadakah for human beings who are created in the image of G-d, feeding them and introducing them to the monotheistic belief in G-d, I will achieve my ultimate purpose." Charged with this idea, Avraham established a hostel where he provided food and lodging without charge.
The Medrash contrasts Noach with our leader Moshe. When the Torah introduces Noach it states that he was a righteous G-dly person, but after the flood the Torah calls him "a man of the earth" and relates that he planted a vineyard and became drunk.
Although Noach started off righteous and merited communicating with G-d and given the awesome responsibility of sustaining all living creations and saw the countless miracles, he did not strive to continually rise in his levels of righteousness.
Moshe on the other hand, before he was appointed leader of the Jewish people, was described by his future wife Tzipora, as "an Egyptian who saved me." However, at the end of Moshe's life, the Torah calls him "a man of G-d." Moshe continually ascended and built upon the levels of spirituality and closeness to G-d that he had reached. Moshe is thus remembered for his accomplishments. We must also continually strive for greater heights in our connectivity to G-d.
The Zohar, our Kaballah, tells us something very interesting about Noach's name. The word Noach is associated with the word Vayanach - which means "he rested" thus it is a reminder that G-d rested on the Seventh day of creation. Noach is the first person mentioned in the Torah with a link to the Shabbos. Commentaries point out that the Torah says that Noach was so named because "This one will bring us rest from our work and from the toil of our hands." This also relates to our weekly Shabbos where we rest from the toil of our hands.
How appropriate it is that this Shabbos has been designated as a Shabbos where Jews all over the world will unite to keep a full Shabbos!
Check out www.theshabbosproject.org #KeepingItTogether
Wishing you a most enjoyable & uplifting Shabbos
Rabbi Dovid Saks