october 20th 2012
heshvan 4th 5773
Sages, Be Mindful of Your Deeds
by Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
It is written, “Noah went with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives with him, into the Ark because of the waters of the flood” (Bereshith 7:7). Rashi explains this by citing the Sages: “Noah was among those of little faith. He believed and yet did not believe that the flood would come. He did not enter the Ark until pressed upon by the waters” (Yalkut Shimoni, Noah 56).
This is surprising: Is it possible that Noah – to whose righteousness the Torah testifies by stating, “Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations” (Bereshith 6:9) – acted like a man of little faith by doubting in his heart whether G-d’s word would be fulfilled, and whether or not the flood would come?
Furthermore, we do not find that Noah was greatly punished, for Rashi states that Hashem protected him from the generation of the flood, who wanted to destroy the Ark (Rashi on Bereshith 7:17). This means that not only was Noah not punished for failing to truly believe, but on the contrary, Hashem protected him!
We may explain this by saying that in his heart, Noah certainly believed that Hashem’s word would be completely fulfilled, especially after he saw all the animals which had not been corrupted, both near and far, coming to the Ark in pairs (Bereshith 6:20). However he knew that Hashem’s kindnesses are infinite and His mercies without bound (Eicha 3:22), meaning that if the generation of the flood were to think of repenting – even at the last minute, and even if just some of them did – the Holy One, blessed be He, would not bring the flood. When Noah entered the Ark, he told the people of his generation: “You have not repented or listened to my warnings. The decree will be carried out and the flood will come.” It is possible that if Noah’s suspicions and hopes were realized, they would have repented and the flood would have been be avoided. Yet in that case, if he had already entered the Ark, some people would have mistakenly believed that it only proved that all his prophesies and warnings were meaningless, being nothing but lies. That is, they would not draw the connection between the flood being averted and their repentance, theirs or others, thereby resulting in a tremendous Chillul Hashem. In fact it would have seemed as if there were no justice or Judge in the world, and everyone would have done what seemed good in his eyes. That would have resulted in the opposite of what Hashem wanted by averting the flood, He who punishes the wicked and forgives those who truly return to Him.
We find a similar idea with the prophet Jonah, who fled from Hashem when He ordered him to travel to Nineveh and prophesy that it would be destroyed in 40 days (Jonah 3:4). Jonah thought the same as Noah, namely that the inhabitants of Nineveh would repent and the Holy One, blessed be He, would be filled with compassion for them and not destroy the city, meaning that his prophesy would have seemed meaningless. Alternatively, they would doubt his prophesy and think that Hashem had not sent him. The Sages say that the prophet Jonah was among the righteous who gave their lives for the Children of Israel. The book Kesef Nivchar, by the holy Rabbi Yoshiyahu Pinto, discusses this issue at great length.
Hence it mattered little to Noah, who wanted to avoid a desecration of Hashem’s Name, if his contemporaries regarded him as lacking faith, insofar as he entered the Ark at the last possible moment as the waters of the flood forced him in. If they had repented, it would have been clear that the flood had been averted for this reason, and that Hashem had accepted their teshuvah and forgiven them. That is why Noah was not punished, since the fact that he did not really believe was on account of his love for Hashem, so that Hashem’s Name would not be desecrated on account of his faith.
The prophet Jonah was punished when he fled from Hashem’s order, even though his intentions were pure, as we have explained. This is because Hashem’s will was for the inhabitants of Nineveh to hear his admonishments and to repent, which is exactly what happened, resulting in a sanctification of Hashem’s Name. If Jonah had not admonished them, they would not have repented and would have died on account of their sins. In regards to the generation of the flood, however, G-d knew that because they had not repented up to that point, they would also not repent as Noah was preparing to enter the Ark, which they tried to destroy. The fact that Noah did not hasten to enter the Ark did not delay their repentance, something which Noah did on his own initiative to prevent a desecration of Hashem’s Name.
In light of this explanation, we may understand Noah’s conduct as he entered the Ark. However from what Rashi says, Noah was criticized for this approach. We cannot say that Noah was criticized because his actions led the people of his generation to think that his faith also wavered, for what did it matter what they thought? Let the evildoers be given food and die, since in any case the entire generation was about to perish.
It seems that Noah was criticized for having portrayed himself as someone who had little faith before his son Ham. The latter was righteous as first, but when he saw that his father did not enter the Ark at the same time as the animals, he wondered why he was not hurrying inside. Ham therefore thought that Noah did not believe so much in the flood, believing and yet not really believing that it would come.
This behavior, which Ham saw in his father Noah, aroused doubts in him. True, he had already entered the Ark and the flood was already raging outside, but his faith had already been shaken, which is what pushed him to sin and have relations aboard the Ark (Bereshith Rabba 36:7). Now one sin leads to another, meaning that because of Ham’s sin – committed due to his father’s conduct before entering the Ark – he committed another sin upon leaving the Ark, when Noah became drunk and uncovered himself in his tent (Bereshith 9:21). It was Ham who looked upon his naked father and damaged his circumcision.
It is frightening to realize how the tzaddikim must act with tremendous precision in order not to arouse any doubts in others, not even in the weakest among the generation. There was certainly no doubting, no lack of faith, in the righteous Noah. Yet because of his deeds, he caused a great void in the faith of his son Ham.
Here we see just how careful we must be in regards to the education of children, ensuring that they learn nothing harmful from our conduct. We must explain to them why we are doing things that may appear to them as not corresponding to Hashem’s will. In fact Noah was proud of the education of his children, an education that enabled them to resist the influence of the generation of the flood. Yet because Noah did not explain why he delayed in entering the Ark, he caused doubts to arise in his son Ham, to the point that Ham transgressed Hashem’s orders.
Guard Your Tongue
Regarded as G-d’s Friend
If a person will not suffer any financial loss by refusing to speak Lashon Harah, but will simply be humiliated and scorned, then it is clear that he cannot speak it. Indeed, the difficulty of remaining silent should not even be considered. Better for him to be regarded as G-d’s friend, a person whose face will shine like the sun, as the Sages have said: “Concerning those who are insulted but do not insult, who hear themselves reproached without replying…Scripture says: ‘Let those who love Him be like the powerfully rising sun’ [Judges 5:31]” (Yoma 23a).
At the Source
If Only to Feed One Tzaddik
It is written, “He sent forth a raven, and it kept going and returning” (Bereshith 8:7).
We must consider the fact that the Holy One, blessed be He, created ravens and commanded Noah to bring them into the Ark so they could survive on Earth. As long as ravens existed, G-d nourished them and assured their future, millions of ravens from one end of the globe to the other, from the time of Creation until its final destruction. Now the goal of the raven’s creation, and the reason why it was saved from the waters of the flood, lay in the fact that one day ravens would bring food to a tzaddik hiding among caves in the desert. In order for that tzaddik to be fed for a short period of time, the Holy One, blessed be He, fed every raven in the world throughout the existence of the heavens and the earth.
In his book Oznaim LaTorah, the gaon Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin Zatzal writes that from here we can derive a clear response to give to those who refrain from donating money to yeshivot because they say that a large part of this money will go to various costs, as well as to paying the salary of the meshulach [charity collector] and his family. We see that it was worth the effort of feeding every raven that ever existed in the world so that one day, “bread and meat” would be brought to a tzaddik through them.
After Twelve Months
It is written, “After their kind they left the Ark” (Bereshith 8:19).
Rabbi Yochanan’s teaching in the Gemara, “After their kind – but not them” (Sanhedrin 108b) has prompted numerous explanations, including one from the author of Be’er Sheva, who explicitly writes: “I do not understand what this means.”
A nice explanation for this teaching appears in the book Chalukei Avanim, which interprets it according to another statement from the Gemara: “All invertebrates cannot live for twelve months” (Chullin 58a). Since according to tradition (Eduyot 2:10) the punishment of the generation of the flood lasted precisely twelve months, it follows that such creatures died aboard the Ark during that time. Hence only their descendents emerged from the Ark, “after their kind.”
The Fault of the Earth?
It is written, “I will not continue to curse the ground on account of man” (Bereshith 8:21).
We find a marvelous explanation for this in Hafla’ah:
In childhood, man acts immaturely due to the nature of his physical body. Rashi says that because man sinned, the earth was cursed on his account because he was taken from the earth, just as a woman is cursed on account of her child: “Cursed is she who bore such a child.”
As a person grows older, his physical nature should mature to the point that upon leaving childhood he ceases to behave immaturely and cleaves to spirituality, for man’s mind becomes more refined with age.
The reality of the situation, however, is the opposite: The inclination of a person’s heart is even worse than in his youth, which means that his wickedness does not stem from the fact that he is composed of dust. Rather, it is because his evil inclination assails and dominates him. Thus the earth cannot be accused of having placed evil in man, for we see that the opposite is the case: The older man grows, the worse his deeds become.
This is what the verse is saying: “I will not continue to curse the ground on account of man” simply because he was taken from the ground; “for the imagination of man’s heart” – when he is an adult – is more “evil” than in his youth.
Your Fear, Their Fear
It is written, “The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the sky” (Bereshith 9:2).
The book Torat Bnei Issachar explains this verse according to a statement found in Chovot HaLevavot. There we read of a pious man who found a man of faith sleeping in the desert. He asked him, “Are you not afraid of the lion? Why are you sleeping here?” He replied, “I would be ashamed before G-d to fear something besides Him.”
This means that if a man fears Hashem, this fear will cause the fear of him – of man – to be upon all the animals of the earth, which will be scared to attack or harm him. On the contrary, animals will submit to him, as they did to Daniel when he was in the lion’s den, as well as in numerous other cases.
This is the simple meaning of the verse: “The fear of you and the dread of you” – the fact that you possess a fear of G-d; “shall be upon every beast of the earth and upon every bird of the sky.” It will cause them to fear you, and they will be “delivered into your hands.”
In the Light of the Parsha
From the Teachings of the Gaon and Tzaddik Rabbi David Hanania Pinto Shlita
Idleness Leads to Sin
It is written, “Vayachel Noah [And Noah began] to be a man of the earth and planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk, and he uncovered himself within his tent” (Bereshith 9:20-21).
The Midrash links the term vayachel to chol (“profane”), meaning that Noah became profane: “He was degraded [nit’chalel] and debased [chulin]. Why? Because he planted a vineyard. Could he not have planted something useful, such as a young fig-shoot or a young olive-shoot? Instead, he planted a vineyard” (Bereshith Rabba 36:3). This requires an explanation, for there are two issues at play here: First is the fact that Noah became profane, and second is that he did something profane. The first is worse than the second, for a person who does something profane does not necessarily become profane himself. However if a person has become profane, only profane things can emerge from him.
It seems that both issues pertained to Noah: Since he committed a profane act, he himself became profane. In fact the Gemara teaches, “The Holy One, blessed be He, said to Noah: ‘Noah, should you not have learned from Adam, whose transgression was caused by wine?’ This agrees with the view that the tree from which Adam ate was the vine” (Sanhedrin 70a). Now we know that wine is connected to strength (Etz Chaim 33:3), a concept which the Sages allude to by saying: “The strength given by the Torah brings happiness, but the strength given by wine brings woe. This explains, ‘Woe to those who are mighty in drinking wine’ [Isaiah 5:22]” (Bamidbar Rabba 10:8). We also find, “The wicked are also called mighty, as it is written: ‘Woe to those who are mighty in drinking wine’ ” (Shir HaShirim Zutah 1:15).
Since Adam brought misfortune into the world on the eve of Shabbat because of the vine, the Sages instructed us to make kiddush (sanctification) over wine on Friday night in order to weaken the attribute of justice. Since Noah planted a vineyard upon leaving the Ark, he became profane, for G-d had not commanded him to plant any trees. Indeed, G-d Himself would have made them grow. If we ask how Noah could have known this, it was from the fact that the dove returned to the Ark with an olive branch in its mouth. Noah knew that G-d had planted trees that had been uprooted by the waters of the flood, and yet he began to plant all the same. Furthermore, he planted something that he never needed before. He thereby profaned himself, for a tzaddik does not occupy himself with extras, things for which he has no need.
Since Noah profaned himself and wasted his time, idleness led him to sin. He thus became profane and planted a vineyard, rather than something useful. G-d immediately became upset with him, for Noah knew that Adam had sinned on account of the vine, having brought tragedy upon himself and the entire world, as well as death for all the generations. Nevertheless, Noah found nothing better than to occupy himself with a vineyard. What caused him to become profane? It was the fact that he did something profane by wasting his time in useless pursuits.
Concerning the Parsha
It is Men Who Win
It is written, “G-d said to Noah, ‘The end of all flesh has come before Me, for the earth is filled with robbery through them, and behold, I will destroy them from the earth” (Bereshith 6:13).
Rashi cites the famous remark of our Sages, according to whom the decree against the generation of the flood was only sealed due to robbery. Thus the Gemara states, “Rabbi Yochanan said: Come and see how great is the power of robbery. For although the generation of the flood transgressed every law, their punishment was only sealed when they stretched out their hands to rob, as it is written: ‘For the earth is filled with robbery through them, and behold, I will destroy them from the earth’ ” (Sanhedrin 108a).
In fact anyone we call a “thief” is lacking in the basics when it comes to his faith in Hashem. The commentators have already explained the allusions made in regards to the letters aleph, beit, gimel, and delet: Where there is emuna (faith), which begins with an aleph, there is beracha (blessing), which begins with a beit. Yet where there is gezel (theft), which begins with a gimel, it is followed by dalut (poverty), which begins with a dalet. Only the money that a person acquires in an honest way brings blessing and success, and nobody in the world can take that money away.
G-d sometimes wishes to bestow a gift upon a person. Thus he gets up one fine morning and fortune smiles upon him. An example of this once happened in a shopping center in Israel, a story where an interesting halachic question also played a role.
On that particular day, the shopping center was very busy. The shoppers in one store, after choosing what they wanted to buy, lined up at the cash. One of them then started to cough. At first the cough was minor, but it eventually grew worse until the man was spreading his germs on everyone in front of him.
The person lined up directly behind him was annoyed by this coughing, and told him that he should step out of line because he knew very well that his coughing was dangerous for the elderly and children.
The man who was coughing listened to this suggestion without protest. He therefore stepped out of line and waited to the side, allowing the person who had made this suggestion to take his place.
Immediately after Mr. “I’ll-teach-him-a-lesson” paid for his purchases, something happened: The manager of the store approached him with an envelope in hand, and he was followed by a small army of photographers trying to catch every possible shot.
The manager handed him this envelope and solemnly announced that it contained a voucher for 10,000 NIS [about $3,000 US]. He won it because he was the millionth customer in the store!
It’s easy to guess what happened next. The “cougher,” who was standing aside, stopped coughing and tried to claim the voucher, explained that if he hadn’t stepped out of line, he would have received it.
This story was recounted at the table of Rav Zilberstein Shlita, and he was asked for the Torah view on the situation.
In his book Barchi Nafshi, Rav Zilberstein writes: “When I was staying with my brother-in-law, the gaon Rabbi Chaim Kanievsky, I told him that in my opinion, the voucher does not belong to the ‘cougher,’ but rather to the person who made the suggestion to him, since it was forbidden for him to stay in line because his coughing was harmful to others. He therefore had no claim on the voucher. My brother-in-law agreed with this view, though he underlined the harmful nature of the man who was coughing.”
The gaon Rabbi Nissim Karelitz also believed that the “cougher” had no right to the voucher, but for another reason. He explained by saying that “it is men who win, not tickets,” meaning that Divine Providence wanted the cougher not to win, for it prompted him to cough and step out of line. If G-d had wanted him to win, He would not have made him cough so forcefully that he had to step out of line.
Rabbi Nissim cited what the Chafetz Chaim said in regards to a Torah scholar who had been invited to the home of a simple man. Both men had purchased lottery tickets, but the host believed that Heaven certainly wanted to help the scholar, meaning that the scholar’s ticket had a greater chance of winning.
What did he do? After his guest, the Torah scholar, had fallen asleep, the host got up and exchanged their tickets. He placed his ticket into the pocket of the scholar and took the scholar’s ticket for himself.
What eventually happened? The host’s original ticket, which was now in the pocket of the scholar, won the grand prize in the lottery.
The host, faced with such a stinging loss, began making so many confusing excuses that he lost track of them. His explanation? “My ticket fell into your pocket by mistake…and your ticket fell into my pocket by mistake!”
Here the Chafetz Chaim said, “Is it tickets that win? It is men who win! The person whom G-d wishes to enrich will win, for there is nothing beyond Him! Since the host placed his ticket in the pocket of the scholar – and it was precisely that ticket which won the lottery – it clearly means that Heaven wanted it this way. Therefore there is nothing to protest afterwards.”
According to Rabbi Nissim, the same applied to the story in the shopping center: Since G-d arranged things in this way, it clearly meant that the voucher belonged to the second person.
Also, this whole story about the store owners wanting to reward their “millionth customer” seems odd, for we almost never hear of such a thing. It is therefore clear that Divine Providence wanted the second man – the one who told the “cougher” to step out of line – to win the voucher.
Furthermore, was he really the millionth customer? Was there ever any proof of this? It’s clear that the store owners were trying to generate some publicity for themselves, which is why they organized the whole event in this way, bringing in photographers and journalists to report on this intriguing story. It is certainly not clear that he was their actual millionth customer.
All this proves that it was G-d’s will to bestow a gift upon the second man, such that he received the envelope and became the rightful winner.
A Torah of Life
You Made a Golem of Clay (Part II)
In last week’s article we discussed several instances in which animals were created by the Sages of Israel, and we examined the practical halachic questions and consequences that follow from a proof found in the Torah.
In his book Shem HaGedolim, the Chida discusses the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu, the Av Beit Din of Chelm, “who was very skilled in Sefer Yetzirah and had created a man, as his grandson writes. Someone told me that he heard from the son of the gaon and author of Sha’ar Ephraim about the wonders performed by the gaon Eliyahu through authentic Kabbalah ma’asit [practical Kabbalah], during times of absolute necessity and danger. I read in Responsa Ya’avetz that he heard from his father that the Golem created by the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu with Sefer Yetzirah was growing ever larger. He was afraid that it would destroy the world, which is why he removed the Holy Name that was embedded in its forehead, and it returned to dust.”
In the commentary Mikedem LaAyin by Rabbi Shlomo Aharon Wertheimer Zatzal on another book written by the Chida (Midbar Kedemot), the Chida discusses this topic. He notes that one Friday evening, the Golem’s creator had forgotten to remove Hashem’s Name, which he had used to create it, from its mouth. He finally remembered after having recited the words “Mizmor shir leyom haShabbat,” and then removed it and ordered all the faithful in the Beit HaMidrash to repeat these words. Afterwards, the practice of reciting this phase twice began, and to this day it remains the custom in the Prague Beit HaMidrash.
Can a Golem Take Part in a Minyan?
In regards to the halachic status of such a creature, the Chacham Tzvi examined this question in his responsa. He wrote the following: “I doubt whether a man who was created by means of Sefer Yetzirah, like the one mentioned in Sanhedrin and the one connected to the gaon Rabbi Eliyahu, the Av Beit Din of Chelm, can take part in a minyan when ten men are needed, such as when kaddish and kedusha are said. Some claim that since it is written, ‘I will be sanctified among the Children of Israel,’ he cannot take part in it. However perhaps we should consider what is written in Sanhedrin: ‘The five sons of Michal the daughter of Saul, whom she bore to Adriel [II Samuel 21:8]. … Was it Michal who gave birth to them? Surely it was Merav who bore them! However Merav gave birth to them and Michal brought them up, which is why they were called by her name. This teaches that whoever raises an orphan in his home, Scripture considers him to have begotten him’ [Sanhedrin 19b]. It follows that the work of the tzaddikim’s hands are included among the Children of Israel, since the deeds of the tzaddikim are their children.”
The Chacham Tzvi resolves this issue by noting that Rabbi Zeira said, “You who have been created by my friend [i.e., Rabba], return to your dust” (see Sanhedrin 65b), meaning that he killed him. If it had been possible to include him in a minyan, Rabbi Zeira would not have taken him out of this world. True, there is no prohibition against spilling blood in this case, since the verse specifically states: “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man shall his blood be shed” (Bereshith 9:6). This deals with a person who was begotten by a person, meaning that spilling blood only applies to one born of a woman. Now the being created by Rabba was not born of a woman. Whatever the case may be, if he had served a practical purpose, Rabbi Zeira would never have taken him out of this world. From here we conclude that such a being cannot take part in a minyan. Let us mention what the gaon himself, the Ya’avetz, said about the fate of the Golem he created after it had fulfilled the task assigned to it by his grandfather, Rabbi Eliyahu: “I heard from a sanctified mouth [i.e., the Chacham Tzvi] that after watching it grow ever larger, he feared that it would destroy the world. He therefore removed the Holy Name that had been embedded in its forehead, and it returned to dust. However it injured him on the face as he removed the Name.”
According to a tradition among the elders of the Chelm community, “The Golem was hidden in an attic at the entrance of the great synagogue, in the geniza, among torn books and sacred objects that had become unsuitable for use. There he remained, enwrapped in a torn tallit. It is forbidden to go up there because, numerous years ago, a man risked his life by venturing up there to look at some books, and he saw the Golem.”
Elsewhere we find a similar discussion on whether it is permitted to allow a man created by means of Sefer Yetzirah to take part in a minyan. As proof that it is prohibited, I have heard that if not prohibited, then why were Jacob’s nine sons obligated to include Hashem among them as their tenth? They could have simply created a Golem! We may refute this proof, but this is not the place for it (Menachem Tzion, Shem HaGedolim).
In Birkei Yosef (Orach Chaim 55:4), the Chida explains that he saw a letter from the Mahari Lei Katz, the son of the Sha’ar Ephraim, who derived a proof from the incident in which Rabbi Eliezer liberated his slave so he could take part in a minyan. By doing so, he transgressed the positive commandment: “They shall serve you forever.” If it had been possible to make a Golem take part in a minyan, he would have created one by means of Sefer Yetzirah, since Rabbi Eliezer was very powerful, as Midrash HaNe’elam tells us.
The Chida rejects this proof, however, for it is possible that Rabbi Eliezer refrained from doing so due to his piety. Furthermore, creating this Golem would have required a great deal of time, which he may have been lacking. In regards to the Halachah, the Chida concludes by saying:
“There is no doubt that such a man has the same status as a deaf-mute. In fact when such a man is created, the only thing he can do is breathe. He certainly cannot take part in a minyan, for he is like a man who cannot hear or speak, meaning that he does not take part in a minyan.”
Kneaded or Made?
Another interesting halachic view is expressed in Responsa Gueza Ishay, by Rabbi Yehuda Shemuel Ashkenazi:
“I wonder if the Sages, who possessed tremendous power and studied Sefer Yetzirah in order to create a man, could do the same on Shabbat. We may say that since they are doing nothing with their hands by using Sefer Yetzirah, but are creating a man or animal by combining the letters of G-d’s Name, the letters with which the world was created, the Torah does not prohibit this on Shabbat, for it is not work done by their hands. Alternatively, perhaps moving their lips to combine the letters of the Sacred Name, resulting in the creation of a man or animal, transgresses the prohibition against building on Shabbat. Or perhaps it may transgress the prohibition against kneading, which is also forbidden on Shabbat.”