Beit Midrash

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The Jewish Way is Not Noach’s Way


Rabbi Shaul Yisraeli zt"l

Tishrei 29 5780
The navi calls the mabul (Great Flood), "the waters of Noach." The Zohar explains that he was thereby blamed somewhat for not asking for Hashem’s mercy for the generation. The midrash (Yalkut Shimoni V’Zot Haberacha 951) tells the story of a disagreement attributed to Noach and Moshe. Noach said: I am greater than you, for I was saved from the generation of the mabul. Moshe responded: You saved yourself and did not have the strength to save your generation. But I was able to be responsible for: "Hashem regretted the bad plans that He said He would do to His nation." This is like the case of two ships in the sea – in one case, the captain saved himself, and in the other, the captain saved himself and the ship.

The righteous person in Judaism does not suffice with someone staying in his "comfort zone" and saving himself. Moshe said: "Moshe and a hundred like him can die, and let not one person from Israel be hurt in his fingernail" (Devarim Rabba Ki Tavo 10). Moshe knew his worth and importance to Bnei Yisrael and still was not concerned about his own safety, spiritual or physical, if he had the opportunity to help others.

There was a horrible occurrence recently that shakes one who hears about it. In one of the agricultural communities in the Sharon region, a sefer Torah was brazenly defiled. It makes us think: how is it possible for a Jew to stoop so low? On second thought, it makes one think if we are not also to blame. Maybe we also do not respect a sefer Torah sufficiently, which is what allows someone else to take the matter so far as to do what this person did.

Life is made up of introduction after introduction. Even Simchat Torah, with all of its varieties of excitement, is a preparation for the days of action – the days of learning in yeshiva, with the hope of elevating ourselves. "They shall draw water in happiness" (Yeshayahu 12:3). We should not be satisfied with what we have. Rather, we should always strive for further elevation. If one does not go up, he goes down, and, in fact, even remaining stationary is a fall, considering one’s potential.

We are standing before the "days of actions" of your second year in yeshiva. You achieved a lot in your first year, but you can achieve even more in this second year. After all, you have grown and have more of a basis of knowledge. You are no longer those youngsters who had trouble with the gemara’s text. There are greater demands, because there is greater responsibility.

An individual who learns not only impacts himself, which is also something of great value, but rather the whole world benefits from him. The influence of those who learn Torah on their friends is great, and you have responsibility to provide that influence.

There is Torah, and there is the approach to Torah. Greater is one who serves a Torah scholar than one who learns Torah (Berachot 7b) [because he can learn from the scholar’s actions]. Therefore everyone has to be careful about his behavior toward others and strengthen the social fabric of the yeshiva. Help, encourage each other, etc. This is your task now.
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