A Successful Failure
By Rabbi Shalom Shapiro
ולא מצאה היונה מנוח לכף רגלה ותשב אליו אל התבה כי מים על פני כל הארץ וישלח ידו ויקחה ויבא אתה אליו אל התבה
But the dove found no resting place for the sole of its foot, so it returned to him to the ark because there was water upon the entire surface of the earth. So he stretched forth his hand and took it, and he brought it to him to the ark. (Bereishit 8:9)
Why does the Torah point out that Noach extended himself to bring the dove back into the ark? Why didn’t it just fly back home?
Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin (1816-1893), otherwise known as the Netziv, points out that because the dove was not successful in its mission and returned without anything in its mouth, it thought that its master would be angry and not allow it to enter the ark. Noach, however, had compassion on the dove and took it in his hand to warm while it rested from the travails of her journey.
Even though the dove “found no resting place for the sole of its foot” — in other words it did not succeed in its mission — Noach treated it with compassion, and extended his hand to return the exhausted bird to its home.
In the eyes of the Almighty, it is the effort, not the result that counts. How often do we do everything seemingly right, yet it ends in failure? This idea is apparent in today’s turbulent financial times, where we clearly see that success, or lack of success, is completely in the Almighty’s hands. With regard to spiritual pursuits, it is our responsibility to do our utmost, and we are rewarded accordingly.
A noted lecturer illustrated this idea with the following anecdote:
Dr. Levi was a famous heart surgeon who took his job very seriously. He made sure to keep abreast of all the latest medical developments and to be well rested and alert before beginning surgery. But although he took every possible precaution and reviewed all of Mr. Paloni’s tests and x-rays prior to the operation, Mr. Paloni’s heart stopped suddenly just minutes after beginning surgery, and he died on the operating table.
Dr. Simon was also a famous heart surgeon, but he did not take his job seriously. He laughed at those doctors who wasted their precious time reading medical journals. “After all,” he’d say, “after six years of medical school I should know what I’m doing.” A late night person, he often had to take a break during surgery to down a quick cup of coffee. The night before Mr. Almoni’s operation had been a particularly late one, and the good doctor was exhausted even before he made the first incision. Although he performed the surgery while half asleep, it was incredibly successful, and Mr. Almoni was given a new lease on life.
Although it appears that Dr. Levi failed while Dr. Simon succeeded, in the eyes of G-d it is completely the opposite. Dr. Simon failed — he was lax in his duties — while Dr. Levi was successful, as he did everything humanly possible to succeed.
Just as G-d treats us with compassion and rewards us for our efforts rather than for our accomplishments, we should treat others in the same way. If we ask someone to do something for us, and that person tries yet is unsuccessful, we should behave with compassion and treat him as if he had succeeded in his mission.
facts of life: take this serious
Noach, The Perfect Tzaddik With Imperfect Children
The Torah calls Noach a tzaddik, but not only that, he is called a tzaddik Tamim, complete and perfect. The very next pasuk tells us that Noach had three sons, Shem, Cham, and Yafet. Cham as we all know was a Rasha. Can a father of a Rasha be called perfect. Is this Rasha son in no way a reflection on him and a stain on his record?
The beginning of the pasuk starts, “Eileh Toldot Noach, Noach”, the offspring of Noach was Noach. A Mashal is given about a father who works night and day and earns more money than he needs to live. When asked why he doesn’t retire, he replies that he is working for the next generation. Fast forward 20 years to a hard working young man, the rich heir to his father’s sweat a blood. Why does he work? For the next generation of course! This repeats itself generation after generation. Will any of them ever stop and do something useful with their life after accumulating seven generations of wealth that is just sitting in the bank?
Noach did not live for his children. His “baby” was himself. He worked on himself to reach perfection. Does that mean that he didn’t care about his kids? Chas V’Shalom! The next words of the pasuk are “Ish Tzaddik”. Noach was a tzaddik. A tzaddik is selfless. He lives to give to the world. Yosef was called a tzaddik as he supported the entire world through the years of famine, as did Noach in the Teivah. This seems like a contradiction. On one hand Noach lived for himself and on the other hand he was selfless and lived for others.
The answer may lie in the distinction of what one does for his children and why he does it. When raising children there are two possible driving forces. One because the child is our child and we live through them. They are an extension of us and we see them as the ultimate reflection of ourselves. We try to shape the children how we’d like ourselves to be. This approach has more to do with ego than being a true parent and guardian of the Neshama that Hashem has entrusted us with.
The Torah approach is that raising children is just another Mitzva that Hashem has sent our way. It is a way of fulfilling his command and making ourselves a better people by doing this. As Rav Shimshon Pincus writes, we are not placed in this world to change the world, it is Hashem’s world and He will shape it as he wants, with or without our help. We are here to shape ourselves into the perfect human being. This is something that Hashem cannot do since He gave us Bechira, free choice.
By the same token our children have free choice and we cannot “make them” into anything. We are commanded, as part of our own self betterment, to help others grow to the best they can be. If we have made this effort then we have done our job to perfection.
Noach lived his life to perfection. Eileh Toldot Noach Noach, he worked on Noach. In the course of his work he was a tzaddik, he devoted himself to the others, including his three sons, the entire human race (before the Mabul), and the entire animal population (during the Mabul). “Tamim Haya B’Dorotav”, he achived perfection as he fulfilled his task completely, despite the fact that, “VaYoled Noach Shlosha Banim Et Shem Et Cham V’Et Yafet”. True they did not all turn out to be tzaddikim but in no way does that detract from Noach’s perfection. He did his job perfectly!
First Aliyah:While society as a whole descended into a state of anarchy and utter corruption, only Noach remained righteous and faithful to G‑d’s ways. Noach was informed by G‑d that a mabul (“flood”) will soon destroy all of civilization, and only Noach and his immediate family would survive in a teivah(“ark,” boat) that he was to build. G‑d gave Noach the exact dimensions of the teivah he was to build, and commanded Noach to bring along into the teivah specimens of every species of animal and bird to repopulate the world after the mabul, and to stock the boat with food to feed all its inhabitants.
Second Aliyah: Of kosher animals and birds, Noach was commanded to take seven pairs of each species (as opposed to one pair of all other species). Noach, his family, and the required animals boarded the teivah and the mabul began: “The springs of the great depths burst forth and the windows of the heavens opened.”
Third Aliyah: The heavy rains lasted for forty days and nights. The waters rose to great heights and covered even the highest mountains, killing all humans and animals; everything died aside for Noach and the other occupants of the teivah. After the waters raged on the earth another 150 days, G‑d caused the waters to subside. The teivah eventually rested on the Ararat Mountains, and shortly thereafter the mountain peaks came into view. Noach opened the window of the teivah and dispatched birds to see whether it was time to leave the teivah. First he sent a raven, which refused to execute its mission and just circled the ark. He then sent out a dove. On its third attempt the dove went and did not return, signaling that the earth was once again habitable. After one full year in the teivah, the earth had dried.
Fourth Aliyah: G‑d commanded Noach to leave the teivah, along with all his fellow teivah-mates. Noach built an altar and offered sacrifices. This pleased G‑d, who then promised to never again curse the earth as He had just done. Instead, the regular seasons (which had not functioned during the year of the mabul) would continue perpetually. G‑d then blessed Noach and his sons: “Be fruitful and multiply upon the earth.” G‑d allowed mankind to eat meat, but prohibited murder, suicide, and the consumption of a limb ripped from a living animal.
Fifth Aliyah: G‑d told Noach that he is establishing a covenant to never again bring a flood to destroy the world. G‑d designated the rainbow as the sign of this covenant: “And it shall come to pass, when I cause clouds to come upon the earth, that the rainbow will appear in the cloud. And I will remember My covenant…”
Sixth Aliyah: Noach planted a vineyard, made wine, became drunk and fell into a deep drunken slumber — while naked. Noach’s son, Ham, saw his father naked, assaulted him, and informed his two brothers of their father’s state. The brothers, Shem and yafet, modestly approached their father and covered him. When Noach awakened, he cursed Ham’s son, Canaan, and blessed Shem and yafet. This section then names Noach’s seventy grandsons and great-grandsons, the antecedents of the “seventy nations,” and their adopted homelands.
Seventh Aliyah: This section recounts the story of the Tower of Babel. Noach’s descendants gathered in the Babylonian valley and started building a tower, in an attempt to reach the heavens and battle G‑d. G‑d disrupted their “plan” by causing them each to speak a different language, thus destroying their communications. This caused them to disperse and settle in different lands. The Torah then lists the ten generations of Shem’s descendants. The tenth generation is Avram (later to be known as Avraham), who married Sarai (later to be known as Sarah).
A man called, furious about an Orlando, Florida, vacation package we had booked for him: He was expecting an ocean-view hotel room. I explained that was not possible, since Orlando is in the middle of the state. “Don’t lie to me,” he said. “I looked on the map, and Florida is a very thin state.”
The DMV was as crowded and noisy as ever. When I finally got to the window, I asked the clerk, “Does the never-ending line of loud people ever drive you crazy?”
She shook her head. “We call it job security.”
something to think about
Home Alone – Avraham made men; Noach made wine
By Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
Noach just does not quite make it. In spite of the fact that he almost single-handedly saved the world, fed it, and cultivated a new lease on life for an otherwise obliterated planet, he hardly gets the fame and recognition that his antecedents, Avraham, yitzchok, and Yaakov receive. In fact, Noach’s biography is summed up in this week’s reading, “And He blotted out the entire species form the earth, and Noach remained — alone.” (Genesis 7:23) Noach leads the lonely existence of the sole survivor, and his place in history, especially in Jewish history, is hardly monumental. What is the flaw that limits Noach to stature that is much less than patriarchal? Why isn’t the sole savior of humanity counted with the great acclamation that is bestowed upon our forefathers? Why isn’t Noach considered the first, if not foremost, of our forefathers?
Despite overt differences between Avraham and Noach there is one small incident that would seemingly link the two leaders — they both planted. In Genesis 9:21 the Torah tells us, “And Noach the man of the earth planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became drunk.” Avraham also planted. In Genesis 21:33 the Torah relates, “And Avraham planted an eshel in Beer-sheva.” Rashi comments that there are conflicting views as to the exact interpretation of eshel. Some explain that Avraham planted an orchard intending to feed hungry wayfarers. Others explain that an eshel is an inn. Avraham built a lodge for travelers to rest.
No matter which interpretation appeals to you, the stark contrast between Noach and Avraham is obvious. Avraham plants for others, Noach for himself. Abraham’s goal in life was to educate, nurture, and teach other people about Hashem. Noach, on the other hand, was predicting doom as he built an ark for more than a century, yet he was not able to recruit a single passenger. He leaves the ark and gets drunk — lost in his own world.
One of America’s largest kosher confectioners was a major supporter of Beth Medrash Govoah, the Yeshiva and Kollel founded by the late Rabbi Aaron Kotler and led for twenty years by his late son Rabbi Shneur Kotler. At one major national function this industrialist had the occasion to introduce Reb Shneur. He did so in a most unique manner.
“Actually,” he proclaimed, “both Reb Shneur and I have much in common. We both went to cheder in Europe, survived the war, and now we both run major institutions. We provide the public with an excellent product, one that is both sweet and enjoyable. Many people stand in line to speak to me, and many wait in line to speak to the Rabbi. We both are well known and try hard to help others.
“However there is one major difference between us.” The magnate paused and smiled. “I make lollipops and Rabbi Kotler makes men.”
We all produce. The question that we all must ask ourselves is “who are we producing for?” Are we generating fruit that will be used to benefit mankind, or are we providing ourselves with fruit for self- indulgence?
Noach had the opportunity to save many more lives. He could have been the father of mankind and perhaps, as a man who had direct contact with the Creator, could have replaced Avraham as the founder of Judaism.
Despite his personal greatness, and an abiltity to overcome the terrible tide of corruption and immorality that condemned his generation, Noach still did not take advantage of a momentous opportunity. He was not able to nurture and save his generation. “And Noach remained alone.” He became drunk. Avraham planted an orchard of generosity. He flourished. Avraham made men; Noach made wine.