Did you ever stop to imagine what life was like inside of Noah’s ark? There were three floors; the middle floor was filled with a collection of the world’s animals wild, domestic, and otherwise. Birds and critters of all shapes and sizes, vermin and an endless potpourri of creepy crawlers whose pesky descendants bear witness to their survival during that tempestuous period.
Then there was a floor of refuse. There was no recycling center, and no sewage system that I am aware of.
The humans had the top floor. Cramped in an inescapable living space was Noach, his three sons, their wives and one mother-in-law. I think the rest of the scenario can play clearly in our minds. Surely, it was far from easy. What intrigues are the detailed architectural commands that Hashem gave Noach. Hashem details measurements and design for an ark that took 120 years to build! Why? Are there lessons to be learned from the design of the design of the ark? After all, Hashem promised that there will be no more floods. If there are no more floods, then there need not be any more arks. So what difference does it make how it was built. Obviously, there are inherent lessons we can learn from the design of the ark. Let’s look at one.
Noach is told to build a window. It seems practical enough; after all sitting for an entire year can get awfully stuffy. So Noach is commanded to build a window for breathing room. It is a little troubling. Does Noach need a command to add something so simple as a window? Does it make a difference whether or not he had a window? Did that command have to be incorporated into the heavenly plans for an ark that would endure the ravaging flood?
A renowned Rosh Yeshiva, tragically lost his son to a debilitating disease at the prime of his life. Not long married, the son left a widow and a young child. The Rosh Yeshiva and his Rebbitzin were devastated at the loss and the shiva period was a most difficult time.
One of the hundreds of visitors was the Bluzhever Rebbe, Rabbi Yisrael Spira, whose entire family was wiped out during the Holocaust. He sat quietly, taking in the pain of the bereaved family. Finally, when it was time to say something, Rabbi Spira turned to the Rosh Yeshiva and spoke. “Your loss is terrible, but at least your son will have a living remnant, his child. He will also have a resting place and stone where the family can visit. I do not even know where any of my children who were killed by the Nazis are buried.” Then he added, “yet somehow Hashem has given me the strength to rebuild my family and life.” Those words truly helped console the Rosh Yeshiva.
Sometimes when we are locked in our little boxes, we, too, need a window. When we think our world is crumbling and that we are doomed to a fate that is too difficult to bear, Hashem tells us to make a window. Sometimes, in our frustrations we have to look across the globe, or even across the river to know that despite our difficulties, others must endure a more difficult fate. And when we realize that they can endure, whether it is an Og holding on the back of the ark, or struggling with those lost amongst the ruins, we can remember that life inside the ark is not so bad after all.
These are the children on Noach, Noach was a righteous, a perfect man etc. (6:9).
The Midrash (Rabba 30:7) says that throughout the one hundred and twenty years that Noach spent planting and cutting cedar trees to build the Teiva (The Ark), the people of his generation asked him what he was doing. Noach responded that Hashem was planning on bringing a flood that was to wipe out civilization and Noach was preparing a vessel which would save him. The people answered him,” If Hashem is going to bring a flood as you say, the only thing it will destroy is your house!”
The Zera Shimshon asks that how these people could have said such a thing? They knew very well that they were the sinners and that Noach was the righteous one? If so, why would the Mabul only destroy Noach’s house and not the rest of the world that was full of sinners?
The Zera Shimshon answers based on the Zohar (67b) that says that Noach was punished for the fact that he did not pray for the nullification of the decree of the Mabul. This is why the Mabul is named after him (Yeshaya 54)the waters of Noach.
It was for this reason that the people of that generation held that Noach alone was accountable for the flood and that only he should be punished –since he was only one that was able to pray to stop it’s coming. They held that his seemingly indifference to their plight – by not praying and building a Teiva only for himself warranted that only he should be punished and they should be saved.
The Zera Shimshon shows that this idea is seen in a number of other places.
1) Mordechai sent a message to Ester that if she remains quiet when it is her power to argue in defense of the Jews, her house (family name) and the Jewish nation will be saved via another messenger.
2) he Gemara (Ta’anit 11a) teaches that when the community is in trouble and someone separates himself from their pain, when the salvation comes, only those that partook in the pain will enjoy the deliverance.
3) The Gemara (Makkot 11a) says that a person can kill unintentionally largely due to the fact that the Kohen Gadol didn’t pray sufficiently for the people of his generation. This allows the killer’s prayers for the Kohen Gadol to die (so that he can leave the city of refuge) to possibly be answered. For this reason, the mothers of Kohen Gadol would circulate in the Ir Miklat(Cities of refuge) with presents for the killers so that shouldn’t pray for the death of their son. From all these sources the Zera Shimshon culls that when one can pray to avert a bad decree from others and refrains from doing so, he is subject to suffering.
It was this line of reasoning that the people of Noach’s generation followed to place the blame on Noach for not praying for their salvation and that is why they countered him by saying that he was the one deserving of punishment.
To explain Noach’s reasoning why indeed he didn’t pray for his generation, Zera Shimshon offers the following justification.
The Medrash (Rabba 26:10) says that Hashem holds back His wrath on whatever their sin may be, except with the sin of adultery. Noach reasoned that there would no point in his praying since the sins of the generation of the included adultery and Hashem would not nullify or postpone the decree.
The Zera Shimshon, Rav Shimshon Chaim ben Rav Nachmon Michoel Nachmani, was born in 5467 (1706/1707) into an illustrious family with great Rabbinical lineage. He studied the revealed and concealed parts of the Torah by the Torah greats of his day.
CAN WE DO MORE?
Imagine for a moment that you are Noah. You emerge from the Ark to an empty world. There are no animals, no birds, no people. The silence must have been deafening. I cried for hours the first time I was in Birkenau. But for the destruction of all humanity, days and weeks of crying wouldn’t be enough.
It is no surprise that the first thing Noah did was to plant a vineyard and get drunk.
There is a poignant scene near the end of the film Schindler’s Listwhen Oskar Schindler looks at his car and realizes he could have saved 10 more Jews with it. His watch was worth two Jews. His suit — another Jew. Even though he saved so many, he knows that there were still more that he could have plucked from the gas chambers. And the thought is incredibly painful.
There was once a young man who came to a few Aish UK events, and I noticed that he wasn’t happy, but I never approached him. I felt that perhaps I should; but I didn’t. When I heard that he had thrown himself in front of a train, I was devastated. I asked myself: If I had reached out to him, could I have done something? And in my heart of hearts, I knew the answer was yes.
Noah spent 120 years rebuking his generation, trying to save them. But he failed. Could he have done more? When he emerged from his Ark to an utterly dead world, he knew with certainty that he could have.
It’s always easier to know what we could have done after the fact. The trick, of course, is to know beforehand just how much of a difference you are able to make.
Look around and see who needs reaching out to. Don’t say you can’t. Because afterwards you will know that you could have. As painful and as challenging as it is to properly reach out to people around us, it is a heck of a lot better than waiting till it’s too late… and knowing we could have done more.
“How else can you explain the Rabbi’s cell phone working where there was no reception?”
Rabbi Eliyahu Amar in a speech explained a great strategy to silence the prosecution in the Days of Awe. He recounted a story of Rabbi Moshe Moreno and his wife who were saved by a miracle from certain death. They were driving toward their town of Maale Ephraim in the Shomron.
A car was trailing them and shining its bright headlights so Rabbi Moreno allowed the car to pass. This kind gesture was almost the end of the lives of the rabbi and his wife. The car passed and blocked the road. 3 terrorists with automatic rifles came out of the car and started spraying them with gunfire. All the tires were shot out and not one window or windshield was intact. Miraculously, the rabbi and his wife were still alive.
The terrorists finished up their cartridges of bullets spraying them on the car. They ran back to their car to get new cartridges to finish off their murderous work. At that moment the rabbi and his wife took advantage of the ‘temporary cease fire’ and they ran out of the car and threw themselves into the wadi (valley) of the side of the road hoping to find cover in the brush.
They rolled downhill for 30 meters through rocks and thorns getting bruised along the way. Rabbi Moshe even got a bullet in his foot from the terrorists shooting at them in the dark. But in the end the terrorists left and the rabbi and his wife were still alive.
But what could they do in this situation? Their cell phone despite all the gunshots, bumping and rolling was intact in his wife’s pocket. They called the military security in the area which came quickly and whisked them off to the hospital. The security also sealed off the roads and managed to apprehend the terrorists.
A few months later the Rabbi and his wife made a “Thank You” meal to thank G-d for saving their lives from what should have been certain death. One of the rabbi’s family friends spoke emotionally: “The army upon investigating this incident was left with one unanswered question. How did you make a phone call from your cell phone deep in the wadi? There isn’t even any reception on the road where the car was, let alone in the wadi!”
“But I think I know the answer. Rabbi Moreno accepted upon himself to turn off his cell phone upon entering the synagogue. Now the rabbi is talking to G-d and everyone else can wait, not like some people who come to pray but somehow forget about G-d, leave him on ‘call waiting’ and talk to their friends instead.”
“If you go into an embassy, the phones are put away in storage. If your phone rings in a court room you can get fined for irreverence to the court. So why should a synagogue where the Divine presence rests be any less? Should our cell phones be on there? When Rabbi Moshe disconnected his phone for G-d’s honor in the synagogue, G-d gave him a special connection in the wadi, measure for measure.”
Concluding the story Rabbi Amar says: “If someone is silent from saying mundane things in the synagogue G-d will, measure for measure, silence the prosecutors that want to slander us in heaven and cause us harm. May G-d silence the Satan from speaking ill of us.”
Reprinted from the website of Hidabroot.
My school supplies:
First Aliyah: Noach, a righteous man, is introduced in contrast to a generation that “has perverted its ways”. Hashem instructs him to build, and outfit the Ark.
second Aliya: Noach is told to enter the Ark along with all the animals. On Cheshvan 17, 1656 – October 27, 2106 b.c.e the flood began.
third Aliya: For 40 days and nights the waters increased, destroying all living things. The water raged upon the surface of the earth for 150 days, and then diminished for the next 150. On Nissan 17, May 23, the Ark rested upon Mt.Ararat. Noach sends out the Raven and then the Dove, and on Cheshvan 27,October 27, exactly 1 solar year after it began, the earth was dry.
fourth Aliya: Noach and his family exit the Tayvah, and offer sacrifices to Hashem. They are commanded to keep the 7 Noahide mitzvot.
fifth Aliya: Hashem promises to never again destroy the world and designates the rainbow as the symbol of that covenant.
sixth Aliya: The story of Noach, the vineyard, and the subsequent blessings and curses is related. The descendants of Cham, Yefet, and Canaan are listed.
seventh Aliya: The story of the Tower of Babel in 1996 and Nimrod’s world dominance is told. The 10 generations of Shem, culminating in the introduction of Avram and Sarai, are listed. The year is 2023. Note that Avram was 48 years old when the Tower of Babel took place and he was 56 years old when Noach died.