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  KD MAGAZINE!      ב"ה                    
 
 
  PARSHAT NOACH  
 

3 Cheshvan 5769

Invest Wisely
By Rabbi Asher Brander
PARSHAT NOACH - INVEST WISELY, BY RABBI ASHER BRANDER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On command, Noach leaves the ark [8,15:16]

Hashem spoke to Noach, saying, Depart from the ark, yourself and your wife, your sons, and your son's wives with you.

We would surely understand why he might be hesitant to do so. A midrash explains [Yalkut Shimoni, Yeshayahu 477]:

Noach said, If I shall leave the ark, and procreate, Hashem will once again be angry and destroy the world - why should I leave?

It is Take 2 for the world and Noach's daunting mission is to begin it again.

First, Noach  builds an altar and  brings sacrifices. The result:

Hashem  smelled the pleasing fragrance, and Hashem said in His heart, "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, .. I will never again smite every living thing as I have done.

Netziv and others point out the singularity of that phrase  the pleasing fragrance. It is only time in the whole Torah that we find it.  As a result Hashem promises Noach that the world will never again be destroyed by Him

It's a good start.

Hashem then commands Noach:  

Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth.. Your fear and terror will be upon every wild beast of the earth..

Multiply, take dominion of the world and you may now eat meat. Somehow, these are all connected, but that's for a different time. In the meanwhile, simply note a striking similarity to the opening of Bereishis. Adam and Noach are to be fruitful, multiply and to progress the world. Bear in mind that in the end Noach never fulfills the commandment to multiply!?

God then proclaims the famed rainbow covenant:

Behold, I am making a covenant with you and with your offspring after you.. I will keep My covenant with you, that never again will all flesh be cut off by flood waters, never again will flood waters destroy the earth. .. This is the sign of the covenant that I pledge between Myself and you .. I have set my [rain] bow in the clouds, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between Myself and the earth. .. and I will see it to remember the eternal covenant between Elokim and between every living soul ..

So far so good - but it's all downhill from here:

These three were the sons of Noach, and from these, the whole world developed. Noach began to be a man of the soil and he planted a vineyard. ..He drank of the wine and was intoxicated. He [then] uncovered himself in his tent. .Cham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father, and told it to his brothers [who were] outside. .. Sheim and Yafes took the cloak, placed it on their shoulders, and walked backwards, covering the nakedness of their father. .. Noach awoke from his wine [induced sleep] and he realized what had been done to him by his youngest son. He said, "Cursed is Canaan. A slave of slaves shall he be to his brothers." "Blessed is Hashem the G-d of Sheim;  .. After the Flood, Noach lived three hundred and fifty years. All the days of Noach totaled nine hundred and fifty years, and he died.

Noach plants a vineyard, gets drunk, exposes himself and ultimately something very disturbing happens[1]. What precisely happens to Noach is a matter of midrashic controversy. Either way, Noach is disgraced, Cham/Kena'an are cursed and Noach disappears from the world scene - his last three hundred and fifty years a total mystery -  as he yields the world stage to Avraham Avinu, the father of our people.

A simple point: A quick read of these verses gives us a sense of immediacy, it is almost as if Noach plants a vineyard and shortly afterwards gets drunk - omitting the interim years that it takes to develop the vineyard to yield the wine. We are left to ponder what happened in the interim. A remarkable midrash image solves our problem and creates a greater one [Bereishis rabah 36]

R. Chiya Bar Aba said. On the very same day he planted, on that day he drunk and on that day he was disgraced

In other words, there were no in-between years! That textual sense of immediate impact that we feel in our read is reflective of a miraculous reality. On the very same day that Noach planted the sapling, he gets drunk[2]. Now, that's productivity!

 

The Dubner Maggid [Mishlei Ya'akov] however raises an obvious question: Why should Hashem wrought a miracle for naught? What positive gain is accomplished by fast-forwarding nature in this situation? To the contrary, this event spells the effective end of Noach. In typical fashion, he responds with a story[3] [admittedly contemporized]

 A dirt poor chassid, Yankele pleaded with his Rebbe to receive a bracha for wealth. The Rebbe responded,  generously assuring him that the first endeavor he invests in will be wildly successful. Our destitute chassid comes home, bursting with excitement, perhaps even counting his gelt. As enters, he rushes to his wise wife Ruchele [who was in charge of the finances] demanding  access to the last bit of saved monies hidden somewhere in their hovel. Ruchele demurs; she knows what a shlamozel Yankel is. He persists, Ruchele refuses. She is not going to give up the last bit of gelt. After a major machlokes, (fight) Yankele decides to find it himself; he snoops around and shortly thereafter spots the the money, takes it, goes to the market, buys carpets and sets up a booth.

 

Our luckless, Yankele waits one day, two day, one week, two week and  does no business. Stuck with useless carpets and nowhere to turn but the Rebbe - he trudges back demanding his money back [don't all brachos come with money back guarantee?] The Rebbe listens to Yankel's tale of woe: Rebbe, I did exactly what you told me, came home, got the money, invested and look still no hatzlacha. The Rebbe turns to Yankel: Have you given me the complete story? Is there something you might have left out. Yankel remembers: his wife had refused to turn over the money; he thus relates to the Rebbe. And then what happened? We got into a fight - Was it a big fight? Rebbe, it was the strangest thing,  we usually have such good shalom bayis, in all our years of marriage, this was the biggest fight we ever had - whereupon the Rebbe knowingly spoke: Yankel, the bracha I gave was that your first endeavor shall be wildly successful, you chose to invest that bracha in machlokes (conflict) - and indeed, by your own admission, it was the most successful machlokes you ever had. My dear Yankel - you must learn to use your bracha properly.

 Noach leaves the ark and it is a propitious time of bracha in the world. As Kli Yakar points out - the Noach/ Adam HaRishon parallels are remarkable. On some level, Noach is regaining Paradise Lost. Just as Adam and Chava bear children on the very same day in Gan Eden, Noach has an opportunity to cash in on the blessing and invest it in ways deep and meaningful - to restart the world with a sense of Kedusha. Laden within that vineyard/sapling/grape, (which may have been the actual fruit of  Adam's sin) was the potential of teshuva - of renewal and return. Indeed, wine itself can be poured on the altar, consecrated at a wedding or be used in the basest and profane places.

 Our lives are bracha-full. As a collective whole, we are a kind, smart, patient people who have given the world [as God's proxy] so many gifts and yet as we reflect upon those contributions we can smile and cry simultaneously. So much good and yet so much narishkeit!

 When we consider how much blessing we hold in our lives, let us wisely ask ourselves the question -  both personal and communal: is our bracha portfolio reaping holy dividends?

 Invest wisely.

Good Shabbos,

Asher Brander
 


[1] According to the midrash, he was either castrated or molested.

[2] A simple textual proof to the midrash is that after the event, the Torah records that he lived another 350 years and died at the age of 950. Noach was 600 at the time of the flood. Thus the whole event happened over a short period of time

[3] The mashal is contemporized - but the point is the same.

Rabbi Asher Brander is the rabbi of The Westwood Kehilla, an orthodox synagogue in Los Angeles, CA. Their website is: http://www.kehilla.org/

 
 

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