Saturday, October 29, 2011

Rav Moshe Weinberger - Parshas Noach - Fur Coats and Fires

Rav Weinberger gave the following drasha this past Shabbos morning, Parshas Noach:

The first pasuk in this week's parsha says "אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו." "These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a pure Tzadik in his generations." Rashi brings two explanations of why the word "בְּדֹרֹתָיו" is inserted, seemingly unnecessarily, into the pasuk. The second and most difficult explanation is that "לפי דורו היה צדיק, ואלו היה בדורו של אברהם לא היה נחשב לכלום." "In his own generation, he was a Tzadik. But had he lived in the generation of Avraham Avinu, he would have been considered nothing." Generally speaking, it is not a good idea to compare people, especially Tzadikim. Considering the fact that the Torah itself testifies that Noach was an "אִישׁ צַדִּיק," a Tzadik, why do Chazal go out of their way to say something negative point about him?!

Returning to last weeks' parsha for a moment, Rav Moshe Teitelbaum, the Yismach Moshe, offers an explanation of the pasuk in parshas Bereishis (1:24), "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ," "let us make man in Our image and in Our likeness." Chazal would have been saved from much agravation throughout history if Hashem had simply said simply "אעשה אָדָם," "I shall make man" instead of "let us make man." 

Nothwithstanding the explanation Rashi gives for a moment, the Yismach Moshe gives an amazing answer by first asking why Hashem says "וַיַּרְא אֱלֹהִים כִּי-טוֹב," "and Hashem saw that it was good" with regard to everything that He created except for man. He asks why man, the pinacle of creation, is not called "good," while everything else He made is called "good." He answers that everything else was created in a state of שלימות, perfection. The Maharal explains that the word for animal in Hebrew, בהמה, means "בה מה," "it is what it is." Man, however,  was not created to be static. He was not created in a state of שלימות like the rest of creation. Instead, he was created להשתלם, to perfect himself and make himself good. Man's creation, in and of itself, does not constitute his perfection.

The Yismach Moshe uses this idea to explain the meaning of the pasuk "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם בְּצַלְמֵנוּ כִּדְמוּתֵנוּ." Hashem says to each and every one of us: "Let us, you and Me, make man. We will be partners in your creation. I will give you the things you need and you will make your own "כִּי-טוֹב," you will make yourself good.

We can also expand on the Yismach Moshe's explanation in the following way: Just as Hashem created mankind generally, He tells man: "Let us be partners in the creation of mankind. You must not only perfect yourself, but also create mankind." But how can man be a partner in the creation of mankind?

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 99b says "אמר ריש לקיש כל המלמד את בן חבירו תורה מעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו עשאו." "Reish Lakish says: When someone teaches another man's child Torah, the Torah considers it as if he created him." When one helps another person attain שלימות, he is actually a partner with Hashem in the creation of that person. The Tosefta in Horios (2:7) teaches us the same thing in such a beautiful way: "כל המכניס בריה אחת תחת כנפי השכינה מעלין עליו כאילו יצרו ורקמו והביאו לעולם," When anyone who brings any creature under the wings of the Divine Presence, it is considered as if he created him, formed him, and brought him into the world."

Similarly, the Koznitzer Magid, Rav Yisroel Haupstein, explains the pasuk in Iyov 5:7 "כי אדם לעמל יולד," "man was created to work hard," in a novel way. He says that the word "לעמל" stands for the words "ללמוד על מנת ללמד," "to teach in order to teach." In other words, on the level of drush, the pasuk means man was created in order to teach others Torah, and thereby to create them as well.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin supports the idea that when someone helps another person להשתלם, he actually creates him by turning him into a what man was created for, the attainment of שלימות. It does so by bringing the pasuk in Bereishis 12:5 "ואת הנפש אשר עשו בחרן," "the souls that [Avraham and Sarai] made in Charan." Because Avraham and Sarai taught those people Torah and brought them under the wings of the Divine Presence, the Torah says that they "made" them.

Perhaps this is why Chazal went out of their way to compare Avraham to Noach. Noach paskened like the Yismach Moshe. He heard Hashem saying to him: "נַעֲשֶׂה אָדָם, you and I will be partners in turning you into what man was meant to become, one who has attained שלימות." And Noach did it. He attained שלימות. But in order to show that the purpose of man is not only to perfect himself, but to help others attain perfection as well, Chazal compared Noach to Avraham to show that there is no comparison between two people if one lives only to improve himself and the other lives to improve the lot of the world.

There is a Yiddish term used to describe Noach. It is said that he was a "צדיק אין פעלץ," a "tzadik in a fur coat." The world is cold and needs warmth. Noach was a tzadik that responded by wearing a fur coat so that at least he would be warm. But the other type of tzadik sees that people are cold so he starts lighting ovens and fires to warm people up. Avraham Avinu saw that the world was far from the warmth of a connection to the Ribono Shel Olam. He therefore made fires and warmed up the whole world and by doing that, he "made souls."

We should not only strive to people people who live only for ourselves. We must work for the perfection of the people around us as well. It is not enough to sit as a "צדיק אין פעלץ." May we all, אי"ה, be zocheh to warm up not only ourselves, but warm up all of the people around us with the light of the Torah and שלימות.

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