Below, please find this adaptation of Rav Weinberger's drasha from Shabbos, parshas Noach 5779. Rav Weinberger has reviewed this write-up and any corrections are incorporated herein. Enjoy!
Rav Moshe Weinberger
Parshas Noach 5779
Infused with Tears
Because this Shabbos is the yohrtzeit of Rav Kalonymous Kalman Shapira, the author of Aish Kodesh, Hy’d, I held a postcard written by the Rebbe in my hands this morning. While doing so, I asked Hashem what the Aish Kodesh would have wanted us to learn. It then came to me that He would want us to focus on how to better reach the youth in our shul.
To do this, let us first understand the answer to a fundamental question on our parshah. Why was it necessary for Hashem to command Noach to build the ark, the teiva. He could have told Noach to bring those He wanted saved to Eretz Yisroel, where there was no flood )see Bereishis Raba 33:11). And when Hashem told Noach, “Build for yourself an ark” (Bereishis 6:14), Rashi says that Hashem wanted him to personally build it over a 120 year period. He didn’t want Noach to hire workers to do the job more efficiently. Why?
Hashem did not merely want Noach to build the teiva as a way of saving certain people and animals. He wanted the vessel through which He would save people to be infused with the tefilos of Noach through all those years while he tried to encourage the people around him to do teshuvah to avoid the destruction of the world. He wanted Noach’s tears to be embedded into the wood of the ark.
Tanach is replete with other examples of mundane objects infused with extraordinary significance through the hopes and prayers of tzadikim and tzidkanios. For example, we see this when Shaul asks a sorceress to summon the soul of Shmuel HaNavi (I Shmuel 28:14). When she says that she saw Shmuel, Shaul asks what he looked like in order to determine whether she saw the correct person. She says that he looked like “an old man ascending, wrapped in a cloak.” Shaul immediately knew that she was referring to the correct person.
Why was the cloak such a clear sign that she had seen Shmuel HaNavi? What was the significance of this cloak? In her joy and gratitude for Shmuel’s birth, Chanah, his mother, who had davened for him for so many years, made him a special cloak (see I Shmuel 2:19). Normally, a cloak is an honorable garment only worn by adults. But Chanah made one for young Shmuel and he wore it throughout his life. Chazal tell us that it grew with him over time. This is why this cloak was such an identifying characteristic through which Shaul was able to recognize him in the sorceress’s description. A loving mother’s hopes and prayers infused this cloak with such deep significance that he wore it throughout his life, was buried with it, and it stayed with him even into the next world. The energy of Chana’s love that filled every fiber of the cloak infused Shmuel with a boundless love for his people and gave him the strength to spend his life teaching and guiding them.
We see an example of another such object, the staff of the prophet Elisha, which he gave to Gechazi to touch to a young boy’s face to bring him back to life (II Melachim 4:29-31). While the power to revive the dead would have come from Hashem through the navi, and not through some sort of “magic wand,” we see that this power was personified through a significant physical object.
Similarly, although Hashem could have saved Noach, his family, and the animals in other ways, He wanted Noach to use a teiva infused with millions of tears as the vessel through which He would save mankind. For me, my postcard held and written-on by the Aish Kodesh has similar significance.
We are living in strange times, where our children find themselves facing temptations, distractions, and confusion unlike any other generation. Each of us must provide our children with a home that can serve as a teiva in which they can take refuge during this flood of insanity and confusion preceding the coming of Moshiach.
We must understand how to do this in each generation. The passuk tells us that Noach was “a pure tzaddik in his generations” (Bereishis 6:9). What does it mean that he was a tzaddik in “his generations?” The truth is that it is relatively easy to be a tzaddik for one’s own generation, to understand their nature and what they need. It is much rarer to find a tzaddik who knows what his children’s and grandchildren’s generation needs.
How can we do this for our children’s generation? One way is by showing our children that we are there for them 100% by spending time with them without constantly checking our phones. When we play Scrabble, Monopoly or chess with our children, if we are constantly engaging with clients or business matters, on chat rooms, reading articles, or checking sports scores, the message our children get is that to one extent or another, they are on their own. Distracted parenting makes us unable to create a home which can serve as a refuge in which they are safe, happy and secure. But if we give our children our full attention, we are building an ark into which they can always return no matter what they are going through outside.
And our shul, named after the Rebbe’s sefer Aish Kodesh, is attempting to create a similar environment with our new teen program and minyan which begins this Shabbos. We have had many wonderful bar mitzvah celebrations recently, and each one marked the transition into next stage of development of unique, intelligent, and idealistic young men. But where are these boys now? Some are in the new teen minyan or other local minyanim. But we know that others are not. They are still in bed or are reading novels at home rather than davening.
This is why we have instituted a new teen minyan different from the type that exists in many places around the world, which often serve as meeting places for boys and girls, rather than between young people and the Creator. This new teen minyan also has a strict “no adults policy.” Young people need a place where they can be themselves, and this cannot happen if their or their friends’ parents are also present. They must feel safe to be themselves.
My mother created this environment for my sister and I through her tefilos. Every Friday night, by candlelighting, we saw her literally weeping as she davened for us. This leaves an impression. I have also seen how my wife’s tefilos have made a significant difference with our own family as well. Our children need their parents’, and especially their mothers’, tefilos more than ever.
I was speaking one motzei Shabbos approximately twenty years ago at a shul in Kew Gardens, NY. After the drasha, as I was moving toward the exit, a man approached me saying that he wanted to share something. He told me that he knew my shul is named after Rav Kalonymus Kalman Shapira, the Rebbe of Piaczezna and that his father was a student of the Rebbe. Intrigued, I asked him to share with me something his father told him about the Rebbe.
He told me that his father said that the Rebbe and his Rebbetzin took in orphans and other homeless children into their home during the time leading up to the Holocaust. These boys slept in a certain room in the Rebbe’s house. They fed and provided for these children. The man’s father was one of these boys. He related how, before going to bed, the Rebbe would walk through the house, checking to ensure that each boy was fully covered and not cold. He told me how one night, very close to the War, his father was not completely covered by his blanket. He was awake but pretended to be sleeping. The Rebbe fixed his blanket, but continued standing over him for several more moments afterward. His father felt a single tear fall on his forehead, as the Rebbe davened for him. He then heard the Rebbe say, “This one is going to live.” He didn’t know what it meant at the time or how or what the Rebbe knew about what was coming, but his father did indeed survive the War, even though most of those boys, along with most Jews in Poland, did not make it.
Just like the Rebbe did for the children in his care, may we merit to create homes in which our children feel that they are loved and supported, believed-in, and davened-for more than any other place in the world. May they never want to look in the outside world for fulfillment. May Hashem make our homes vessels to give us everything good in ruchniyus and gashmius!
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