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Parshas Noach & MarCheshvan- The All Or Nothing Phenomenon

[Ed. Note] Out of the respect and recognition of the impact made by longtime BJL friend and contributor, Reb Shaya Gross, z’l, we will maintain a living memoriam to Shaya through the sweet words and thoughtful insights of  his Divrei Torah. BJL readers will remember his weekly column on the Parsha and on various Torah ideas and concepts. These meaningful words will help us remember this special young man who will be sorely missed and for those who did not merit to know him, this will be the most appropriate way for them to become familiar with who he was. 

We find sometimes that people who were once extremely spiritual, fall into the depths of depravity and more commonly, those who were leading extremely immoral lives turn themselves around, but don’t just turn themselves around and become your average observant Jew, but rather become very special spiritual people.

What is the meaning of this phenomenon?

There are many parallels between Moshe Rabbeinu and Noach. Both were put in a Teiva. Both times it was to save them from water! Chazal compare and contrast the Teiva of Moshe and the Teiva of Noach… Noach built the Teiva for 120 years, Moshe lived for 120 years. Moshe went up to get the Torah-which is compared to rain-for forty days and nights, in Noach’s lifetime it rained at the beginning of the Mabul for forty days and nights…! In fact the Arizal writes that Moshe had the same root Neshama as Noach!

What is the meaning of all this?

The Zohar teaches that the generation of Noach had the potential to be the generation that received the Torah. They failed miserably and were thus wiped out with waters of destruction, as opposed to receiving the beautiful Torah which metaphysically is life sustaining water.

Klal Yisroel with Moshe at the helm were able to receive the Torah, the world with Noach at the helm had a Mabul.

[This is a powerful lesson in the difference between Moshe and Noach, but I am mentioning it to bring out another point {in addition to sharing these beautiful Torah parallels heard from Rav Yona Sklare.}]

We see again a concept of people who failed, but not just failed, but failed miserably, so miserably that they destroyed the world with their base actions. And yet these people had the potential to receive the Torah! What is the understanding?

 I think the understanding is that at times you have a person with a very deep neshama & psyche, and hence he NEEDS to have a deep connection to SOMETHING. Hence you can have a person who is so deeply spiritual but the Yetzer Hara gets him not have satisfaction in Torah life-as we discussed last week a little-and hence he goes elsewhere to find satisfaction. But for him a beer and a burger is not going to do the trick since he has a deep soul and psyche, and hence he needs to find a deep connection out there. Hence he is going to fall fast and deep….

Likewise you can have the opposite phenomenon. You can have a person born secular or exposed to secular values and was living an immoral life, but since he has a deep neshama, his psyche doesn’t find true meaning there and he eventually finds his way to an authentic Torah lifestyle. But he, due to his deep neshama, is not satisfied with the average mediocre orthodox life, rather he throws himself in full force trying to truly connect to Hashem doing all the Mitvos with feelings.

Hence the generation of Noach who had such great neshamos they had the potential to receive the Torah but when they failed they failed miserably….

May we all take a lesson from this, firstly to never judge someone who went off as we never know what they going through or dealing with, and to never look down at our secular Jewish brethren who are living very immoral lives as very soon they may be keeping the Torah and Mitzvos on a higher spiritual level than ourselves….


The following two Divrei Torah I have sent out in the past and are here for your enjoyment of Chazara.

Parshas Noach

A boss once asked his worker to break down a ladder that was leaning against the roof. The dimwitted fellow climbs up to the second step and breaks the first step. Then he climbs up to the third step and breaks the second step, and so on & on until he breaks apart the whole ladder, but he himself is stuck on the roof. The boss explains to him that when you are breaking a ladder that is against the roof, you have to work from the top down.

The next day, the boss asks him to break a ladder that is in a pit. This time, the fellow starts from the top and works his way down and gets stuck in the pit. The boss explains to him that when the ladder is in the pit you have to work your way up from the bottom...

This is a parable for how many of us are. With regards to our physical needs and desires, we often tend not to be satisfied with what we have, and rather look up at the people who have more than us, wishing we had what they have.

Whereas in our level of spirituality we tend to reassure ourselves that there are people worse than us, and hence we don’t strive for greater heights.

 When we act in this way we are like the foolish worker.

 Like the worker we should completely switch around what we do.

 In regards to our physical needs and comforts we should look at those worse than us and say, 'I’m so grateful for what I have, because [s]he has much worse'. [I believe this is the trick to achieving true happiness; to be grateful for what you do have, by contemplating how much worse it can be.]

 Whereas in regards to our level of spirituality we should always reach for greater heights by looking up to people who are more righteous then ourselves, and striving to be like them.

 The aforementioned parable is brought in the name of the Ben Ish Chai.

 I think we see this concept in the first Pasuk of our Parsha, Parshas Noach. The Pasuk says ‘Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation’, and if you might ask how can that be he was surrounded by wicked people? Finishes off the Pasuk, ‘Noach walked with G-d’, i.e. he was never complacent and satisfied with the level he was on in contrast to the wicked people around him, rather he continuously sought to grow and strive for greatness, his role model being G-d himself!

May we all take this lesson to heart; to be thankful and appreciative for what we do have, as there are people who have much less, and to always seek to grow higher and higher, by looking up to Yidden greater than ourselves. The former will help us appreciate and enjoy this world much more; the latter will enable us to grow closer to Hashem and gain a greater portion in the world to come.

Marcheshvan: The Continuation of the Yomim Tovim of Tishrei.

Tonight is Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan. Most understand Mar-Cheshvan as a bitter dry month where there are no Yomim Tovim.

However based on the Gemara in Megilla, we can understand this month and the terminology 'Mar-Cheshvan' in a beautiful way.

The Gemara says that after one finishes Shemoneh Esray, he must wait a [short] period of time before using the facilities because the Tefilla is still fluent in his mouth and 'rachushai MARACHASHAN sifvasay', his lips are still moving in prayer. Meaning, for a short time after we finish Shemoneh Esray we are still 'under the influence of the Tefilla' and hence we must remain in a proper clean place.

Rav Simcha Bunim of Peshischa and others suggest this same term is the root of the terminology, MarCheshvan. After a whole beautiful month of tefilla of so many Yomim Tovim, we shouldn't think that all the holiness of Tishrei is now fading away and it’s all over. Rather, these Tefillos are ‘MARACHSHON sifvasay’, they are still [figuratively] being mouthed by our lips, hence we can take their strength and influence with us into MARCHESHVAN and the cold winter months ahead!

No Fasting on Chanukah

One does not fast during the days of Hanukah,  but on the day before and the day after  one can speak at a funeral or fast. (KSA 139:2)