I. The work of a Tzaddik*
1. ‘Noach went with G-d.’ (Bereishis* 6.9)
The Alsheich* explained that this verse means that Noach didn’t try to cause the people in his time to do tshuva*. All his righteousness was for himself. Therefore it says, ‘Noach went with G-d.’ [He went with G-d alone, and not with the people in his generation.]
The Midrash* says, ‘After Moshe Rabbeinu* had performed all the miracles: the splitting of the Yom Suf*, the war with Amalek, and all the other miraculous things he had done. [Then he made the tabernacle.] And after he had made the tabernacle he sat down to rest from his work. HaShem said to him, “Why are you sitting? You still have a difficult job to do. You must teach the Jewish people how to perform the sacrifices.”
The meaning of this Midrash is that for a Tzaddik, performing miracles is not [their main] job. Their main ‘job is to teach the Jewish people how to serve HaShem*. Rebbe* Shlomo Karliner said, ‘The greatest of all the miracles is to be able to inspire a Jew to the point that he can say a word before HaShem.’ (p. 9 sefer Shema Shlomo a collection of teachings of Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin. This is taken from the sefer Beis Aharon from Rebbe Aharon of Karlin [the second of that name who was the grandson of Rebbe Aharon of Karlin who was the Rebbe of Rebbe Shlomo of Karlin])
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2. ‘These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a perfect Tzaddik in his generations. Noach went with G-d.’ (Bereishis 6.9) Rashi* says that the main ‘generations’ of a Tzaddik are his good deeds. A person who serves HaShem with all his strength will merit that HaShem’s will permeates all of his works. He is referred to as the ‘generations of Noach.’ This is because from the performance of his good deeds he causes enjoyment [Heb. neechah] to HaShem. However it is important for him to understand that he must humble himself and not try to strive for levels of service that are above his abilities. For if he does he can Chas V’Shalom* fall from the level he has attained. Who was greater then Moshe Rabbeinu of whom it is said, ‘and he was afraid to look at G-d.’ [Which means that even he understood the limits of his abilities and what his true place was in serving HaShem.] The way one can do this is to always remember that he is a creature of flesh and blood, formed from the dirt of the earth. Therefore how could he dare to enter into the court of the King? One should learn from the nature of ‘earth’ which allows all to walk upon it [and he should never consider himself higher then others.] Therefore he should fill himself with the midah* of humility and lower himself like the ‘earth’. That is why the verse says the word ‘Noach’ twice. The second time is to teach that even though he brought pleasure to HaShem with his good deeds he remained quiet about them and ‘rested.’ [Heb. noach] I.e. he was lowly, like the ‘earth’. That is the meaning of ‘Noach went with G-d.’ He was always afraid to look above his level. (p. 20 sefer Ner Yisroel teachings of Rebbe Yisroel of Rizhin whose Yortzheit* is 3 Cheshvon* which is in the week we read the parsha* of Noach) * * * III. Good friends 3. ‘These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a perfect Tzaddik in his generations.’ (Bereishis 6.9) Rashi says, ‘[The verse says] “In his generations.” Some of our Rabbis explain this as a compliment…. Some explain this as a criticism. i.e. According to his generation his was a Tzaddik, if he had been in the generation of Avraham Aveinu* he would not have been considered as anything important.’ The questions on this teaching are well known. How can they explain this negatively when it is possible to explain it in a positive manner? [Especially when the verse itself says he was a Tzaddik.] We can say: When a person finds himself in good surroundings, with friends who desire to hear the word of HaShem. We find that besides the simple advantage of joining together with others, which is helpful in serving HaShem, there is a secondary advantage. It strengthens his midah of humility. This is because when they sit together, each one can see that his friend has midos which are greater then his. And from this he becomes humbled. It is not this way when one lives in a place where people are not G-d fearing. These surroundings cause two evils. First, it is hard for him not to be inclined to follow after their evil actions. Second, it causes him to always be filled with thoughts of his own greatness. In order to separate himself above the actions of those around him, [he is forced think of himself as being above them and their foolish actions.] Even though in this second case it would be allowed to have such thoughts, as the verse says, ‘raise your heart in the service of HaShem.’ It is still not comparable in value to serving HaShem with humility. With this we can understand what Rashi was saying: Noach, since he lived in a generation of wicked people, was forced to consider himself greater then them. [He had to] look at them as the lowliest of creatures, and unworthy of [being friends with] him. He should separate from them. However if he had been in the generation of Avraham he would not have needed to act in this manner, and consider himself important as I explained above. [He would have had someone together with him who was worthy for Noach to join together with.] This is what Rashi means, ‘”in his generation”… some explain it as a criticism.’ This means because that generation was a wicked one, where the people did evil actions [it had a negative effect on Noach]. So Rashi says further, ‘because of the generation he was a Tzaddik.’ Since they were so wicked he had to consider himself a Tzaddik so as not to learn from their wicked deeds. Rashi continues, ‘If he had been in the generation of Avraham however he would not have considered himself as worthy in his own eyes.’ This means he would have been able to strengthen himself with the midah of humility. (p. 143 sefer Eteres Shlomo teachings of Rebbe Shlomo of Bobov ZT’L grandson of the Rebbes of Tzanz and Dzikov [whose Yortzheit is 3 Cheshvon] and grandfather of my Rebbe, Admor* of Bobov
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IV. Overcoming one’s nature.
4. ‘And all the fountains of the great deep were broken open’ (Bereishis 7.11) The Midrash says, “the verse uses the word ‘great’ [Heb. Rabbah] when they sinned, as it says ‘their sins were great.’ When they were punished it uses the word ‘great’ as it says ‘the fountains of the great deep were broken open’.” [The Midrash is here telling us that they were punished midah kenegid midah*. They sinned with ‘great’ and they were punished with ‘great’.] We need to explain how, according to their actions, this was considered as punishment midah kenegid midah. The people in that time were accustomed to following after whatever their eyes desired. Through their wicked actions the world was filled with adultery. All the people followed these wicked ways. They would then try to justify their actions with foolish excuses. For example they would say that it was only their nature to act this way. In so doing their physical desires conquered them, and they had no desire to fight against these desires. They would say that everything follows after it’s ‘nature’ and one cannot do anything about it. But this is totally false, because one is required to strengthen himself against his ‘nature’ as it is taught in the Yavatz* siddur*. There, in his explanation of the meaning of the blessing we say daily, ‘who spreads out the earth over the water’, he states that HaShem makes a great wonder in that the nature of water is to rise about earth. The earth itself is by nature hard, and hence it should sink and the water should rise above it. However HaShem declares that the ‘earth should be spread over the water.’ From this we should learn the lesson that we should not follow after our yetzer*, but we should overcome our nature. Therefore they followed after their desires and didn’t control their yetzer, until the result was that their ways were totally degenerate. And when they gave the excuse that it was because they followed their ‘nature, HaShem went midah kenegid midah. [They would not act contrary to their inborn nature, so] he caused all the fountains of the great deep to break open. Following it’s own nature the water below rose up and destroyed all the people (p. 3 sefer Or P’nei Yehoshua teachings of Rebbe Yehoshua Rov* of Galanta, the Rebbe of Mori* HaRav* Shmuel Kraus Z’L*) ———————————————————————
Arizal: Hebrew initials of the words: Adoni Rabbenu Yitzchok Zechorono LeVaracha our master Rabbi Yitzchok. Better known as Yitzchok Luria the great 16th century Kabbalist
Baal Tshuva (Baalei Tshuva): Hebrew for someone who is a repentant sinner.
Bamidbar: Fourth book of the Torah. Called in English Numbers
Chazal: Hebrew initials for: Chochmenu Zichrona Levaracha (Our sages of Blessed memory) Used to refer to Rabbis of the Talmud
Chesed: Hebrew word meaning acts of mercy
Drash: A method of Biblical interpretation ascribing moral or ethical meaning to verses in the Torah.
HaShem: Noun used in place of G-d. Lit. The Name
mikvah: Hebrew word referring to a ritual bath used for purification
Mishnah: An ancient Jewish work made of specific laws.
Moshe Rabbeinu: Hebrew for Moses our teacher. A common Jewish way of referring to Moses.
Or HaChaim: Jewish Torah commentary
Rashi: The primary commentary on the Tenach.
Rebbe: Leader of a Chassidic group or a teacher
Rebbe Reb: A title added to a few special Rebbes as a sign of their higher spiritual stature.
remez: A method of Biblical interpretation based on finding hints in the Torah for various concepts.
Rov: An official rabbi who renders legal decisions. Many of the Rebbes were both a Rebbe of Chasidim, and the Rov of the city in which they lived.
Sanhedrin: 1. Tractate in the Talmud 2. Name of the highest level of the Jewish court system.
sefer (seforim): A Jewish religious book.
Talmud: An ancient work of Jewish law.
Tehillim: Hebrew name for Psalms.
Torah: a. First 5 books of the Jewish Bible b. Also refers to the whole of Jewish law c. also common term for a chassidic teaching
Tshuva: Hebrew word for repentance
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