This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Noach (5767)
This week we read about how G-d brought a disastrous world-flood to destroy mankind-gone-wrong and how Noach; the only man with the integrity to follow G-d and withstand the wanton 'spirit of the times', began mankind anew.
But strangely, Noach, as righteous as he was, is not reckoned as being the first Jew.
Avraham, born several hundred years later, was.
Even more, there is a Mishna that points out an even more striking difference between them:
"There were ten generations from Adam till Noach all of which angered G-d, to show how patient G-d is until He brought the flood. There were ten generations after Noach till Avraham all of which angered G-d, to show how patient G-d is until Avraham came and got the reward for them all." (Pirke Avot 5:2)
So we see that Abraham got the reward for all of the ten generations that preceded him while Noach didn't! What did Abraham have that Noach lacked?
To understand this, here is a story.
Rabbi Glukowski was a teacher in Toronto. It was his job to teach Torah to the Jewish children in the school, but he also had a hobby: Teaching Torah to yet more Jews.
In fact he was so good at it that he was often offered payment for these 'outside' activities. But he always refused, saying that the Lubavitcher Rebbe once told him that the wage he received for teaching also included 'a few other special projects of his own''
One day he received a telephone call from a man that he had never met in his life and who he had no idea where he got his phone number.
The fellow was frantic. He was Jewish and his son, who we will call Sheldon, somehow got involved with a cult called Hari Krishna and no one had heard from him for months. The man was going out of his mind and was about to call the police when someone gave him the Rabbi's number.
Rabbi Glukowski expressed sympathies at the tragic news but didn't understand what it had to do with him. After all, he was a normal religious Jew with no experience with cults or such things. True he was an adventurous sort of person with a tremendous love for all mankind… especially his fellow Jews, but he didn't understand anything about cults and certainly didn't have the time to go searching in India or somewhere else to find the boy.
But the man on the other end of the phone wouldn't take no for an answer. He didn't care if the Rabbi knew about cults or not, he had heard his name from friends and was convinced that if anyone could get his son out it was him. Not only that but he had tried a lot of other things and called a lot of other people and nothing else worked.
And as far as locating his son, that was no problem. It so happened that he knew the exact location of his son, or at least where he was when he was last heard from several months ago; in an Ashram in Toronto, not far from where the Rabbi worked.
Something told Rabbi Glukowski to do it. It was crazy! But this could be another of his 'special projects'. He took the challenge.
With no plan, strategy or inside information whatsoever he woke early the next morning, located the Ashram, said a short prayer, put on a smile and began knocking on the massive front door (there was no door bell).
At first no one answered. They probably peeked out, saw a religious Jew and figured they should ignore him till he went away. But after he knocked for ten minutes without stopping a gruff voice from the other side of the closed door answered, "Who is it?! What do you want?!"
"Hello!" he replied brightly, "My name is Glukowski, Rabbi Glukowski, and I want to talk to Sheldon Greenbaum. Anyone called Sheldon Greenbaum in there? His parents are worried about him."
There were a few moments of silence and he almost considered to give them another ten minute knocking session when a different voice came from behind the closed door. "Yes, this is the one who is called Sheldon."
"Sheldon? Sheldon Greenbaum?" yelled the Rabbi. A faint grunt signifying 'yes' was heard from the other side.
"Hey! Hi Sheldon! Your father called me and he's worried. He might just call the police."
"I'm okay!" he answered.
"Listen Sheldon. Do me a favor. Your father called me and asked me to contact you because he's worried and he said he might call the police because he's worried."
"So what do you want me to do?"
The Rabbi had to think fast and suddenly it came to him. "Listen, if you call him he won't believe you. He'll think you are brainwashed. I mean, three months is a long time not to call. And if I call him, what will I say? I can't lie and say you're all right, I haven't even seen you. So I have an idea…." Rabbi Glukowski knew he was really crossing the line here but he went through with it. "Come to my house this Shabbat and then I can tell him I saw you for a full day and he won't worry. What do you say?"
"One minute." Was the reply.
After a few minutes of silence the door opened and out stepped a thin fellow, shaved head except for a clump of hair on the top with some sort of ornament dangling between his eyes. He was dressed in an orange robe wearing loose sandals and was carrying some sort of shapeless leather briefcase that looked like it was made in Tibet. He declared, "I am ready."
Rabbi Glukowski took him to his house, which was only a few streets away, showed him to a room in the basement asked him if he wanted anything to eat or drink, or if he possibly wanted to take a shower. But Sheldon just gave a close-mouthed smile, sat as straight-backed as possible and shook his head serenely 'no'.
That evening, as the Rabbi expected, Sheldon declined his offer to go with him and his sons to Synagogue. When they returned an hour or so later from the prayers they all sat down, Sheldon included, to the Shabbat meal. Luckily there were enough potatoes, salad and bread to keep their vegetarian guest satisfied.
Rabbi Glukowski had no problem talking Torah at the dinner table but he soon realized that none of it was really pertinent to spaced-out Sheldon. So he tried a joke… no reaction, a story…. no reaction, something about family, life, sports, hobbies, animals… no luck; Sheldon just smiled, sat straight backed and nodded his head and finally said a few words before he retired to his basement room.
That night Rabbi Glukowski was awaked from his sleep by a low groaning noise that filtered up into his bedroom from the basement.
He put on his slippers and night-robe and went down to have a look. The moaning became louder as he descended and realized he was witnessing some sort of ritual.
Sheldon had a picture or some sort of statue propped up on a chair before him and he was actually bowing to it while chanting some monotonous mantra.
It was too weird for the Rabbi to bear: he had never seen a Jew actually worshiping an idol - certainly not right here in his house!!
He didn't know what to do. It was out of the question to let it continue, but on the other hand he couldn't get angry or evict him….. poor Sheldon thought he was doing a big mitzvah!
So Rabbi Glukowski sat up the entire night and talked to him. Occasionally he went to get a cup of coffee to keep him up but he just kept talking. Not one word about idolatry, because he didn't know what to say, and also not too much about Judaism, because it turned Sheldon off, but about everything else under the sun; especially stories.
The next day Sheldon was so exhausted that he slept the entire day, waking only for the Shabbat meal and, needless to say, Rabbi Glukowski was a wreck. He would have liked to also catch a few hours of sleep but Shabbat was one of his busiest days, praying, being with his family and teaching several classes.
Years later (only a few years ago) Rabbi Glukowski passed away and his children, all of whom had already married and had children of their own, spent the seven-day mourning period in his home in Toronto. In that time hundreds, of people came to comfort the mourners and to praise the deceased. Among them was a thin, middle aged, religious fellow with sparkling eyes that no one seemed to recognize.
He sat opposite the mourners and said; "When I heard your father passed away I had to come. Remember me? I was by your house about fifteen years ago for one Shabbat. You were all younger then, so was I but I had a shaved head and was wearing an orange robe."
He told them of how that Shabbat got him to begin to think about his Jewish soul seriously for the first time in his life until finally he went to a yeshiva a year or so later and liked it.
"You know what did it?" He concluded his story," You know what really impressed me about your father? It wasn't anything he said; in fact even the next day I didn't remember any of it, not a word. It was his love. I never saw such unconditional love in my life. That is what changed my mind."
This answers our question.
Noach was a great man of impeccable integrity. He withstood the peer pressure of his entire generation and paved his own path of righteousness in a totally corrupt world. Even more; he inherited these qualities to every human being alive today.
[Therefore the path that the Torah dictates to the gentiles is called the 'Commandments of the offspring of Noach']
But he lacked the kindness of Abraham.
As we will see in a few weeks, when G-d told Abraham that He was about to destroy Sodom and Amora, Abraham prayed and begged G-d to have mercy on them.. while Noach in the same situation merely built an ark and did not ask for mercy on mankind.
In fact, the Midrash tells us that Abraham built a free hotel in the desert and spent time and money to convince travelers to learn about the Creator of the Universe. Unlike Noach he went out of his way to help and love other humans.
This is why Abraham got the 'reward' of the ten evil generations before him and Noach didn't. Because Noach didn't deal with the world at all while Abraham tried to change his generation and the entire course of history for the better.
And, in fact, he succeeded; in his merit Moshiach will change the world.
Moshiach will fulfill all the promises G-d made to Abraham: The Jews will be the father of many nations, with offspring as many as the stars in the sky and the sand on the seashores, and be a blessing to all nations of the world.
And then all Nations will manifest the fact that they are the offspring of Noach - who found favor in the eyes of G-d.
It's all up to us, to do all we can to bring....
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