Celebration of Birth
The Kiddush this week was sponsored by the Rossman family in honor of the birth of their daughter.
In Yiddish a למך is a לא יצלח so what did למך, the father of נח, do to have such a name? The Pasuk says the reason why his father named him Noach was because זה ינחמנו ממעשנו ומעצבון ידינו מן האדמה. A person that relies on his children to make a change and a difference in the world and doesn’t take the responsibility upon himself is a real למך.
However, Noach knew that if he will continue with this approach and attitude of his father, then he will also depend on his children, and his children will depend on their children, and who will be the one they are all depending on? Therefore, the Pasuk says first אלה תולדות נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו and only in the second Pasuk does it list his children. Rashi on the first Pasuk says למד שעיקר תולדותים של צדיקים מעשים טובים showing that Noach was an individual who first made himself and wasn’t reliant on his children and only once a person could make himself could he then deal with the תולדותיהם in the simple sense. Our Baal Simcha is first and foremost שעיקר תולדותים של צדיקים מעשים טובים and Baruch Hashem is also having children that will follow in his ways.
It’s an odd thing that we celebrate the birth of a child being that בית שמאי and בית הלל had a debate for two and a half years if נח לו לאדם שלא נברא or נח לו לאדם שנברא and they came out that it would be better for man to not have been created.
The Chidah explains the first Pasuk as follows. אלה תולדות, this that people are born, נח נח, is it נח לו לאדם שנברא or is it נח לו לאדם שלא נברא. The Pasuk continues איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו, that there was only one צדיק תמים in so many generations which shows that the chance of success is so slim. Therefore it must be, את האלהים התהלך נח, that it is נח לו לאדם שלא נברא. However, we celebrate birth since Hashem tasked us with responsibility in this world. Even if it means going out of comfort zone because it would be more comfortable to stay with Hashem, nonetheless we realize that in order to accomplish, one needs to move beyond his comfort zone. Therefore we celebrate in spite of the fact that it’s uncomfortable, we understand that moving beyond our comfort zone is the only way we can actually accomplish something. An athlete knows that if he stays within his comfort zone, then he is never going to excel. Only if he moves beyond his comfort zone could he accomplish and be successful. So to by us, we understand that in order to accomplish and succeed, it’s not about נח, comfort.
יש דורשים לגנאי ויש דורשים לשבח
The Parshah begins אלה תולדת נח נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו את האלהים התהלך נח. On the word בדרתיו, Rashi says the following:
יש מרבותינו דורשים אותו לשבח, כל שכן שאלו היה בדור צדיקים היה צדיק יותר, ויש שדורשים אותו לגנאי, לפי דורו היה צדיק, ואלו היה בדורו של אברהם לא היה נחשב לכלום.
Even though it’s debated as to which it is, it must be that both are true. Because it is true that had he been the tzadik that he was in the דורו של אברהם he would אינו נחשב לכלום. However, it’s also true that had he been in the דורו של אברהם, he would’ve been a much greater tzadik because a person is affected by his surroundings.
These two opinions in Rashi is the Machlokes between Reb Yochanan and Reish Lakish in Sanhedrin 108 whether or not you are דורש לגנאי or לשבח. Reb Yochanan was a צדיק מעיקרו as opposed to Reish Lakish who was a Baal Teshuva. The צדיק מעיקרו is someone who is completely removed from the environment and he sees צדקות as a self-contained entity. Therefore, Reb Yochanan is דורש לגנאי because he says Noach in generation of Avraham would be the same Noach. However, Reish Lakish who is the Baal Teshuva, who understand the impact of one’s surroundings and environment is דורש לשבח because he understands that had Noach been in the generation of Avraham, he would have been on a much higher level because he would have been impacted by his interactions with his surroundings. Therefore, the Machlokes whether or not you are דורש לגנאי or לשבח really depends on who they were and how they viewed the world.
The question is why would anyone be דורש לגנאי if you could be דורש לשבח? In general, דרשות are not meant to define the thing as is and the biblical character, rather דרשה is from the לשון of דרישה which is a requesting. When we make a דרשה, it’s a דרישה of ourselves. Meaning, we make the דרשות in the way that it will affect us most to improve. Therefore, when we are being דורש about Noach, we are really being דורש about ourselves and demanding of ourselves תיקון המעשה but it all depends on the context. Sometimes when a person is דורש from himself, he needs to be דורש לשבח, but sometimes he needs to be דורש לגנאי, and it depends on where he is holding.
The Mishna in Avos says ואל תהי רשע בפני עצמך (ב, יג). A person shouldn’t think lowly of himself, that he is a רשע. Rabbeinu Yonah asks that there is a contradiction to a ברייתא in נדה ל ע"ב that says אפילו כל העולם אומרים שאתה צדיק תהיה בעיניך כרשע?
The Alexander Rebbe in his sefer ישמח ישראל answered that it depends. If people are telling you that you are great and amazing, than you should think of yourself as a רשע. But if you are alone, lonely, and by yourself – בפני עצמך, and you think you are a רשע, then can you shouldn’t consider yourself a Rasha. On the contrary, you have to lift yourself up and tell yourself that you are a somebody.
Sometimes a person has to tell himself, in spite of all his accomplishments that he is really far from where he ought to be and that its לגנאי that had he been in the דור של אברהם, he would be a nobody. But then there are also times that a person needs to be דורש לשבח that in spite of the fact that we are surrounded by such a negative surrounding, nonetheless we were able to reach the levels we reached. All the more so had we been in a generation such as Avraham with such an environment would we be able to reach even higher levels.
Regarding this idea that דרוש is not really about defining the things as is but rather it’s about developing meaning for ourselves, different places had different דרוש. The דרוש of Morocco was different from the דרוש of Hungary and so and so forth for every place. Each place had its own unique approach. The difference in approach has to do with what people in these various cultures needed to hear and experience In order to improve themselves and the תבלין in each of these places was catered to the specific יצר הרע of those places. However, nowadays that we live in a global community that on one block you could get Chinese food, French cheese, and Italian wine, therefore the תבלין also needs to be global in order to combat a global יצר הרע. Therefore it became that all the various types of דרוש have come together like we find Chasidus, Mussar, Machshava, all meshed together in order to have a global תבלין in order to combat a global יצר הרע.
Reaching מקטני אמנה
Hashem tells Noach to build תיבה for 120 years and when people ask why he’s building it, he will tell them that a מבול is coming and אולי ישובו. But it seems that Noach was a major failure because he didn’t even make one Baal Teshuva (as opposed to Avraham, maybe because he served food) because at the end, it was only him and his children who entered the תיבה. But not only that but he himself only went in מפני מי המבול and Rashi says אף נח מקטני אמנה היה, מאמין ואינו מאמין שיבא המבול ולא נכנס לתיבה עד שדחקוהו המים. It would seem that we are talking about a major failure so why would Hashem set him up for this failure being that he knows that nothing was going to become of this?
The answer could be that had Noach not been preaching for 120 years, even he himself would not have reached the level of מקטני אמנה and he wouldn’t have even believed כשדחקוהו המים. Therefore, there a lot was accomplished by preaching for 120 years that at least it brought him to the level of מקטני אמנה. We see that the Torah considers a person who reached the level of קטני אמנה to be איש צדיק תמים היה בדרתיו, a tremendous accomplishment in such a generation.
The Haftorah begins with רני עקרה לא ילדה וכו' כי רבים בני שוממה מבני בעולה. The simple understanding of this Pasuk is that לעתיד לבא the עקרה throughout the Galus who was לא ילדה will now be רני because רבים בני שוממה מבני בעולה. Meaning Klal Yisrael will rejoice in the future because we will then be ילדה.
However, in the Gemara Brachos 10a, there is a צדוקי who asks Bruriah משום דלא ילדה רני? Its clear that this Gemara is not discussing the simple explanation of the Pasuk because the simple explanation is that she will be רני in the future even though she was לא ילדה in the Galus because in the future, she will be ילדה. But Bruriah answers that she is רני for the לא ילדה because she is happy that she didn’t have רשעים like this צדוקי. So she could rejoice in the Galus for not having children because if she would have, she would have רשעים like this צדוקי, and therefore the לא ילדה is seen as a blessing as well.
The פסיקתא says הרבה צדיקים העמידה בחורבנה יותר מצדיקים שהעמידה לי בבניה, which is incorporating the רני for the לא ילדה in the Galus. לעתיד לבא, the עקרה who thought she was an עקרה in Galus because we tried and we learned Torah and did Mitzvos for so many years and yet we always felt under accomplished because we felt that we didn’t reach the levels that we ought to be on. We felt that our learning torah wasn’t real learning and our Mitzvos weren’t really Mitzvos and they lacked authenticity and שלימות. Therefore, we felt like we were לא ילדה. However, לעתיד לבא, we will find out that רבים בני שוממה מבני בעולה, that what we accomplished during the Galus was greater than what we could accomplish in the future. The small amount we accomplished during the challenging times of Galus carries more weight and has more meaning in the eyes of Hashem than the בני בעולה, which is our situation לעתיד לבא. (פרי צדיק פרשת כי תצא) This idea is the same idea that the level of Noach, מקטני אמנה was a great level during the דור המבול. And the same is for us in this generation that even though we may feel like עקרה לא ילדה, we really aren’t because הרבה צדיקים העמידה בחורבנה. Therefore what seems to us to be insignificant, insufficient, and inadequate, nevertheless there is a tremendous quality in this Avodah and we should be aware of it.
This idea is also seen in the חובות הלבבות שער חשבון הנפש פרק ה which says the following:
ואל תמעט בעיניך שום טובה שתעשנה לשמו אפילו במלה או בראיה, כי המעט ממך רב אצלו
A person shouldn’t underestimate anything that he does because anything a person does as small and insignificant as he thinks it is, it really has significance way beyond a person can imagine.