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The Weekly Share – 4 Cheshvan

The Weekly Share – 4 Cheshvan

Food For the Soul

My Kind of Hero

Rashi describes Noah as a man of “small faith” who had doubts whether the flood would actually happen. In fact, according to the great commentator’s understanding, he didn’t enter the Ark until the rains actually started and the floodwaters pushed him in. That explains why many people look down on Noah, especially when they compare him to other Biblical superheroes, people of the stature of Abraham or Moses.

Personally, this is precisely what makes Noah my kind of hero. He’s real. He’s human. He has doubts, just like you and me. I know we are supposed to say, “When will my actions match those of the great patriarchs of old?” but I confess, for me that’s a tall order. Noah, on the other hand, is a regular guy. He is plagued by doubts and struggles with his faith. But at the end of the day, Noah does the job. He builds the ark, shleps in all the animals, saves civilization and goes on to rebuild a shattered world. Doubts, shmouts, he did what had to be done.

There is an old Yiddish proverb, Fun a kasha shtarbt men nit–“Nobody ever died of a question.” It’s not the end of the world if you didn’t get an answer to all your questions. We can live with unanswered questions. The main thing is not to allow ourselves to become paralyzed by our doubts. We can still do what has to be done, despite our doubts.

Of course, I’d love to be able to answer every question every single one of my congregants ever has. But the chances are that I will not be able to solve every single person’s doubts and dilemmas. And, frankly speaking, I am less concerned about their doubts than about their deeds. From a question nobody ever died. It’s how we behave that matters most. So Noah, the reluctant hero, reminds us that you don’t have to be fearless to get involved. You don’t have to be a tzaddik to do a mitzvah. You don’t have to be holy to keep kosher, nor do you have to be a professor to come to a Torah class.

From an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman

Shabbat Shalom

“Purim Algiers” (1541)

This Shabbat commemorates “Purim Algiers.” In 1541, Charles V, Holy Roman Emperor and ruler of Spain, led a fleet in an attempted attack against Algiers. Miraculously, a storm capsized many of the attacking boats, resulting in the expedition’s failure and rescuing the city’s Jewish community from Spanish anti-Semitic rule. In commemoration of the miracle, the local community marked 4 MarCheshvan as a “minor Purim,” omitting the penitential Tachanun prayers and partaking of festive meals (Zeh Hashulchan pp. 96–97).

Mind Over Matter

Who Will Win

A mighty ocean cannot extinguish the hidden love burning in our souls.

The world in which we live today is a flood of confusion. Yet, ultimately, all the waters of confusion cannot drown the soul, but only lift it above them —for, in truth, this is the purpose for which they were created.

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman

Moshiach Thoughts

“The rainbow will be seen in the cloud.” (Noach 9:14)

The Zohar (I:72b) states that the rainbow is one of the signs of the future redemption. Commentators note that the rainbow indicates the purification and refinement that the world underwent by means of the Flood. Before the Flood the clouds were very coarse, thus preventing a reflection of sunlight. Thereafter, however, the clouds became more refined; they reflected sunlight, thus bringing about a rainbow. This, then, is the connection between the rainbow and the future redemption: The entire world will attain the peak of refinement with the coming of Moshiach.

Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet

Have I Got A Story

Internationalists or Isolationists?

I recently met an old school friend from my days at Melbourne’s Yeshiva College. We fell into conversation about the time we spent there from age three till graduating at eighteen. He has nothing but good memories from the time he spent in Yeshivah. His family was not particularly religious, but he never felt excluded from the group, nor did he suffer from any associated stigma. Until today he retains friendships from all ends of the spectrum and, though he does not regularly pray or study Torah, is still proud of the skills and knowledge he gained while at school. He’d love to send his kids to yeshivah too.

His wife, however, doesn’t believe in the concept of Jewish schooling. From her perspective, an exclusive school, attended by children of one faith, is discriminatory and snobbish. She wants to send their kids to public schools where they’ll rub shoulders with children of all colors and backgrounds and they’ll learn to get along with everyone.

Personally, I disagree. It is a utopian fantasy to believe that just by hanging out together internecine conflict and differences of opinion will simply disappear. Assimilation didn’t save the Jews of Germany. However, doesn’t she have a point? Is it the ideal position for a Jew to be locked off from the world, isolated in a self-imposed ghetto? We were tasked with being “a light unto the nations” and we can’t do our job if we stay home and hibernate.

On the other hand, many will argue that it’s not healthy to send one’s child to a school where not all the student body are similarly inclined. Is not allowing our precious children to mix with friends who hail from non-religious (or non-Jewish) homes an unacceptable risk?

So who’s right, the internationalists or the isolationists? Should we stay home and play with our own ball or accept the risks of playing in the game out there on the street? I believe that the story of Noah and the Flood provides the answer to this question.

The Baal Shem Tov interpreted G-d’s command to Noah to “go into the ark” as an instruction for all ages. We should be prepared to turn our back on the world by retreating into an ark of Judaism. There is nothing to be ashamed of hanging out with your own tribe and protecting oneself from the flood of contemporary culture.

However the Lubavitcher Rebbe once pointed out that this was not the final instruction that Noah received. There comes a time when you have to be ready to “leave the ark.” You’ve laid down reserves of knowledge and skill, you’ve spent your childhood years studying G-dliness, now is the time to head off into the great wide world and share your gifts with others.

We have nothing to be ashamed of for wanting to protect ourselves behind walls of faith, but neither do we have a right to turn our back on those who come to learn. There is no excuse for ignoring or avoiding the world, but it is recommended that first you spend some time protecting yourself by acquiring knowledge.

Send your kids to a Jewish school. All Jews are made to feel welcome there and the sum of the parts make up a glorious whole. Let them stay there during their formative years, and you can be sure that when the time comes for them to head out and conquer the world they’ll be all the better for the experience.

Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum

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