Parshas Noach – Compassion in Judgement

In this week’s parsha, Parshas Noach, we learn of Noach, who was an אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו, a righteous man, pure, in his generation; Noach walked with G-d (Bereishis 6:9).  In the ten generations from Adam to Noach, the people had forgotten G-d, Who created and sustains the world. The generation in which Noach lived was involved in immorality, idolatry, and theft (see Rashi to Bereishis 6:11). 

Due to the gravity of their sins, Hashem decided that mankind no longer deserved to live.  He would bring a deluge and wash away humanity, thereby destroying the world.  Only Noach and his family (along with the animals he brought into the ark) would be saved, spending the year of the deluge in the ark Noach was to build.

The ark-building took one hundred and twenty years (Rashi to 6:14).  When it was complete, Hashem said to Noach: בֹּֽא־אַתָּ֥ה וְכָל־בֵּיתְךָ֖ אֶל־הַתֵּבָ֑ה כִּֽי־אֹתְךָ֥ רָאִ֛יתִי צַדִּ֥יק לְפָנַ֖י בַּדּ֥וֹר הַזֶּֽה – come, you and your entire household, into the ark, for you alone I have seen righteous before Me in this generation (7:1). 

כִּי֩ לְיָמִ֨ים ע֜וֹד שִׁבְעָ֗ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ מַמְטִ֣יר עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְאַרְבָּעִ֖ים לָ֑יְלָה וּמָחִ֗יתִי אֶֽת־כָּל־הַיְקוּם֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָשִׂ֔יתִי מֵעַ֖ל פְּנֵ֥י הָֽאֲדָמָֽה – for in seven days time, I will make it rain upon the earth for forty days and forty nights, and I will blot out everything in existence that I have made from upon the face of the earth (7:4).

R’ S. R. Hirsch beautifully and meaningfully comments on the above verse, with an emphasis on the usage of the word אנכי, as referring to G-d.

“One who reads Tanach carefully will find a characteristic distinction between אנכי and אני in respect to G-d.  Wherever אנכי is written, G-d does not stand remote, confronting His creatures, but, rather, conducts Himself with them with love and compassion.  אני, by contrast, denotes the Personality from Whom a motion issues forth, Who sends something to someone, but Who Himself remains in His place…

“The basis meaning of the root (of אנכי) is to encompass and to bear.  אנכי, then, denotes a speaker (“I”) who bears, encompasses, and cares for, a second party (“thou”); the “I” joins and is in intimate connection with the “thou.”  As our fathers heard אנכי at Sinai: אנכי, I am Hashem G-d, אֲשֶׁר הוֹצֵאתִיךָ מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרַיִם מִבֵּית עֲבָדִים, Who took you out from the land of Egypt, from the house of slavery (Shemos 20:2); I, אנכי, encompassed you and raised you out of Egypt…

“If all this is correct, then there is profound significance to the אנכי here (in our verse). G-d says to Noach: I am about to bring death and destruction upon the world.  Nevertheless, I am G-d – I have not changed; I continue to act with love and compassion; even today (as I am about to flood the world) I act as אנכי, Who embraces everything, bears and abides everything, and the purpose of this harsh decree, too, is for the good of the larger whole” (R’ S.R. Hirsch, commentary to Bereishis 7:4). 

Even as the RS”O is about to destroy the worldI, He reminds us that He is always there with us, acting with love and compassion, for the good of the larger whole. 

Chazal (Brachos 60b) teach: וכן תנא משמיה דרבי עקיבא לעולם יהא אדם רגיל לומר כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד – and so it was taught in a baraisa in the name of Rabbi Akiva, One must always accustom oneself to say: Everything the Merciful One does, He does for the best.

The Gemara continues and relates the following incident.  It happened one time that Rabbi Akiva was walking along the road and came to a certain city, he inquired about lodging and they did not give him any.  He said: כל דעביד רחמנא לטב, Everything that God does, He does for the best.  He went and slept in a field, and he had with him a rooster, a donkey and a lamp.  A gust of wind came and extinguished the lamp; a cat came and ate the rooster; and a lion came and ate the donkey. He said: כל דעביד רחמנא לטב, Everything that God does, He does for the best.  That very night, an army came and captured the city.  [It turned out that Rabbi Akiva, who was not in the city and had no lit lamp, noisy rooster or donkey to give away his location, was saved.]  He said to them: Didn’t I tell you? כל מה שעושה הקדוש ברוך הוא, Everything that the Holy One, Blessed Be He does, הכל לטובה, is all for the best. 

Even a deluge that wipes away all life forms, emanates from the same אנכי that redeemed us from slavery in Egypt.  Even when we don’t understand the ways of G-d, and we witness a flood which seems destructive, harsh, and terrible… כל דעביד רחמנא לטב עביד. 

Upcoming on 11 Cheshvan is the yarzheit of Chaim (Howie) Rotman z’l HY”D, who died a year after the Har Nof terror attack (Nov.2014), as a result of massive wounds he sustained in the attack, from which he never recovered.

His wife, Risa שתחי׳, writes, “Once the shiva ended, I was suddenly alone with no real structure to my life.  I was like a little sailboat on an endless ocean.  My whole life (this past year) had revolved around going to the hospital.  Before I would go to bed at night, I would pack up my purse for the next day and set up my coffee thermos to be ready for the hospital.  These little activities had given me a certain sense of tranquility in a very non-tranquil life.

“Then suddenly – BOOM – I had lost a sense of purpose.  I moped deeply for a day or two until I remembered my old mantra.  Nothing is changed, I would tell myself, it is exactly the same as before. I go where Hashem is leading me.  I get up in the morning and accept this day from Hashem and daven that He should lead me (Italics in the original).   

“As time marches on, I still need to remind myself of this mantra when I feel lost or unsure of what I should be doing in life.  Clarity slowly dawns on me when I continue to accept that I am exactly where Hashem wants me to be” (Terror and Emunah in Har Nof, Artscroll, p.201).

כִּי֩ לְיָמִ֨ים ע֜וֹד שִׁבְעָ֗ה אָֽנֹכִי֙ מַמְטִ֣יר עַל־הָאָ֔רֶץ אַרְבָּעִ֣ים י֔וֹם וְאַרְבָּעִ֖ים לָ֑יְלָה – Hashem is always with us; the I Who joins with the thou, Who bears, encompasses, and cares for all of our needs.  It is a lesson and message we would do well to remember, for in every situation, one must strive to find the strength and faith to say, as did R’ Akiva: Everything Hashem does is for the best.

L’zecher nishmas ha’kadosh v’ha’tahor Chaim Yechiel ben Yaakov z’l HY”D.

בברכת חודש טוב ושבת שלום,

Michal

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