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Was Israel affected by the flood? Print E-mail
Monday, 16 October 2023

In Parshat Noach, Breisheet 7:23 we read:

All existence on earth was blotted out- man, cattle, creeping things and birds of the sky; they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noach was left and those with him on the ark.

Pirkei D’Rebi Eliezer points out that the flood was universal except in the Land of Israel, upon which the water of the flood did not descend from heaven, but the waters were gathered together from all the lands and they entered therein as it says in Yechezkel 22:24: “Son of man, say to her, you are a land not cleansed, not swept with rain on the day of rage.”

In Breisheet 8:11 the dove brought back an olive branch:

The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her mouth was a torn off olive leaf. Noach knew then that the water had subsided from the earth.

Where did the olive branch come from?

In Breisheet Rabba 33:6 Rabbi Abba said: She brought it from the young shoots of Eretz Yisrael. Rabbi Levi explains where in Israel it came from: She brought it from the Mount of Oil (Olives)- Har HaZeitim- since the Land of Israel was not inundated by the water of the flood and therefore full trees remained there.

Ramban points out that since the torrential rain did not come down upon the Land of Israel and the windows of heaven were not opened there, the trees remained intact while in the rest of the world they were broken and uprooted by the flood.

The dove specifically bringing an olive branch which symbolizes peace shows us that even in the toughest times we will prevail.

While we are fighting this war in Israel, it is hard to see a light at the end of the tunnel.  Rabbeinu Bachya (Shmot 27:20) teaches that the mystical dimension of the story of the dove bringing back the olive branch is that olive oil was intentionally chosen to be the only oil that was permitted to be used to light the Menorah in the Mishkan and in the Beit HaMikdash since the olive is a symbol of bringing light to the world.

Israel is unique as although it got wet by the waters flowing into Israel, it was not destroyed by torrential downpours.

Israelis are unique as even in the toughest of times we persevere.

As we begin the rainy season in Israel, let’s pray for constructive rain that will provide us with much needed water and healing.


The Mediterranean Triad Print E-mail
Monday, 24 October 2022

The end of Parshat Noach mentions two of the seven species of Israel, olives and grapes.

The olive branch is mentioned in Breisheet 8:11:

The dove came to him toward evening, and behold, in her mouth was a torn off olive leaf.

Grapes are mentioned in Breisheet 9:20-21:

Noach became a man of the soil and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and became intoxicated…

We see from here that olives and grapes dated back to before the time of the Flood.

Twice a day, we recite the Shma Prayer which states (Dvarim 11:13-14):

And it shall come to pass, if you listen diligently to My commandments which I command you this day, to love the Lord your God, and to serve Him with all your heart and with all your soul, that I will give you the rain of your land in its due season, the early rain and the late rain, that you may gather in your grains, your wine and your oil.

If we fulfil the mitzvot, then we will have grains, wine and olive oil and we will be able to remain in the Land of Israel. If we don’t observe the mitzvot, nothing will grow and we will be exiled.

We see from here that along with grains, wine and olive oil were staples. The tithing of grain, grapes and olives is required by Biblical law (the tithing of fruit, legumes and vegetables was instituted by Rabbinic law).

Grains, grapes and olives were later known as the Mediterranean Triad. They are the most prominent crops in the classic Mediterranean diet and were central to the Roman menu.

Olive oil and wine were considered as essential as grains in the ancient world.

There are many similarities between olives and grapes and there are also many differences.

Olives and grapes resemble each other in the way that they are both considered fruits. They have hard seeds inside and a protective edible covering. They are both nutritious and can be eaten as a fruit but are more valuable when converted into a liquid. The liquid if made from the fruit itself, not from its seeds.

The wine and olive harvests are comparable as they only last a few weeks. In Israel, many volunteers come to help out with the harvests. The fruit must be kept in the best shape possible and made into olive oil or wine as quickly as possible.

The olive trees and grape vines are very distinct. Grapes are cultivated while olives grow wild. To get the olives down, one has to bang on the tree while the grapes are taken off the vine gently, one cluster at a time.

The process of making olives into olive oil is a much quicker and simpler process than making grapes into wine.

Both olive oil and wine are stored in a cool dry place. Olive oil has a much shorter life span than wine which improves over time.

Along with the rest of the Seven Species of Israel, grapes and olives are healthy. They have many vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.

The next time that you travel in Israel, check out one of the many wineries around the country to taste the wine and see how it is made or go up to the Galil or Golan and visit a boutique olive oil producer.

Noach’s Tests Print E-mail
Thursday, 07 October 2021

Midrash Tanchuma 58:9 teaches:

All 12 months that Noach was on the ark, he and his family didn’t sleep. They were up day and night as they were busy feeding the animals that were with them. Noach would give each animal their food at the time that they were used to eating. Each animal was used to a certain feeding schedule and Noach made sure to keep to the schedule.

Rabbi Moshe Grylak points out that while Noach and his family were diligently feeding the animals, underneath the ark, Noach’s entire generation who did not treat each other properly drowned. Since Noach was being saved, he felt that he had to prove that he was worthy to live. Noach proved his dedication to help others and to do acts of loving kindness. He passed the test.

Noach passed the test on the ark. However, once it was all over, it was very difficult for him to rebuild his life.

Although the earth was completely dry on the 27th of Iyar, Noach did not leave the ark until he was commanded (Breisheet 8:15-16):

God spoke to Noach, saying, “Depart from the ark, yourself and your wife, your sons, and your son’s wives with you…”

After God promised that there would never be a flood to destroy the entire world again, Noach plants a vineyard.

As we know, grapes can be used for positive purposes- wine for Kiddush, Havdala etc. However, wine can also make people drunk to the point where they don’t know what is happening to them.

Unfortunately, in Breisheet 9:21 we read:

He (Noach) drank of the wine and became intoxicated. He then uncovered himself in his tent.

While Noach was drunk, his son Cham did something inappropriate to Noach who was so intoxicated that he only realized what happened once he was sober.

How sad that Noach who passed the test on the ark was not able to pass the test once he was back on dry land.

May we keep this message in mind and be careful to only drink in moderation.

Who hitched a ride on the ark? Print E-mail
Thursday, 22 October 2020

In Parshat Noach, God established his covenant with Noach, his sons, his wife and his son’s wives. They would be the only ones who would be on the ark aside from the animals and the birds who would come in pairs and the ritually clean animals and birds who would come in seven pairs.

What happened if an animal was too big to fit on the ark? Were they left behind or was another solution found for them?

The Talmud, Zevachim 113b speaks about this issue.

Re’eim, a type of ox (mentioned in Dvarim 33:17) is a gigantic beast, too large to fit on the ark, so how did they survive the flood?

According to Rav Yannai, Noach and his family brought young re’eim cubs into the ark as they were small enough to fit inside.

Rabbah bar Chanah challenges this idea by saying that he saw a young re’eim, one day old and it was already the size of Mt. Tavor.

Rav Yochanan taught that they inserted the re’eim’s head into the ark, but the master taught that he was so large that even his head would not fit.

The Gemara explains that his nostrils were inserted into the ark, meaning that the rest of his body dangled beneath the water. However, this explanation is problematic since his nose could have easily fallen out and then he would have drowned.

Reish Lakish taught that they solved this problem by tying his horns to the ark which prevented his nose from slipping out.

Rav Chisada had an issue with this solution since the waters from the flood were boiling so how would the re’eim have survived being immersed in boiling water?

As well, wouldn’t the boiling water melt off the waterproof pitch as Noach was commanded to caulk the ark with tar?

The only way to explain this is that a miracle was performed which cooled off the water at the sides of the ark. This way the pitch remained intact and the re’eim were able to hitch a ride.

The rabbis discuss another stowaway on the ark, the giant, Og, King of Bashan.

In the Midrash, Pirkei D’Rebbi Eliezer 23:8 we learn:

All living things which were upon the face of the earth decayed, as it is said in Breisheet 7:23: And every living thing was destroyed which was upon the face of the ground, except Noach and those who were with him in the ark, as it is said, "Only Noach and those who were with him in the ark survived" except Og King of Bashan, who sat down on a piece of wood under the gutter of the ark. Og swore to Noach and to his sons that he would be their servant forever. What did Noach do? He bore a hole in the ark, and put through it Og’s food daily for him. As it is said: "For only Og, king of Bashan, remained of the remnant of the giants" (Deut. 3:11).

How do we know that Og survived? In Breisheet 14:13 we read: “The one who had escaped (palit) came and told Avraham …”

Rashi comments that according to the plain meaning of the text this refers to Og who escaped from the war. This is what is referred to in Dvarim 3:11 “For only Og was left from the remnant of the Rephaim...”

Rashi also brings the Midrash, Breisheet Raba 42;8: This refers to Og who escaped from the generation of the flood.

The Talmud, Nidda 61a, adds that Sichon the King of the Cheshbon, Og’s brother was with him as well.

Unfortunately, both brothers did not appreciate what Noach did for them. They were not hospitable to B’nai Yisrael and even went to war against them.

May we learn to appreciate the favors that are done for us and emulate the hospitality of Noach and Avraham.

The Survivors: From Noach to Noach Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 October 2019

In Breisheet Chapters 8-9, after Noach, his family and the animals survived the flood and departed from the ark, Noach built an altar and brought burnt offerings. God was happy with the sacrifices and promised that He would never curse the ground again because of man and that He would never smite every living thing. He then blessed Noach and his family to be fruitful and multiply. He made a covenant that a flood will never destroy the earth. The rainbow is the sign of the covenant.

Then, in Breisheet 9:20-21, we read: “Noach began to be a man of the soil and he planted a vineyard. He drank of the wine and was intoxicated. He then uncovered himself in his tent.”

What happened to Noach? Did he get drunk in order to escape from the experience of seeing the world destroyed?

Dr. Bryna Levy in her book Waiting for Rain explains that “there is a parallel that can be drawn between the destruction of the world in the time of Noach and the annihilation during the Shoah (Holocaust). Indeed, the history of Biblical exegesis suggests that Noach’s fate may be universalized to the experience of all survivors of catastrophe.”

It is amazing how many Holocaust survivors were able to move on and rebuild their lives, but that can’t be taken for granted after everything that they went through.

One example of a Holocaust survivor who was able to move on and never gave up hope was Noach Klieger who passed away this past year at the age of 92.

After surviving Auschwitz, Noach Klieger became a member of the crew of the SS Exodus attempting to bring Holocaust survivors illegally into pre-State Israel. In 1948, he made aliya and fought in the War of Independence. He worked in journalism and covered the Eichmann and Demjanjuk trials. He was a frequent lecturer and he went back to visit Auschwitz every year. He was a father and grandfather and wrote for the Yediot Acharonot newspaper until the day that he passed away.

Both Noach from our parsha and Noach Klieger dealt with their experiences differently.

They both got on boats and did what they could to rebuild the world.

May we gain inspiration from the stories of both Noach’s and be careful not to judge others as we have no idea what they may have been through.

What does Noah’s Ark have to do with Neilah? Print E-mail
Monday, 08 October 2018

Sponsored by Bernie and Leah Weinberger

In honor of the yahrzeit of Leah’s father,

 Moshe Binyamin ben Shlomo HaLevi z”l

In Parshat Noach, the straw that broke the camel’s back and caused God to destroy the world is found in Breisheet 6:11, ...the earth was filled with chamas”, translated by Rashi as gezel (robbery).

When the earth was corrupt (vatishachet) with lewdness and idolatry, God was not ready to destroy it. How did “chamas” push God over the edge to take action?

Nehama Leibowitz explains:

“Chamas” is capable of demoralising all that is good in human nature and acts as an inexorable barrier between man and his maker.

We read in Shmot Raba 22:4:

Thus said Job (Job 16:17) “Not for any “chamas” in my hands: my prayer is pure”. Is there a prayer that is impure? He who prays to God with hands soiled by “chamas” is not answered. Why? Because his prayer is impure as it is said: “And God said, the end of all flesh is come before me; for the earth is filled with “chamas.” Since Job never committed any robbery, his prayer was pure.

Just a few weeks ago, during the closing moments of Yom Kippur we recited the Neila prayer and read the following sentence twice (in the paragraphs following the final “Al Chet” prayer): “Lema’an nechdal m’oshek yadenu”, “we cease from oppression of our hands.”

The only transgression that is specifically singled out in the Neilah service is robbery. On a daily basis you don’t see shul-goers pick pocketing or holding up banks at gunpoint so why is there an extra focus on robbery?

The prayer reminds us that we must follow the correct path which includes paying workers on time, paying for all of the benefits that employees are legally entitled to, paying off pledges and other financial obligations on time, reporting earnings, not cheating the tax authority, not borrowing from a friend without their permission, not being lax in returning borrowed objects etc. All of these “white collar transgressions” fall under the category of robbery.

Transgressions between a person and their fellow person are not forgiven by God. They can only be forgiven by the person who was wronged. If we want our prayers to be accepted, we must do tshuva (repent). Even at the last moment of Yom Kippur, we are reminded that if we did not do proper tshuva before Yom Kippur we are not off the hook. We must commit to make amends in the category of robbery by paying off what is owed and take it upon ourselves to handle these situations differently in the future.

As we start off the New Year, this is the time to make resolutions of how we will conduct ourselves here on in, avoiding transgressions associated with robbery which brought about the flood and destroyed the world.

Watch what you drink! Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 October 2017

After Noach left the ark, “Noach began to be a man of the soil and he planted the vineyard. He drank of the wine and was intoxicated. He then uncovered himself in his tent (Breisheet 9:20-21).”

According to Radak, before the flood people ate grapes but wine had not yet been invented. The story of Noach getting drunk from drinking the wine that he produced as well as the aftermath warns us to be careful when drinking wine as one can lose their mind while drunk, become confused and act crazy.

Radak proves his point by adding a quote by King Solomon from Mishlei (Proverbs 23:20-35) “Do not be among the guzzlers of wine…Whose eyes are red? Those who linger over wine, those who come to inquire over mixed drinks. Do not look at wine becoming red, for to one who fixes his eyes on the goblet all paths are upright. His end is like one bitten by a snake, like one dispatched by a serpent. Your eyes will see strange things and your heart will speak duplicates. And you will be like one who sleeps in the heart of the sea, like one who lies on top of a mast. In your drunkenness you will say: “They struck me, but I did not become ill; they beat me but I was unaware. When will I awaken? I will continue asking for more wine!”

Radak adds that the prophets Yishayahu and Amos also spoke out against people who drink too much and get drunk and concludes that the Torah recounts this negative story about Noach being the first person to drink wine and get drunk and confused in order to warn us about the dangers of drinking too much wine.

Rabbi Avraham Yaakov of Sedugora, Ukraine (1820-1883) said that sometimes drinking wine is a mitzvah, but on every mitzvah there is also the prohibition of “bal tosif”, do not add to the mitzvah.

Last week, we celebrated Simchat Torah and unfortunately many people in synagogues throughout the world drank more than they should have and ended up desecrating the holiday rather than rejoicing in it. Let’s learn a lesson from Noach’s embarrassment and try to keep the drinking to a minimum and in good taste.

Sarah’s many names Print E-mail
Wednesday, 23 November 2016

At the end of Parshat Noach (Breisheet 11:29-30) we read about Avraham’s family: “Avram and Nachor married. The name of Avram’s wife was Sarai, the name of Nachor’s wife was Milkah, the daughter of Haran, who was the father of Milkah and Yiscah. Sarai was barren, she had no child.”

Why is Yiscah mentioned here? Who was she and why don’t we hear about her again?

According to Rashi, who brings Rabbi Yitzchak’s interpretation from the Talmud, Megilla 14a ,Yiscah was Sarah. She was called Yiscah (to see) because she saw the future through Divine inspiration (she was one of the seven prophetesses). She was also beautiful and all would gaze at her. Alternately, Yiscah is from the root meaning princely (nesichut), just as Sarah is from the root meaning ruling (srara).

Avraham later explains to Avimelech that Sarah is a member of his family (Breisheet 20:12) “In any case, she is my sister, the daughter of my father, but not the daughter of my mother and she became my wife.”

Rashi points out that Sarah was actually Avraham’s brother Haran’s daughter, making her Terach’s granddaughter and Avraham’s niece. However, one’s children’s children are like one’s own children. Family members referred to each other as brothers and sisters, as Avraham told Lot (Sarah’s brother) “we are bothers” even though Avraham was Lot’s uncle.

Breisheet Raba 44:10 points out that while she is named Sarai, she will not have children as she is barren. However, once her name is changed to Sarah, she is able to have a child as it says in Breisheet 21:1-2 “And God remembered Sarah as He had said and God did for Sarah as He had spoken. She conceived and gave birth to Avraham’s son in his old age at the designated time that God had declared.”

According to Rabbi Shimon ben Karcha, when her name was changed from Sarai to Sarah, the letter yud which has the value of ten was split into two letter heys which each have the value of five. One hey was given to Avram to become Avraham and one hey was given to Sarai to become Sarah, bestowing each one with a part of God’s name.

We see from the case of Sarah that a person’s name(s) can reflect who they are. 

Go Out! Print E-mail
Tuesday, 13 October 2015

In loving memory of Hillel Eliyahu ben Zvulun

(Rabbi Hillel Lieberman HY'D)

on his 15th Yahrzeit, Chet Tishrei

Rabbi Hillel Lieberman was brutally murdered while on his way to

Kever Yosef HaTzaddik (Joseph’s Tomb in Shechem)

to stop the desecration of God's name.

Sponsored by his sister and his niece,

 Elyorah Chaya Lieberman and Sarah Leah Ellison


In Parshat Noach (Breisheet 8:16), after the flood, God tells Noach to leave the ark: “Depart from the ark, yourself, your wife, your sons and your sons wives with you.”


Despite all of the destruction that he saw, it was time for Noach to move on.


What would have happened to the world if Noach and his family (and all of the animals) spent the rest of their lives on the ark instead of going out?


What would happen if the current terror attacks caused Israelis to stay at home?


Over Sukkot, immediately after Rabbi Aharon Benita HY'D and Rabbi Nehemia Lavie HY'D were murdered in the Muslim Quarter, a major Charedi posek (decider of Jewish Law) in Israel told his students that they can travel to Jerusalem but they should stay away from the Old City until things calm down. Two streams of Chasidim were held back by their rabbis from coming to the Kotel as well.


While the Western Wall Heritage Fund, Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, MK David Azoulay and Rabbi Shmuel Rabinowitz are not happy with the Halachic rulings (they say that it is completely safe to go to the Kotel), the Muslim radicals are thrilled that terror pays: “If after two stabbings we have caused many to leave the Kotel, what would happen if we carried out some quality attacks?”


No wonder why when I went to the Kotel this past Thursday, aside from a few Bar Mitzvah celebrations there was hardly anyone there.


Today there was supposed to be a massive prayer gathering at the Kotel led by Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu in memory of those who have been killed in the recent terror attacks and to pray for a full recovery of the victims of terror. The low attendance at the gathering probably has to do with the fact that the Charedi and Chassidic Rabbis did not officially revoke their statements about it being forbidden to go to the Old City and the Kotel as they find it to be too dangerous. A Charedi Knesset Member was even ridiculed by the Charedi press for going to the Kotel to celebrate a family Bar Mitzvah thus defying the rabbis.


MK David Azoulay encourages Israelis to visit the Kotel to strengthen our presence there as well as at the other holy sites which symbolize most of all our connection to the Land of Israel specifically now during these troubling times.


Just as God told Noach to “go out”, we too must go out and show that we care about Israel’s holy sites.

Avraham Converted the Men and Sarah Converted the Women Print E-mail
Thursday, 23 October 2014

At the end of Parshat Noach, we learn of the birth of Avram, the marriage of Avram to Sarai, the fact that Sarai is barren as well as the start of their journey to the Land of Cnaan. At the beginning of Parshat Lech Lecha we read (Breisheet 12:5) “Avram took his wife Sarai, Lot, his brother’s son, all of their possessions that they had acquired and the souls that they had made in Charan and they set out to go to the Land of Cnaan. They came to the Land of Cnaan.

Rashi asks what is meant by the words “the souls that they had made in Charan”, after all souls cannot be made.

Rashi answers with an explanation from Breisheet Raba 39:14, they brought the souls under the protective wings of the Divine Presence. Avraham would convert the men and Sarah would convert the women. Therefore they are considered to have made them.

We can learn from here some very important information about conversions.

Avraham and Sarah, converts themselves understood the importance of not just converting people, but rather touching souls.

When working with a person who is converting, a mentor has to understand that they are not just going through the motions of filling out paperwork and teaching a curriculum, they are creating a Jewish soul.

Avraham and Sarah realized that when it comes to studying for conversion, it is often more comfortable for the men to have a male mentor and for the women to have a female mentor.

For the past seventeen years, I have mentored female converts, first in the United States and then in Israel. The women are naturally more comfortable opening up and asking questions to a female mentor who is with them throughout the entire process.

Avraham and Sarah’s goal was to reach the Land of Israel.

Israel’s Rabbanut needs to be welcoming to converts from abroad who want to make Israel their home instead of trying to scare them away by telling them that their Halachic conversions are still not good enough.

We are now in the year 5775. In the year 2023, Avraham and Sarah the first converts already knew the best possible way to work with converts. Why can’t we follow their formula and make sure that we are giving converts support and touching souls, ensure that every female convert, anywhere in the world is paired with a female religious mentor who is with her throughout the entire process from meeting with the Rabbis, studying one on one as well as accompanying her to the mikva and finally, when Halachic converts are ready to make Aliya they should be welcomed with open arms.


Were the Animals on Noah’s Ark Vegetarians? Print E-mail
Tuesday, 01 October 2013

After Noach was told to bring his family and the animals onto the ark, he was commanded to bring food as well.


In Parshat Noach, Breisheet 6:21, God commanded Noach: “You shall take for yourself from all of the foods that are eaten and gather it to yourself, and it will be food for you and for them.”


According to Radak, Rabbi David Kimchi 1160-1235 (Breisheet 1:25, 6:21), all of the animals were vegetarians immediately after the world was created as well as when they were on the ark. The food that was brought onto the ark was a combination of fruits, nuts and vegetation.


Radak explains: In the beginning of creation, if the lion had eaten the lamb and if the tiger had eaten the goat, the divine order of creation would have been destroyed. What did the lion or the other carnivorous animals eat? If they had consumed the flesh of other animals and beasts, the world would have lacked that species; for they were created male and female, not more, and they did not wait to eat until their prey had offspring. Surely they consumed the green herbs of the field until their prey mated and increased. From then on, their nature was carnivorous. Similarly, in Noah’s ark, if they had eaten their prey, that species would have been lacking in the world (since they entered the ark in pairs, not more, except for the “clean” species, which entered in pairs of seven).


In the story of the Creation of  the world, Breisheet 1:30 we read: “And for every animal of the earth, for every bird of the heaven, and for everything that creeps on the ground, in which there is a living spirit, every green herb shall be their food. And it was so.”


Radak states that we learn from here that God gave all of the green herbs to both the herbivorous as well as the carnivorous animals. At times when the carnivorous animals didn’t have access to meat, they were still able to survive.


The answer to our question is yes. Only vegetarian meals were served on the ark.


Separating Life from Death Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 October 2012

When Noach was told to board the ark (Breisheet 7:7), the men and women were listed separately: “Noach went in, and his sons, his wife, and his son’s wives, with him into the ark, because of the waters of the flood.”


Rashi, quoting the Midrash in Tanchuma 11 states: The men separately and the women separately, since they were forbidden to have marital relations since the world was in a state of grief.


When the flood was over (Breisheet 8:16) and Noach and his family were permitted to leave the ark, the men were listed with the women, not separately: “Depart from the ark, yourself and your wife, your sons and your son’s wives with you.”


Rashi points out that here husband and wife are mentioned together since now that they left the ark they were permitted to resume marital relations.


In Breisheet 9:1, God specifically tells Noach and his sons to be fruitful and multiply the same way that he told Adam.


Radak mentions here that this is like a recreation of the world after the destruction and it would only be fitting to bless them to be fruitful and multiply.


It would not have made sense for Noach and his family to procreate while they were on the ark while outside the rest of the world was being destroyed. That must be why God asked them to enter the ark separately.


When Yosef was in Egypt (Breisheet 41:50) we read: “Two sons were born to Yosef before the years of famine came.”


Rashi states that from here we learn that a person may not have marital relations during years of famine.


In Judaism, there is a time for everything and having children is a very important part of the religion but there are certain times during the year and circumstances when marital relations are forbidden including Tisha B’Av when the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed, Yom Kippur (a Biblical commandment) and when sitting shiva.


As it says in Kohelet 3:1-2:

To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven; a time to be born and a time to die…


As we read Parshat Noach and we see the world being rebuilt after the destruction lets hope for good news about the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the entire world!

Starting Anew Print E-mail
Friday, 28 October 2011

Welcome Back Gilat Shalit- It is Great to Have You Back Home Again!


When the flood was over and the water subsided, God told Noach and his family: (Beisheet 8:16) “Depart from the ark, yourself and your wife, your sons, and your son’s wives with you”.


After everything that they had been through it should not be a surprise that Noach and his family were hesitant to return to reality, readjust and start anew.


Before Gilad Shalit was released, we didn’t know what his condition would be, how he would look or how he would readjust to society.


When Gilad returned we were relieved to see that although he lost a considerable amount of weight he was doing relatively well.


Now that Gilad is back home, he is taking his time to readjust.


In the Israeli newspapers we get a daily report of what Gilad is up to. He has been seen riding a bicycle, spending time with friends and going to the beach. The Knesset invited him to sit in on their next meeting and he was invited by Maccabi Tel Aviv to attend a basketball game but he declined both offers. Gilad needs to take small steps in order to readjust to this world after spending over five years in the dark. This week he is going to have a full medical exam and have his physical wounds from when he was captured taken care of. The harder part is going to be the emotional part, when he will have to tell his whole story, almost reliving the horrors of being in captivity.


Starting over is never easy, especially when you now have to go outside in sunglasses since you were forced to live underground for over five years without sunlight.


The fact that Noach and his family were able to start the world anew after seeing the entire world destroyed by a flood should give us hope that no matter how difficult a situation we may be faced with we have the ability to pull through and carry on.



The Six Seasons? Print E-mail
Friday, 08 October 2010

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After the flood,God makes a promise to Noach (Breisheet 8:22): “Continuously, all of the days of the earth, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night shall not cease”.


During the flood, the cycle of the seasons was halted. God now promises Noach that the world will return to its natural order with six seasons.


Why are there six seasons instead of the four that we usually speak about?


In the Gemara in Bava Metzia 106b we learn that each agricultural season has two months: planting, winter, cold, harvest, summer and hot.


There are different opinions as to which date the cycle of these seasons begins. According to Rabbi Shimon these six seasons start at the beginning of Cheshvan.


Today and tomorrow are Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan. As we read Parsha Noach tomorrow we will literally see the world restart its cycle. Just this past week in the Land of Israel we felt the “hot” season winding down (hopefully!) and we feel a little bit of fall in the air.


Just a month after Rosh Hashana we now have another opportunity for renewal, another chance to begin again.

Technology and the Tower of Bavel Print E-mail
Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Parshat Noach ends with the story of the tower of Bavel: Breisheet 11:1-9: “The whole earth was of one language and of common purpose…They said to one another, ‘Come let us make bricks and burn them in fire.’ And the brick served them as stone and the lime served them as mortar. And they said, ‘Come let us build us a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, v’naaseh lanu shem, let us make a name for ourselves…’”


Nechama Leibowitz brings the opinion of Beno Yaakov who says that these psukim show man’s technological advances. They didn’t have stone so they made their own bricks. However, once they were able to make the bricks, to be creative, they felt that they themselves were godlike and they began to feel haughty. Instead of saying “Let’s use the bricks to make houses to protect our families from the rain”, they became obsessed with making bricks and building in order to make a name for themselves.


In Pirkei DeRebbi Eliezer we read a midrash that gives us insight into the priorities of the builders: The tower had seven steps from the east and seven from the west. The bricks were hauled up from one side the descent was on the other. If a man fell down and died, no attention was paid to him, but if one brick fell down, they would sit and weep and say: Oy! When will another brick be hauled up in its place?


The punishment of that generation is seen in sentences 7-8: “Come let us descend and there confuse their language, that they should not understand one another’s language. God dispersed them from there over the face of the whole earth and they stopped building the city”.


Advances in technology can be positive and should be welcome. However, technology can have negative effects as well.


Just last week, people all over the world were concerned about the safety of a six year old boy who was seen getting into a homemade hot air balloon. After a tremendous amount of money was spent on searching for him, it turns out that  he was hiding at home in a box while the balloon flew in the sky so that his family could “make the news”, make a name for themselves- become famous- “naaseh lanu shem”.


Let’s hope and pray that the prophecy of Zephania (3:9) comes true: “For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may call upon Shem HaShem the name of God, to serve with one consent”.


May we see the day where the whole world speaks the same language, a language of belief in God and a language of peace and ethics, where technology is used solely for making the world a better place.

Who was Noach’s Wife? Print E-mail
Friday, 31 October 2008

My 1 ½ year old son, Yehuda, knows the names of every toy in our home. The only toy without a name is the little doll with gray hair that comes with our toy Noah’s ark set, simply called “Noach’s wife”.

Did Noach’s wife have a name?

The midrash in Breisheet Raba explains: “Rabbi aba Bar Kahana said: Na’ama was Noach’s wife. Why did they call her Na’ama? She was called Na’ama because she performed good deeds (maasim neimim)”.

Na’ama is mentioned in the Torah in Breisheet 4:22: “And Tzillah (Lemech’s wife) gave birth to Tuval Kayin… and his sister was Na’ama”.

Leah Shakdiel points out that although her name is not mentioned in the story of Noach, Na’ama is actually the first woman whose birth is mentioned in the list of generations (the other women were only listed once they married in to the family).

According to Sefer HaYashar, Noach married Na’ama when he was 498 years old.

In Breisheet Raba 26:2, Rabbi Yudin asks “What took Noach so long to get married? After all the other people in his generation married young- they were married by the time that they were 100-200 years old”.

The reason that God wanted Noach to wait was because if his children would have been bad then God would have had to destroy them in the flood. If Noach’s children were good (and in turn had a lot of good children) then they would have had to build a lot of arks. Therefore, God made Noach sterile until he was 500 years old and by the time the flood came, even his oldest son Yefet was not even 100 years old yet (the time that a person was responsible in those days for their transgressions- kind of like the age of Bar/ Bat Mitzvah today and therefore could not be punished in the flood.)

My next question is, who were Noach’s sons wives? I think that we will save that for another day!


Torat Reva Yerushalayim is proud to give you the opportunity to have a learned person recite Psalms on your behalf on a weekly basis at the Kotel (Western Wall).

Jacob, our Forefather calls Jerusalem “The gate of heaven”. According to Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan z”l, “Just as things can go in through a gate, so can they emerge. Thus, all spiritual sustenance and blessing come only through Jerusalem , as it is written, ‘God will bless you from Zion ’ (Psalms 128:5). It is taught in the Zohar that God first sends a blessing to Jerusalem , and from there it flows to the entire world. Today, when the Temple no longer stands, the source of this blessing is the Western Wall.”

Tehillim (Psalms) at the Western Wall can be recited on your behalf for the following:

  • Health/ Recovery from an illness
  • Healthy childbirth
  • Shidduch (finding a mate)
  • Thanksgiving
  • Livelihood & success
  • Divine guidance
  • Troublesome times
  • Repentance
  • Peace

With your monthly donation of $18 or more (or yearly donation of $180 or more) to Torat Reva Yerushalayim, you will be performing the important mitzvah of contributing toward the Torah education of the forgotten population of senior citizens in Jerusalem, while having your prayers recited by a learned person at the footsteps of Judaism’s holiest site.

Your contribution can be made by mailing a check to Torat Reva Yerushalayim,

75 Berkeley Avenue , Yonkers , NY 10705 or via Paypal, by clicking on the link below and scrolling down to the “Make A Donation” button.


Please email This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it or call 718-593-4162 if you would like to take part in this exciting project!

The Olive Leaf as a Symbol of Peace Print E-mail
Thursday, 11 October 2007

The Torah’s description of the flood states (Breisheet 7:23): “And He destroyed every living substance which was on the face of the ground…” After the flood, (Breisheet 8:9) Noach sent a dove to see if the waters had abated from the face of the ground. However, the dove returned since the waters had not yet abated. In Breisheet 8:10-11 we read: “And he waited yet another seven days; and again he set forth the dove out of the ark; and the dove came into him in the evening; and lo, in her mouth was an olive leaf plucked off : so Noach knew that the waters were abated from off the earth”.

In Breisheet Rabba, 22:6, the question is asked: If God had already destroyed every living substance, aside from those who were on the ark, then where did the dove find a tree to pluck off a branch?

Rabbi Aba Bar Kahana answers: From the trees of the Land of Israel. Rabbi Levi adds from the trees of the mountain of oil, Har Hazeitim (Mount of Olives) in Jerusalem. The rains of the flood did not fall on the Land of Israel and therefore the trees remained intact. Although the rains did not fall directly on the Land of Israel, the Land of Israel was still covered with water. There was no destruction the way that there was outside of Israel, however they still had to wait for the water to subside.

The olive leaf is a universal symbol of peace which originated in the account of Noach and the Dove and was later adapted by other cultures. The dove traveled all of the way from Mt. Ararat (Armenia) to the Land of Israel because true peace originated there. The Land of Israel was the only Land which was not destroyed in the flood, despite all odds and should not be destroyed or split up today to appease our enemies.

The Mt. of Olives in the eastern region of Jerusalem is the oldest cemetery still in use anywhere in the world. Jews have been buried on the Mt. of Olives for over 2,000 years. True peace can only come by holding on to such holy sites and not by forfeiting them.

The Seven Universal Mitzvot Print E-mail
Wednesday, 25 October 2006

The first 11 prakim (chapters) of the Torah are universal. In these eleven prakim, seven mitzvoth, shared standards for human conduct are alluded to. These mitzvoth are referred to as "Sheva Mitzvoth B'nai Noach", the seven Noachide laws.

The Gemara in Sanhedrin 56a-b lists the seven mitzvoth that all of mankind is obligated to follow:

  1. Dinin- Establishing courts of justice
  2. Birkat HaShem- Do not commit blasphemy
  3. Avodah Zarah- Do not worship idols
  4. Gilui Arayot- Do not commit sexual immorality
  5. Shfichut Damim- Do not murder
  6. Gezel- Do not steal
  7. Ever min HaChai- Do not eat the flesh of a live animal

In Rambam's Hilchot Issurei Bi'ah 14:7 the following question is asked: "What is meant by a Ger Toshav (residentalien)? A Ger Toshav is a gentile who makes a commitment not to worship false deities and to observe the other six universal laws commanded to Noach's descendants. He does not circumcise himself nor immerse. We accept this commitment and he is considered one of the pious gentiles. Why is he called a resident? Because he is permitted to dwell among us in the land of Israel."

In Rambam's Hilchot Melachim 8:11 we learn that "anyone who accepts upon himself the fulfillment of these Seven Mitzvot and is precise in their observance is considered one of the Pious among the Gentiles (ChasideiUmot HaOlam). They will merit a share in the World to Come. This applies only when one accepts these mitzvot and fulfills them because the Holy One, blessed be He, commanded them in the Torah and informed us through Moshe, our teacher. Previously, Noach's descendants were commanded to fulfill these mitzvot. However, if a person fulfillsthese mitzvot out of intellectual conviction, they are not considered a Ger Toshav, resident alien, nor of thePious among the Gentiles. They are simply considered wise."

Let's hope that the entireworld will take on these basic moral standards which will help bring about the redemption, restoring peace and tranquility inthe land of Israel and throughout the world.

Why Go To Israel? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 November 2005

At the end of Parshat Noach, Breisheet 11:31, we read: ""Terach took Avram, his son, Lot, his grandson and Sarai, his daughter-in-law. With them he departed from Ur Kasdim to go to the Land of Cnaan (Israel).""

Why would Terach, an idol worshiper take the initiative to head out towards the land of Cnaan?

According to Chizkuni, Terach was headed towards Cnaan because he was a Semite, a descendant of Shem, the son of Noach. The descendants of Shem were promised the Land of Cnaan as an inheritance. In effect, Terach was actually heading home.

Sforno says that they were heading towards Cnaan because it is known to be the most desirable of all of the lands. As it says in Devarim 11:12, ""A land which God cares for, the eyes of God are always upon it.""

Sforno adds that the rain of the flood did not destroy the air in Israel the way it destroyed the air in the rest of the lands. As it says in Yechezkel 22:24: ""You are a land that was not rained upon in the day of wrath.""

The Rabbis of the Talmud taught in Baba Metzia 158b that the air in the Land of Israel makes one wise.

Israel is a great place.

Many of us go to Israel for different reasons:

1.It is the land of our inheritance
2.It is the land that God constantly watches over
3.The air is good
4.There is a spiritual feeling that we have in Israel that you can't find anywhere else.

Whatever our own personal reasons are, it's important to go to Israel and not wait. Although Terach headed out towards Israel, he never actually made it. He died in Charan.

In Charan, God commanded Avram ""Lech Lecha,"" Go (to Israel) for your own good. In Israel, I will make you a great nation and you shall be blessed.

That tops it off our list with two more reasons to go
to Israel:
1.Go because it is a mitzvah (commandment)
2.By going you will be blessed