April 16, 2024
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Rav Perlow’s Shiurim Inspire New Sefer

“Novominsk on Chumash Vol 1: Insights, Perspectives, and Life Lessons from the Novominsker Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Perlow, Bereishis-Shemos,” by Rabbi Yecheskel Ostreicher. 346 pages. 2022. Artscroll Mesorah Publications. Hardcover. ISBN-10: 1422632504.

Without the Torah, the world is an icy, cold and threatening place. It is the Torah—the unique possession of Klal Yisrael—and the Divine message that it contains that melts the ice. The Torah warms the entire atmosphere, the person who learns Torah, his family, and his home, and it sustains our lives with meaning and purpose.

—From the Novominsker Rebbe’s address at the Tenth Siyum HaShas of Daf HaYomi

(Courtesy of Artscroll) Yes, thousands warmed themselves with the Torah of Rav Yaakov Perlow zt”l, the Novominsker Rebbe. He was a rebbe and rosh yeshiva. A leader of the worldwide Torah community. A brilliant thinker, gifted speaker and writer, a compassionate guide and adviser to thousands, and, of course, an outstanding talmid chacham and gadol.

In a brand new volume, “Novominsk on Chumash Vol 1,” published by ArtScroll/Mesorah, Rabbi Yecheskel Ostreicher, a close talmid of Rav Perlow, has drawn upon the rebbe’s shiurim, speeches and writings to give us a rich and rewarding understanding of the Torah the rebbe loved so much. In these pages, we find fascinating explanations of the words of Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos, inspiring vignettes about the rebbe’s total devotion to Torah study and to every single Jew, as well as a selection of divrei Torah from geonim and gedolim of previous generations that the rebbe used to quote.

In these penetrating yet easy-to-read explanations, we learn to better understand the holy words of Torah—and, indeed, we will also better understand ourselves and our mission in life.

  • • • • •

The following is an excerpt of a thought from the rebbe on Parashas Noach.

וַיָּרַח ה’ אֶת רֵיחַ הַנִּיחֹחַ וַיֹּאמֶר ה’ אֶל לִבּוֹ לֹא אֹסִף לְקַלֵּל עוֹד אֶת הָאֲדָמָה

 בַּעֲבוּר הָאָדָם כִּי יֵצֶר לֵב הָאָדָם רַע מִנְּעֻרָיו.

Hashem smelled the pleasant aroma… “I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man, since the imagery of man’s heart is evil from his youth” (8:21).

Rashi says in Parashas Vayikra (1:9) that “rei’ach nichoach” in reference to korbanos means nachas ruach, contentment, for Hashem that His will was carried out. Interestingly, Rashi does not explain these words here. Why is that?

Furthermore, the second half of the pasuk, which describes man as evil from his youth, is puzzling. Why is the fact that man has evil in him from when he is born a reason that Hashem will not destroy the world? Shouldn’t that be a reason why man should be condemned?

The answer, says the Ramban, is that Hashem had found a justification for man’s evil behavior. The korban that Noach brought had an immense impact in Heaven, awakening rachmanus, mercy, on man. The korban demonstrated that although man sins often, there is still reason to allow him to exist. Even with all the problems of man, there is a “silver lining.”

Prior to the Mabul, Hashem said of the inhabitants of the world that they were rak ra kol hayom, [nothing] but evil always (Bereishis 6:5). However, when Noach brought the korban, he caused a change in Shamayim. He caused Hashem to say that the world is in truth redeemable, despite all the evil that people do. Noach’s korban served not as a source of contentment, like a regular korban, but as appeasement for the evil actions of mankind. That is why Rashi does not explain the meaning of rei’ach nichoach in this parashah.

The Baal HaTurim cites a mesorah that the phrase vayorach es rei’ach appears in two places: here, and again when Yaakov came to receive Yitzchak’s blessing: Vayorach es reiach bekadav, He smelled the fragrance of his garments (Bereishis 27:27). The Baal HaTurim adds that Chazal (Sanhedrin 37a) read this pasuk as rei’ach bogdov, the fragrance of His betrayers; Yitzchak smelled the fragrance of those who would betray Him. This teaches that even the evil sinners of

Klal Yisrael have some good in them, which brings contentment to Hashem.

Why is this remez written specifically here? It is because just as the korban of Noach brought Hashem happiness, so to speak, despite all the sin and destruction that had just taken place, so are the sinners of Klal Yisrael redeemable through their positive actions, even if few and far between.

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