April 14, 2024
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The Noach in Each of Us: Israel at War

As Sukkot came to a close, sirens echoed across Israel just before dawn on October 7, as hordes of Hamas terrorists from Gaza launched a horrifying surprise attack on countless Israeli towns and cities by air, ground and sea. While a significant number of the 5,000 missiles indiscriminately fired from Gaza were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome, countless others sadly penetrated population centers and military installations. This barbaric attack was nothing short of a modern-day Tisha B’Av, Kristallnacht pogrom.

During challenging times, we turn our line of sight to the Torah. The parsha begins by describing, in brevity, three remarkable qualities possessed by Noach. These are the generations of Noach; Noach was a) righteous (not involved in random violence (hamas) like the rest of his generation), b) perfect in his generations (consistent and thorough in the way he practiced his virtues), and c) Noach walked with God, an exceptional and rare virtue (Bereishis 6:9).

How then is it possible for Noach, who had these three powerful attributes to be, as Rashi notes, a “Ma’amin v’aino Ma’amin, one who lacks faith in God”? Noach, with his sons, his wife and his son’s wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. (Bereishis 7:7). Explains the Medrash, “Were it not for the fact that the flood waters reached his ankles, he would have not entered the ark!” (Bereishis Rabbah: 32:9). Is Rashi suggesting that Noach, who demonstrated his faith in God, despite the ridicule from his less than average peers, by investing 120 years constructing the Titanic of his generation, lacked resolute faith in God to deliver on His word to destroy the world, and only boarded the ark when the water reached his ankles?

Citing BT Moed Katan, 16b, the Kedushas Levi explains tzaddik moshel b’yiras Elokim, the righteous govern through “fear of God.” Here Rav Abahu explains that: “I (God) rule over man. But who (as it were) rules over me? The tzaddik! For I decree a harsh punishment, and the tzaddik cancels it with his prayers.” Noach, however, did not actively attempt to positively influence people (by rebuking them). Noach may have felt inadequate to cancel a Divine decree perhaps because he did not consider himself much of a tzaddik. If he were to be saved, his lot would be no different as others that would also be saved. When God noticed this, He told Noach (Bereishis 6:13) that He would have to proceed with His intention to destroy the human race as there was no one who had tried to intercede.

Rabbi Norman Lamm dovetails the reasoning of the Kedushat Levi opining that, “the object of emuna (faith) in this context, is not God but oneself. All of us, by virtue of our mortality and finitude, need God, and God knows we all need each other. After 120 years of building the ark, Noach remained a ma’amin (believer) who perhaps thought to himself, “I have been spared so long, I will surely be spared longer. Concurrently, Noach was also an aino ma’amim, lacking faith in himself, thinking, there is nothing that makes me worthy of being saved. I am helpless and hopeless. Extremes of over and under-confidence, of both an excess and a want of faith in oneself, is a sign of m’katney emuna, a lack of faith in God.

Since the tragedy unfolded more than a week ago, Klal Yisroel had initially felt hopeless, helpless and withdrawn. We were ma’amin when the news alerts started flowing in, and v’aino ma’amim that such a horrific series of events could actually occur. How can we dance hakafot? What can we, so far away, do to help? And yet, overnight, the United States, Canada and countless countries flooded El Al planes with what will become known as one of the largest and consistent transfers of equipment, morale and psychological encouragement the world has ever witnessed.

We all became tzaddikim, capable of turning the tide in this war, regaining lost territory and neutralizing terrorists responsible for the murder of our brothers and sisters in cold blood.

Dozens of duffle bags, boxes filled with medical, logistical, operational and tactical gear are being transported daily. Most importantly, our chayalim are in receipt of religious garments such as tzitzit and kippot, and religious “clothing” that take the beautiful form of daily Tehillim and mishbeirach for harchavat hadaat, blessing for peace of mind. Children are writing letters, reservists are being cheered as they board flights from Newark airport, and the food—plenty of shawarma and Bissli too. Mi k’Amcha Yisroel, Who is like Your nation Israel!

We are now operating around the clock as Gur Aryeh Yehuda. Why? Because Netzach Yisrael lo yishaker,” (1-Shmuel, 15:29). We have readily replaced the aino ma’amin with a ma’amin confident mentality. We are united in conviction, resolute with determination and ready to engage a new chapter of Jewish history replete with Jewish pride in our collective steadfast commitment to Torat Yisroel, kedushat Yisroel and Am Yisroel.

And this he said of Judah: “Hear, Hashem, the voice of Judah. And restore him to his people. Though his own hands strive for him, Help him against his foes.” (Devarim, 33:7).

Am Yisroel chai, v’kayam!


Mordechai Plotsker runs a popular 10-minute nightly shiur on the parsha with a keen interest on the invigorating teachings of the Berditchever Rav, the Kedushas Levi. Plotsker resides in Elizabeth with his wife and children, and can be reached by email at [email protected].

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