Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Lech Lecha – Accepting Hashem’s Majesty

Titles and introductions mean a lot. About a year ago, I went to the Friday night Shalom Zachor of the grandson of one of our popular elected officials. Of course, there were many people that night, and the atmosphere was festive. When the host saw me, he gave me a very warm greeting and led me to sit next to a distinguished man in his mid-thirties, wearing a yarmulke and a pink shirt. “Rabbi, meet my friend Mayer Lora.” We started doing the shmooze, and I realized he didn’t know very much Jewishly. Maybe my friend wanted me to invite this fellow to learn in our yeshiva! After a little more time and pleasant banter, I came to realize this man was actually Mayor Lora, the mayor of our city! Yes, titles and introductions are important, and sometimes need to be spelled out very clearly to effectively communicate!

The Gemara Brachos (7b) tells us Avraham was the first person in the world to refer to Hashem as Adon – Master, (Parshas Lech Lecha 15:8) Additionally, Daniel was saved from the lion’s den because when he cried out to Hashem in prayer, Daniel referred to Hashem as Adon. He was therefore saved in the merit of Avraham, who also referred to Hashem as Adon. Yet, we know that Adam, Shem and Noach all prayed to Hashem. What was this special practice that Avraham developed of referring to Hashem as Adon?

We presently refer to Hashem as Adon with one of the first prayers of the day, Adon Olam. We also start Shemoneh Esrei with the words “Adon-ai sefasei tiftach” – Hashem, may you open our lips. Rav Sherira Gaon says that when one recites the prayer of Adon Olam with proper concentration, all his prayers of the day will be answered, the Satan will be removed from him, and his prayers on the High Holidays will be accepted! What is so special about this prayer that makes it an “ace in the hole?”

The Magid Tzedek says that we start the prayers in the morning and the Shemoneh Esrei with the word Adon, precisely to invoke the merit of Avraham, who referred to Hashem as Adon.  However, we still need to explain what is so special about referring to Hashem as Adon?

Rav Shimon Schwab quotes Rav Shamshon Raphael Hirsch who explained that Adon means master, signifying the more personal connection that a servant has to the King, as opposed to the relationship between the King and His nation. But what makes AdonOlam really special is when at the end, it says “Vehu Keli” – “Hashem is My G-d.” That is the uniqueness of Adon Olam and the novel idea that Avraham introduced to the world. Avraham referred to Hashem not just as Adon – Master, but as Ado – noimy Master. Avraham had a personal relationship with Hashem; one in which he could speak freely and ask anything.

Over the years, I’ve often wondered why young children, for the first few years of their Jewish education, are taught the first few paragraphs of the morning prayers like Ma TovuAdon Olam, and Yigdal. Yet, they are not taught the more obligatory prayers, such as the blessings of Krias Shema or Shemoneh Esrei.

Now, I realize that these initial prayers really set the stage for our relationship with Hashem. If we have proper concentration, then we will recognize that Hashem – the Master of the world – is interested in me and He listens and cares for me personally. He is my Master and I have a personal relationship with Him. Davening – praying – is a 1 to 1 conversation with Hashem!

I believe this explains the next words in Adon Olam, “V’hu Nisi” – Hashem is my banner. The word Neis has multiple meanings, including banner, miracle and test. Nisi in this case means Hashem is testing me for the purpose of raising me up to a higher level. Hashem is my personal coach, whose sole objective is to get me to perform at my fullest potential.

In facing our daily challenges, in attempting to tap into our desired potential, in conversing with the Almighty, let us recognize the special relationship that we have with Hashem, and allow His encouraging Hand to guide us through our daily endeavors.

 

Dovid Weinberg – A Direct Descendant Of The Rama – Remedying The Sins Of The Generation Of The Flood

It says in Beresheis 6:11-13; “And the Earth became corrupted before Hashem, and the Earth was filled with robbery. And Hashem saw the Earth, and behold, it was corrupted, for every living creature had corrupted its way upon the Earth. And Hashem said to Noach, ‘The end of all living creatures has come before Me, for the Earth is filled with robbery through them, and behold, I will destroy them from the Earth.’”

It says in Pirkei Avos 4:11 that our Chochamim tell us that when every person does an Aveira he creates an antagonist for himself in a form of a Malach of Destruction but it cannot harm this person until the sentence is passed in the Heavenly Beis Din. The Ohr Hachaim explains that this is forbearance which is preventing this Malach in harming the person prior to judgment. Once the person is judged and found guilty, the Malach that which you created through your Aveira is now free to wreck its devastation, so the person is in fact the author of his very own punishment.

There is a general rule, however, that when the sins of a person are so numerous as well as serious that the person’s guilt is a forgone conclusion, in that case the Malachim of Destruction are granted permission even before the sentence has passed. This was the fate of the Generation of the Great Flood, for their Aveiros were so numerous and serious that the Malachim of Destruction were unleashed before the generation was tried by the Heavenly Tribunal.

Rashi says their fate was sealed because of robbery. Why was robbery the one that sealed the Generation of the Great Flood more than any other Aveira that they committed?

The Zera Shimshon answers that because of thievery everyone was steeped in immorality as well. It says in Yalkut Shimoni Iyov: 909 that the people walked around without clothes on because thievery was so rampant that people were afraid to wear clothing for they feared someone would steal it off their backs. It would have been bad enough in the eyes of Hashem if people walked around immodestly because of an innate lack of tzniyus, but walking around without clothes because of a thievery issue was worse.

Another reason that thievery was the Aveira that caused that Generation total annihilation is because regardless of how serious the Aveiros that the entire generation committed, Hashem was prepared to deal mercifully with the people. However, since the people showed no mercy to other people when they robbed someone without the least compunction, they lost the benefit of all merciful treatment. It was because of this lack of mercy and care toward one another that sealed their fate.

What we must take from here is that now we that have begun the month of Mar Cheshvan we must continue to grow in the way that we were during all the Yomim Tovim of last month. All Klal Yisroel should continue to grow in Torah and Chesed and know that the total opposite of thievery is doing Chesed for one another. It’s also another way we can bring about Achdus among Klal Yisroel. If all Klal Yisroel acted on this, we can do the opposite of the Generation of the Flood and when Hashem sees us acting with Chesed with one another as well as unitying, Hashem will bring the Final Geulah.

Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim – Associate Rosh Yeshiva – PTI – Passaic Torah Institute – Noach – Going The Extra Mile With Kindness

Before I gave my parsha shiur late Thursday night, I was wiped out from Sukkos and all the lectures I gave on Yom Tov, and I expected sparse attendance. “Maybe I should skip this week,” I thought. Nevertheless, I pushed myself to prepare, and while it was a smaller crowd, I gave it my best. The next morning, an old friend who is a rabbi in a different community called me. “Baruch, I was searching on Torah Anytime for a shiur on the parsha and I saw your name, so I downloaded it. It was fabulous! Can you tell me about the sources you used? I want to use this in my Shabbos drasha.”

Wow, I thought to myself. Hashem is sending me a message. I made the effort to spread Torah and inspired another rav and who knows how many others through him. After Shabbos, my friend sent me a text that his drasha went very well. This whole interaction gave me a tremendous insight into Parshas Noach.

Hashem instructed Noach to build a teiva (ark) to save himself and his family from the bubbling hot waters of the flood. Indeed, anything outside the teiva was destroyed. However, Chazal tell us that Eretz Yisrael was unaffected by the flood! So why didn’t Hashem send Noach and all the animals to Eretz Yisrael to be spared? Why did Noach need to become the caretaker of the largest zoo in world history, spending day and night feeding all the animals of the world?

Rav Dessler, expounding on Rashi, explains that the Torah refers to Noach as a tzadik, a righteous person, while Avraham is referred to as a chasid, someone who does chesed (kindness). The difference between a tzadik and a chasid is the latter goes above and beyond the call of duty for others. Hashem had informed Noach of the upcoming destruction of the world, while Avraham was informed of the upcoming destruction of Sodom. Yet their reactions were very different. Noach built a teiva to save himself and his family, giving up on the wicked people, while Avraham prayed to Hashem to spare the lives of the people of Sodom. The Lev Simcha notes that Noach was given 100 years to build the teiva, to convince the world in that time to change its ways. However, Noach only spoke to those who approached and inquired why he was building this massive boat, while Avraham traveled far and wide to tell people about Hashem.

Noach was righteous, but he did not measure up to Avraham in chesed. Chazal tell us, “Olam chesed yibaneh”—Hashem built the world with chesed. My rebbe, Rav Asher Arieli, related that since the teiva was a “re-creation of the world,” it had to be built on chesed. That’s why Noach had to be busy with chesed the entire time.

Looking further, we see the decree to destroy the world was because of the crimes of chamas—extortion and immoral relations (in both men and beasts). Both of these crimes are rooted in selfishness and a lack of chesed.

Since the world lacked chesed, it was essential for Noach to build a teiva for himself and all the animals of the world, so he and his family would be literally steeped in chesed, caring for others day and night. Even though Eretz Yisrael was spared, Noach and his family did not merit to be saved unless they had the protection of chesed.

Klal Yisrael as a people possess three special characteristics: compassion, shame as a result of sin, and benevolence (chesed). The Gemara in Yevamos tells us chesed was inserted into our DNA by Avraham. All Jews possess this quality of chesed. We are constantly presented with opportunities to help others, but sometimes we might think our actions won’t help: “I tried presenting a shidduch to that family and they said no. I’m sure they will turn down the next one, so why bother.” “Last week I picked up groceries for my neighbors and they didn’t even say thank you. Why do it again?” “Why bother giving my $10 gift when they need to raise a million dollars?”

Similar thinking may have been on Noach’s mind. “Why bother talking to them—they don’t want to listen!” Yet, we are descendants of Avraham, who left no stone unturned in the pursuit of chesed. I was going down that road myself in my thoughts of skipping my Thursday night shiur. Hashem sent me a message that it was worth the extra mile.

Let’s always remember: we have so many opportunities, every day of the week, to do an act of chesed. Each act of chesed helps sustain the world!!

Yeshiva University and OU Press Celebrate Completion of Soloveitchik Chumash on October 14, 2018