18 October 2012

Parshat Noah - 5773

3 Marcheshvan 5773
Erev Shabbat

The Natural Miracle
by Levi Chazan of Yeshivat Ohr Hara'ayon

"On that very day Noah came with Shem, Ham, and Japheth, Noah's sons with Noah's wife, and the three wives of his sons with them, into the Ark - they and every beast after its kind, every animal after its kind, every creeping thing that creeps on the earth after its kind, and every bird after its kind ... two by two."

"It is known that there are a great many beasts," Ramban in his commentary to this week's parsha writes, "and some of them - such as elephants, rams and others - are very large; likewise, the creeping things upon the earth are very many. Of the fowl of the heaven there are also innumerably many kinds, Noah was thus obligated to bring all of them into the ark in order that they may beget their like after the flood. Even if you would gather a full year's supply of food for all of them, you would find that this ark and ten others like it could not hold it!"

In that case, concludes the Ramban, since an ark of some 150 meters could in no way contain all the animals and birds of the world, it is obvious that G-d made a miracle. A very large assembly was contained in a small space.

If so, asks the Ramban, why bother Noah with the construction of the ark? Here, he toiled and worked for some 120 years. Every day he and his sons would go and gather wood, cut and shape it and construct the ark, working from sunup to sundown. If in any case there needed to be a miracle to house all the animals and fowl - let there just be a miracle and that would be that. Why trouble Noah so much?

The Rambam answers that miracles do not happen by themselves; first one must do his utmost - all in his power - and then, and only then, will G-d do His part.

This important lesson is vital for us today, to understand the developments of the last 70 years with the return of the Jewish people to its land. G-d works within the framework of the laws of nature - something does not come from nothing. It is only when we do our maximum that the miracles happen. The Talmud teaches us: "I will not enter into the heavenly Jerusalem until the Jewish people first enter into the earthly Jerusalem." Only when we the Jewish people first start to work and re-build the land and Jerusalem, will G-d, so to speak, give us a helping hand.

When the first Jews arrived here in the Land of Israel at the beginning of the 20th century, they had to dry up the marsh lands, fight malaria, and defend the land against those who wanted to uproot us. It was only after many hardships and countless tragedies, that slowly the desert land turned into a Gan Eden.

The famous story is told that when flood waters hit a particular town, the police came and warned the people to leave. One man told them he was not worried, for G-d would surely save him. A the waters rose,the rescuers sent a boat to help the man, but he told them: I'm not worried, for G-d will save me. Finally, they sent a helicopter to bring him in, but he would not come, for he believed that G-d would save him. The waters continued to rise, eventually drowning the man. When he went up to Heaven he questioned G-d: Where were You? Why did You not save me? G-d said: What are you talking about? I sent the police to help you, I sent a boat and even a helicopter! For G-d helps those who help themselves.

Today, too many fellow Jews are still waiting for something to happen from nothing. Far too many are sitting around waiting to come back home to Israel, waiting for the Holy Temple to come down. Truth be told, this is not the Torah way and this is not the way of the world! We must be the ones who go out and make things happen, we must be the ones who are out there in the army defending ourselves and our land - then and only then, will we receive G-d's blessings and success. Interestingly, when it comes to finding the best doctors or running after a livelihood, we make the greatest effort. Why, then, when it comes to bringing the Redemption closer, do we just sit around and wait?

For all the animals to fit into the ark, Noah had to work day and night for 120 years. For us to rebuild the Land and the Holy Temple, we must do all we can - no less than Noah.