Torah thought forFriday 3 Cheshvan 5783 October 28 2022

Parashat Noach - (The ninth Azkarah/Yahrtzeit of Maran ztvk”l) - Don’t be a “Parev Tzaddik”, Who Just Worries About Himself, But Rather Do Something to Draw Others Near

(A Ma’amar written by his grandson HaRav HaGaon Yaakov Sasson Shlit”a)
(translated by our dear friend Rav Daniel Levy Shlit”a, Leeds UK)

In honour of the azkarah of Maran our grandfather zt”l. Words that were said more than 20 years ago and we will add some further insight in his pure memory.

We shall read in this week’s Parashah: “These are the generations of Noach: Noach was a tzaddik, faultless in his generations. Noach walked with Hashem” (Bereishit 6:9).

What does the passuk mean “in his generations”? And what does “a tzaddik, faultless” mean? The passuk speaks of two generations that Noach spanned. The generation of the Flood and the generation of the Haflagah. Both were evil and sinners. About the generation of the Flood it states, “The world is filled with [man’s] crime” (Bereishit 6:13), “crime” means that they were thieves, wicked. But Noach, was innocent, free from theft, he never stole anything from anyone.

The generation of the Haflagah, lived after the generation of the Flood, after the world’s population grew. They were very smart to commit evil, but on reflection they were great fools. They had a “modern” approach. They calculated, when was the Flood? Approximately 1,656 since creation. They said, why was there a Flood? So it cannot be that Noach was correct that the Flood came about due to people’s sins. But rather every 1,500 years the sky collapses, due to some reason that it isn’t built properly. So, we shall make a tower and strengthen the sky. We shall construct pillars to strengthen it. What fools! Everything that transpired with the Flood was a punishment from Heaven due to their sins! But they were “modern”, they weren’t content with this answer, they attempted to find an explanation based on natural occurrences.

The generation of the Flood sinned between man and his fellow, crimes, theft. Whilst the generation of Haflagah sinned between man and Hashem. They didn’t listen to Noach and denied Hashem.

Therefore the Torah testifies that Noach was a pure tzaddik “in his generations”, both the generation of the Flood and the generation of the Haflagah. He stood against them all. Steadfast in his strong belief in Hashem. This is the meaning of “a tzaddik, faultless”, tzaddik regarding man and his fellow, as it states, “Pursue perfect honesty” (Devarim 16:20), and “faultless” regarding man and Hashem, as it states, “Walk before Me and be perfect” (Bereishit 17:1), in these seals Noach was a tzaddik, faultless!

However, we find that our chachamim had a dispute. Some explain this to mean that Noach was a tzaddik “in his generations” that if he had lived during the time of Avraham Avinu, he would have been an even greater tzaddik for he would have learnt from Avraham Avinu. But others explain it pejoratively. They say that if Noach had lived at the time of Avraham Avinu, he wouldn’t have been considered a tzaddik. We must consider why some explain this pejoratively? Why do our chachamim criticize Noach?

Our chachamim found a reason to be concerned. Avraham Avinu invested a lot of energy to merit the public, “[Avraham] planted a tamarisk tree in Be’er-Sheva, and there he called in the name of Hashem, L-rd of the Universe” (Bereishit 21:33). Our chachamim explained, don’t read the Hebrew ‘called” but rather “he called out”. He would call out Hashem’s Name to anyone who passed by! People would arrive in his shade, who were all idolators and he would sit with them. He would explain to them and bring proofs to the truth of the Creator! As our chachamim explained, “the soul that they had made” (Bereishit 12:5), these were the souls which Avraham and Sarah helped repent. Avraham converted the men and Sarah converted the women. What constituted conversion in their day? They saved from idolatry and would teach them to believe in Hashem and to fulfil His will. This was Avraham Avinu!

However regarding Noach it states, “Noach walked with Hashem”(Bereishit 6:9), he didn’t make such an effort to influence others to repent. Noach could have tried harder to explain things to people, with sweet talking. Instead, he sufficed with easier things. For many years he built the ark and people would ask him, what are you doing? He would reply to them, this is an ark that I am building for in the future Hashem is going to flood the world with water. Me and my home will be saved from the evil whilst in this ark! But he didn’t try much beyond that! He didn’t behave like Avraham did!

This is a “parev tzaddik”! What is a parev tzaddik? A tzaddik for himself. What is this akin to? When it is very cold, many degrees below zero, the room is very cold, why do they do? It is possible to bring a heater and heat the whole room. But there is a tzaddik who has a parev attitude. He wraps himself up nicely, he protects his ears and sits nice and warm! Everyone else is cold! But he doesn’t care. This is a parev tzaddik!

A person must draw others closer to influence them to observe the mitzvot. He should say to his fellow, you are my friend, I love you. It is worth you sending your children to educational institutions that are underpinned by Torah, you will have so much nachas! This is what a person should do! Noach, according to his level, didn’t do this. A person who goes to the people is a true tzaddik!

The generation of the Flood were wicked, they stole just for the sake of stealing, they committed crimes for the sake of crimes, they had no need for these crimes. Our chachamim said that that generation lacked nothing, they had total abundance. They sowed the ground once every 70 years and the crop lasted for all those years. They were all well, healthy and robust. Our chachamim relate that there was one woman whose husband was away, and she was pregnant, at the end of the ninth month, she felt that her labour had commenced. There was no one at home and she gave birth alone. The child came out and his mother said to him, go to the next bedroom and bring from there some scissors because I need to cut the umbilical cord that you are connected with! They were so healthy, like animals that immediately when born understand and walk!

The child went to the next bedroom, and he was just an hour old! Suddenly he saw a demon there! The demon grabbed him and fought him! Today, if one of us would see a demon, he would die on the spot! However, he was just a baby, fighting with strength against a demon. Suddenly a rooster called. The demon said to the child, go to your mother and brag to her that you were saved from me, for we have no dominion during the day. Your luck that the rooster called and I cannot do anything to you! He said to the child, go to your mother and brag to her that you were saved from me, for if not that I am tied with your umbilical cord I would have cut you into two pieces!

They had such strength! Hashem blessed them with tremendous goodness. Instead of serving Hashem, they committed crimes and stole, and after that denied Hashem!

If Noach would have gone to them and spoken with them, established an organization “Noach’s house”, to draw close those that were distant, they would all come, and he would influence them. However, he mainly worried about himself, his children and wife that they didn’t commit crimes. This isn’t enough! A person shouldn’t say, “I’m alright Jack!”

These are Maran’s zt”l words. He spoke beautifully and fulfilled beautifully [see Hagigah 14b]. For all his days he wasn’t satisfied with his personal avodat Hashem. Rather he exerted himself and merited throughout his life to achieve what even an army of rabbanim wouldn’t have succeeded in achieving. All this was with unlimited self-sacrifice.

When the political party Shas was established, the Gaon Rav Shalom Cohen z”l asked Maran zt”l to accept upon himself the spiritual guidance of the party. Initially Maran zt”l declined, and especially because his wife the rabbanit was against this, saying, politics is full of unpleasantness, “filth and refuse” [see Eichah 3:45]. How can it be conceivable that the Rav, who is full of purity and Torah, would get involved with something that is so distant from him? Until the Rav said to her, “When I come to the Heavenly Court, what shall we say? I will say that I wanted to be pleasant? There is no choice! We must accept upon ourselves this huge yoke, to merit the many! For the community’s sake!”

Complete books have been written to elaborate on the Rav’s activity, in all areas of life. Spreading Torah, tzedakah, kindness, drawing those distant near, making peace, and so much more., (some of this you may see in the books Abir HaRoim, which we merited to publish). However, the root of everything is taking responsibility! Maran zt”l took responsibility for the community! We must learn from his ways, even a regular person, a man or a woman, they may find good opportunities to influence others from their own goodness, to study and to teach, to observe and to do.

May the merit of the Rav protect us and you, that we should merit to fulfil Hashem’s will to increase Torah and glorify it. And to educate our sons, our daughters and all our descendants, in the way of the hold Torah.

Shabbat Shalom umevorach!