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The Systems of the Jewish Year

A Thought for the Week

By Rabbi Yaacov Haber

Noach spent 120 years building an ark, deliberately stretching it out so that people would ask questions, hear about the oncoming world crisis and repent. For one hundred and twenty years Noach prophesied the end of the world --yet not even one single Baal Teshuvah.

Abraham, a man in his fifties, walked the world and talked to people about G-d. Millions of people reportedly changed their ways, beliefs and lifestyles to comply with G-dliness.

They both spoke of G-d, they both philosophized with the people, and they both were sincere. Why was Abraham so successful while Noach was a dismal failure?

A few days ago a Rabbi Segal from Jerusalem came to visit me in my home. He is a son-in-law of the great Rav Shalom Shwadron A”H, the Jerusalem Magid. In the name of his father-in law he answered this question. There was only one difference between Noach and Abraham. Abraham devoted his life to kindness. Chesed LeAvrohom. His tent was always open on four sides. Everyone felt comfortable in his home. He gave of himself to others. Noach, on the other hand, protected himself from the corruption of society. His home remained pure and pristine, but his world became defiled. Their philosophical arguments may have been equally powerful but it was Abraham’s acts of kindness that changed the world.

We don’t realize how powerful kindness is. An act of Chesed can change the world! There are times that G-d judges us with the attribute of justice. He scrutinizes us and puts our people under the microscope. G-d’s slide is a scary place to be on. The Talmud teaches us, when there is war, sickness, poverty and unrest in the world ‘know that we are being judged with midas hadin.’ How can we change the mode of judgment? How can we get G-d to judge us with chesed? There is only one answer – by doing chesed. G-d takes His cues from us.

The greatest lesson learned from this past week-long Election Day is that every individual counts. One person’s action or decision can sway a nation and for that matter a world. What’s true “bemalchusa d’ara” in the earthly kingdom, is true in the “malchusa d’rakia” Kingdom of Heaven.

During these trying times for Israel and for so many individuals, more than anything we need G-d’s chesed. Noach was right, but Avrohom was effective. Abraham focused on other people’s needs.

So often when husbands and wives, partners in business or entire communities fight – what fuels the fight is the need to be right. When we argue, we prepare complicated depositions explaining our point of view. Noach’s method didn’t work. Pour your neighbor a cup of coffee, buy your wife some flowers, find someone a job—and you will change the world! 

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