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The Systems of the Jewish Year

Utilizing Miracles

By Rabbi Sender Haber

When I was a teenager my family and I moved to Australia. Upon our arrival we met a young family. The father had passed away and the mother and her two sons were becoming involved in Yiddishkeit. As it turned out, they were relatives of our friends in Toronto and were very excited that we knew their ‘frum’ relatives, whom they had never met.

My father called the rabbi in Toronto and told him about his long lost cousin who had just enrolled in a new school and was returning to his roots. He asked him to consider attending the upcoming Bar Mitzvah as the surrogate father. The rabbi considered the trip seriously but had to opt out because of the cost of traveling from Toronto to Melbourne (and back).

A few weeks later, the rabbi went to the bank. As he passed through the metal detectors alarms went off and the lights began to flash. He was the one millionth person to enter the bank, and he had won a free trip around the world. Of course, he immediately booked a flight to Australia and arrived in time for the bar Mitzvah on Parshas Noach.

He spoke on Shabbos, as the father would have, and shared the following idea:

We read in the Parsha that after exiting the Teivah and bringing sacrifices Noach set about rebuilding the world. The first act of reconstruction was the planting of a vineyard. Noach was criticized for this move, and it did not end well. He became drunk and shamed and his sons were cursed. We are taught that generations later the ten tribes of Israel were lost from our people as a punishment for Noah’s actions.

It is hard to understand what was so terrible about what Noach did. After everything he had been through he deserved to sit back with a beer. He had just witnessed the destruction of the world and spent an entire year on board the Teivah. Where did he go wrong?

Furthermore, the Targum Yerushalmi tells us that a miracle happened. On the very same day that Noach planted a vineyard, it grew to full maturity, the grapes became wine, and the wine became aged.

Noach was privileged to experience a miracle but with the same act he caused the demise of 80 percent of the Jewish population.

The Dubno Maggid explains this with a parable: a man who had no luck went to his rebbe for a bracha. The Rebbe promised him that his next venture would be amazingly successful.

The man came home and told his wife that he needed some money to invest. He had none but knew that she had some hidden away. She gave him the money, he invested it, and lost every penny. The man went back to the rebbe and complained. He had been promised success.

The Rebbe asked the man to describe exactly what had happened when he went home and asked his wife for the money to invest. It emerged that his wife had been extremely unhappy. They had had a terrific fight and argued the entire night about whether or not he should invest the money.

“That was your mistake”, the rebbe explained, “I gave you a blessing for success in your next venture and you went home and argued with your wife. All of that power and blessing went into your argument. You may have won – but you squandered your blessing.

Noach had witnessed the worst destruction ever, but he had also been given opportunity to rebuild. When we rebuild after destruction we are given tremendous powers and blessings. Hashem wants to help us rebuild, but it is up to us where we focus our energies.

Noach should have put a little more thought in to where he focused his energies. He was not punished for what he did, but for what he didn’t do.

Every time we have a setback in our personal lives, we need to remember that Hashem is there to help us rebuild. We need to recognize the help that Hashem is giving us to rebuild ourselves.  And we need to use the opportunity wisely.

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