Noach 5779

October 7, 2018

7 min read


Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32 )

GOOD MORNING!  Perseverance. One of the important rules for success in life. For 120 years Noach built the Ark. Every day he went out, selected the trees, sawed the boards, sanded, connected them, sealed and waterproofed them. He didn't give up! The progress must have been painfully slow, perhaps tedious. Yet, Noach prevailed! He built the Ark, gathered the animals and preserved life on this planet.

It is hard to think in this day of A.D.D. and instant gratification when our society wants everything NOW, when people hardly have the patience to read a weekly email 😉 that we could find an example of the patience, perseverance and determination that Noach displayed. Until perhaps now, with the completion of writing a Sefer Torah -- the handwritten scroll of the Five Books of Moses.

While finishing the writing of a Torah is not an infrequent occurrence, it usually happens by commissioning a sofer (scribe) to write the Torah. For approximately one year the sofer dedicates himself full- time to writing the Torah. Then the Torah is presented to the owners or synagogue for a gala celebration.

Recently, however, I had the pleasure of attending the siyum, the completion of a Sefer Torah in Jerusalem by my 89 year old father-in-law, Rabbi Yosef Kramer. For 22 1/2 years, virtually every morning Rabbi Kramer would rise at 3 am, go to the Mikvah (a special ritual bath) to purify himself before writing. He would then write one or two lines over a period of 1-2 hours.

Why only 1 or 2 lines? That is all that he felt he could write with proper intention and beautiful script.

Why did he write a Sefer Torah? At age 13 Rabbi Kramer undertook to be a Ba'al HaKriah, to read the Sefer Torah each Shabbat in the synagogue for the community. Each year as he would read "And now, write this song for yourselves, and teach it to the Children of Israel, and place it in their mouths ..." (Deut. 31:19) -- the Biblical source commanding to write a Sefer Torah -- he would affirm to himself that one day he would fulfill this very difficult and time-consuming mitzvah.

At age 66 he saw a sign offering a class to teach the special "calligraphy" for writing a Sefer Torah. Each letter has to be written in an exact manner -- perfectly. To write a Sefer Torah not only involves mastering the writing, one must learn the halachot (laws) on how the Torah is to be written -- when an error can be erased and written over -- or when one must discard the sheet of parchment (made from the hide of a kosher animal). There are thoughts/intentions that one must have in mind each time he writes the name of God. The Sefer Torah is written with a quill made from a turkey feather which entails learning how to make a quill.

Not one letter can be missing, cracked or misformed. Following the completion of writing, the Sefer Torah is given to a specialist for examination. First, a computer is used to scan for possible problems. Then at least two experts consecutively examine the Torah letter by letter, word by word.

Every Jew is obligated to write a Sefer Torah! A King is obligated to write a second one to have with him at all times to learn, to know what is right and wrong, to remind him to love and fear God and to do what is morally correct. The outward act brings an inner appreciation. Writing a Torah impacts your whole being.

The Sefer Ha-Chinuch writes that the purpose of writing a Sefer Torah is for the sake of Torah study: "The Holy One, blessed be He, commanded that each and every man of Israel have a Sefer Torah at hand, from which he can always study, so that he should not need to seek one at his friend's house. In this way, he will learn to fear the Almighty, and he will know and understand His mitzvos, which 'are more precious than gold, and even much fine gold (Tehillim 19:11).'"

Until May 6, 1954 it was thought that no human being could run a mile in under 4 minutes. On that date Roger Banister broke the 4 minute mile. Within 46 days it was broken again. To date, over 1,400 people have run a sub-4 minute mile. What changed? Roger Banister showed that it could be done.

Until now, in this generation, it is virtually unheard of that someone has written his own Sefer Torah. What has changed? Rabbi Yosef Kramer has shown that it can be done!


Torah Portion of the week

Noach, Genesis 6:9 - 11:32

The story of one righteous man in an evil generation. The Almighty commands Noach to build the ark on a hill far from the water. He built it over a period of 120 years. People deride Noach and ask him, "Why are you building a boat on a hill?" Noach explains that there will be a flood if people do not correct their ways. We see from this the patience of the Almighty for people to correct their ways and the genius of arousing people's curiosity so that they will ask a question and, hopefully, hear the answer.

The generation does not do Teshuva, returning from their evil ways to the righteous path, and God brings a flood for 40 days. They leave the ark 365 days later when the earth has once again become habitable. The Almighty makes a covenant and makes the rainbow the sign of the covenant that He will never destroy all of life again by water (hence, James Baldwin's book, The Fire Next Time). When one sees a rainbow it is an omen to do Teshuva -- to recognize the mistakes you are making in life, regret them, correct them/make restitution, and ask for forgiveness from anyone you have wronged and then to ask forgiveness from the Almighty.

Noach plants a vineyard, gets drunk and then occurs the mysterious incident in the tent after which Noach curses his grandson Canaan. The Torah portion concludes with the story of the Tower of Babel and then a genealogy from Noach's son, Shem, to Abram (Abraham).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Noach was a completely righteous man in his generation" (Gen. 6:9).

The Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 108a, is bothered by the seemingly superfluous words "in his generation." What are these extra words coming to teach us?

There are two opinions: 1) Praise of Noach. Even in an evil generation he was righteous. However, if he were in a righteous generation, he would have been even more righteous. 2) Denigration of Noach. In his own generation he was considered righteous, but had he lived in Avraham's generation he would not have been considered righteous in comparison to Avraham.

The Chasam Sofer, a great rabbi, explained that there really is no argument between the two opinions. If Noach would have stayed the way he was in his own generation, then in Avraham's generation he would not have been considered that righteous. However, the reality is that Noach would have been influenced by Avraham and have reached even greater heights of righteousness.

What do we learn from this? We are all affected by our environment. When we are close to people of good character, we are automatically influenced in positive directions. Choose well your friends and your community -- they strongly impact your life!


Candle Lighting Times

October 7
(or go to

Jerusalem 5:35
Guatemala 5:26 - Hong Kong 5:43 - Honolulu 5:51
J'Burg 5:55 - London 5:56 - Los Angeles 6:05
Melbourne 7:16 - Mexico City 6:58 - Miami 6:38
New York 6:02 - Singapore 6:36 - Toronto 6:21

Quote of the Week

The Three P's of Success:
passion, planning, and perseverance
--  Homer Hickam



In Loving Memory of

Joel Reinstein

With Deep Appreciation to

Guillermo Retchkiman


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