Noach 5770

October 18, 2009

8 min read


Noach (Genesis 6:9-11:32 )

GOOD MORNING! What is the value of an act of kindness? Several years ago my friend Henry Percal shared with me a story of his youth. Henry was born and grew up in Cuba. His parents were relatively wealthy, having both a manufacturing plant and some apartment buildings.

Henry's father sent him to the Riverside Military Academy in Georgia. There were a number of Cuban boys at the Academy, but they had a relatively rough time from the Georgia "crackers." When Henry was in his senior year, another young boy from Cuba named Damas joined the plebe class. Damas was 5'1" and peach-fuzzed.

Henry figured that there was no way Damas would survive the hazing that went on during the first few months, so he put out the word that Damas was to be protected and if anyone touched him, "he has to deal with me!"

On January 1, 1959 Castro toppled Batista and things began to change in Cuba. In May of the next year, Henry returned to Cuba to enjoy what he thought was going to be the good life. One day they received notice that they no longer owned their manufacturing plant. Another day, they received a letter that the government was now the proud owner of their apartment buildings.

Henry had a friend from the country club who was an American army deserter, wanted for murder in the US. His friend was an "arms instructor" for Castro with the rank of colonel. One day his friend secretly informs Henry that his father is on the list to be picked up the next week. The next day Henry's father is on a Pan Am flight for Miami with a $2,000 ticket for the 90 mile flight. (The usual cost for the flight was $100, but sometimes situations call for paying a premium.)

Two weeks later Henry and his mother are at the airport waiting for their flight to Miami. While it was permissible for them to leave, they were very concerned that they would be called by security regarding their baggage. Following the revolution, times were in turmoil. If one was called by security, likely his life possessions would be confiscated on a baseless charge and perhaps even the person would be arrested or disappear on a trumped up accusation.

Then comes the call over the loud speaker, "Percal family to Security." At Security, an army officer dressed in fatigues awaits them - a no-nonsense, gruff and grizzled veteran who resents his current assignment and is not having the best of days. "Passport!" They hand over the passports. Henry's mother asks, "How long will this take? We might miss the plane!" The army officer replies, "Then you miss the plane."

The army officer looks at Henry inquisitively. "You're Percal?" "Yes," answers Henry. "Did you attend the Riverside Military Academy?" "Yes," answers Henry. "Did you know a young boy by the name of Damas?" "Yes," answers Henry. The army officer hands back the passports and says, "He's my son. Have a nice flight."

We all love stories like this. It's the way the world is "supposed" to work. One does a kindness and it gets returned in an academy-award winning manner. Unfortunately, we often hear the phrase, "No good deed goes unpunished." It's proverbial that if one does something nice or kind, it will come back in some untoward manner. What are we to do?

The Torah tells us that "God created man in His own image" (Genesis 1:27). The Chofetz Chaim comments that "image of God" means that man has the ability to emulate God, who bestows kindness on people. Performing acts of kindness reflects God's attributes. Thinking "Why should I help others?" alienates a person from Godliness.

The very survival of humanity depends on kindness. Every person, without exception, needs the help of his fellow human being. The prophet Michah (6:8) tells us, "... what does God require of you, but to act justly, to love kindness and to walk humbly with God." Kindness is something we must do. It helps our fellow human being, helps bring the world one step closer to perfection while raising our level of spirituality. That must be our focus, not the response or recognition we hope to receive from those whom we help.

For more on "Kindness" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

The story of one righteous man in an evil generation. The Almighty commands Noah to build the ark on a hill far from the water. He built it over a period of 120 years. People deride Noah and ask him, "Why are you building a boat on a hill?" Noah 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, 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 as well as from the Almighty.

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

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

Noah sends out the dove the first time to see if the waters of the flood have abated. The Torah relates:

"But the dove did not find a resting place for the sole of her foot; and she returned to him (Noah) to the Ark, for the waters were on the face of the whole earth; and he put forth his hand and took her and brought her to him into the ark" (Genesis 8:9).

Why does the Torah need to tell us that Noah reached out to the dove and brought her back into the ark?

Rabbi Naftoli Tzvi Yehuda Berlin points out that the dove did not fly into the ark. Since she did not return with anything in her mouth (the second time she brought back the olive branch), she thought that her master, Noah, would not let her back into the ark. Noah, however, had compassion and took her into his hands to warm her while she rested from the journey.

Rabbi Berlin teaches that we should learn from Noah's actions that if someone returns from an errand or a mission unsuccessful due to circumstances beyond his control, we should treat him with kindness and appreciation as if he were successful.


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Jerusalem 4:23
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Our deeds determine us as much as
we determine our deeds.
--  George Eliot


With Deep Appreciation to

Leonard & Barbara Wien


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

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