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Parsha Noach: “Resilience, Reassessment, and Staying the Course”

RABBI DONIEL FRANK | Director, M.A.P. Seminars, Inc., Marriage and Family Therapist

Click here to download PDF transcript for Noach

Last Shabbos was known as Shabbos Beraishis. Some say it gets its name because it marks the beginning of our regular routine, when we start to implement the commitments that we made during the Yom Kippur season. Therefore, last week it was very appropriate to speak of motivational principles like “success depends on a strong start,” and of the need to push ourselves extra hard to make sure we set a solid foundation, and put ourselves in the best position to have a successful year.

But what about this week? What happens to those of us who arrive at Shabbos Noach having failed to get that running start? Do we despair? Do we drop out of the race one week into the season and pack it in until the next year?

For those of us who are in that category, Noach is the test of our integrity and resiliency. And to pass that test, we have to think about why we failed, and what it take to get back on track.

For example, if it’s because it’s been so long since we’ve made our commitments, and with Sukkos in the way, we simply forgot about them, then we can’t just drop out because we missed a week. There’s plenty of time to make the difference we were planning to make for this year.

But then there are those of us who remembered but failed because we overshot the mark. Back when we made those commitments, we gave ourselves way too much credit for what we thought we can commit to and keep to for a whole year. We were swept up by the highs of the high holiday season, and all that fervor led us to promise behavior changes to which we have no relevance. We wake up at around this time and ask, “What in the world were we thinking?”

And here’s where Shabbos Noach comes in.

In the beginning, Hashem podcast3created a world based on an ideal vision. He built it on the foundation of strict justice, with the Name Elokim, where people always earn their keep and have the opportunity to develop a global society that functions at the highest level. But mankind didn’t come through. By the end of Beraishis, Hashem realized that the vision was way too grand.

But Hashem doesn’t drop out and move on to other endeavors. Instead, He considers the current state of man and reevaluates, reassesses, and reconstructs. Hashem even maintains elements of His original vision of strict justice. For example, the righteous are judged as narrowly as the width of a hair. But much of the scheme is changed. Adjustments are made. And the world moves forward.

In fact, the gemara, in a halachic discussion, sees in our parsha a lesson of integrity. Bava Metzia (44a) teaches that a transfer of ownership for movable items can only be effected by the physical transference of the object itself, not through the payment of money. Which means that, technically speaking, if one pays for a movable item without actually taken possession of it, he can still back out of the deal. Even so, the Mishna says that it’s wrong to do that, saying that “the One (Hashem) who took retribution against the generation of the flood and of the dispersion (two stories in Parshas Noach) will take retribution against one who does not stand by his word.”

That’s the theme of this week. Stand by your word. Make good on your promises – even if you have to reassess and reconstruct – and show the resilience and integrity that this parsha, and all successes, demand.


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