Saturday, November 22, 2014
Week 10 (Book 3): Noah and Seeking Comfort, Compassion
On Week Ten, now firmly within the month of Kislev, the verses of the Song of the Sea also now focus completely on the enemy’s persecution of the Jews. This again appears to be a reference to the Greeks, who at first were quite confident in their ability to defeat what appeared to be a simple and small Jewish rebellion.
The Haftorah’s verses also now clearly focus on the problem of assimilation, idolatry, and physical persecution, all which were present during the Greek exile as well.
Daf Yud (Folio 10) of Sotah continues to be about Samson, Judah and Abshalom. Its general theme is a discussion of licentiousness and of children having a bad upbringing and going against their parents. These are all themes related to Chanukah, which comes from the word chinuch, education.
The 10th generation from Adam is Noah. Noah lived in a society that had become completely corrupted. This is similar to the corruption faced by the Jews in the times of the Greeks. (Pirkei Avot explains that G-d, out of his infinite mercy and patience, waited ten generations before bringing the Flood).
In the tenth week, the Jews journey from Dophkah and camp in Alush. Alush means power. The danger of power is that it can easily corrupt.  The journey for this week is to take the amorphous feeling of knocking, and have the power to be able to apply it in a positive, powerful way in our daily life.
An important lesson we learn from Noah in our approach to prayer and Divine service is the importance of asking for mercy, comfort. In many ways, that is the very essence of prayer. Noah’s name comes from the verb Lenachem, which means to comfort. This is related to the Bat in Week 10 of Book 1, who sings: “Comfort (Nachamu), comfort my people, says Hashem your G-d.” It is also related to the words of Rabbi Shimon, also in Week 10 of Book 1:
Be meticulous with the reading of the Shemah and with prayer. When you pray, do not make your prayers routine, but [an entreaty of] mercy and a supplication before the Almighty, as is stated ``For He is benevolent and merciful, slow to anger and abundant in loving kindness, and relenting of the evil decree'' (Joel 2:13). And do not be wicked in your own eyes.
Imagine the kind of comfort Noah must have sought, after seeing the entire world destroyed.
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