Prologue: The bigger they are, the harder they fall.
Or so it sounds…Truthfully, when we approach the personality of Noach, we find a man who was identified as “Ish Tzaddik” later falling into the abyss of hedonism. In fact, following the saving of Noach’s life, Noach becomes known as “Ish HaAdama – man of the land” instead of the more respectful title of Ish Tzaddik.” Rashi reminds us that the one responsible for the big fall was none other than Noach himself. How are we to understand his fall. Why was Noach to blame for the descent into hedonism after the great flood?
The Midrash (Berashis Rabba 30) explains that Noach was not as great as the patriarchs – Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov. For while they ran ahead of the word of God, rushing to be sure that they could follow and anticipate Hashem’s will, “Et HaElokim Hithalech Noach” – Noach contented himself with the word and that’s all. In fact, the Midrash tells us that Noach was of weak strength to the point that he needed God’s help to be the spiritual person he was.
Perhaps this might explain the words of the Zohar (vol. I: 58b) which note that Noach was a perceptive individual. He KNEW that when he saw the people of his generation he did not want to be on their immoral, lowly level. As such, he distanced himself from the people and chose the path of God instead.
However, while Noach worked on securing himself against a negative environment, he never worked on his internal focus and nature. He never worked on being a positive servant of Hashem, hence he constantly needed that assistance from Hashem to keep him inspired. Thus, even though the negative influence was removed (or perhaps BECAUSE of it) Noach’s personal imperfections were highlighted and his defining features were no longer the contrast to the people around him, rather his own Ish HaAdama status.
In life, it is not enough for us to guard ourselves from the negative influences in our environment, we need to constantly be working to be more proactive people with positive impacts on ourselves. The Gra (Even Sheleima chapter 1) notes that this is the primary purpose in life – to rid ourselves of our own negative traits. He adds that if we do not agree to this mission and seek to achieve it – why should one be entitled to live?
This week’s Chaburah focuses on the positive impact of all this world has to offer. It is entitled:
Meat on Shabbos: Heavenly or Hedonisitic?
Rashi (Berashis 9:3citing Sanhedrin 59b) informs us that originally, man was a vegetarian. Only after the flood was man permitted to partake of meat. The question arises as to whether this opportunity was a requirement or merely a right. Are there any times of the week, such as Shabbos, when one might be obligated to eat meat??
The Mishna (Berachos 17b) tells us that should a person lose a relative he is exempt from reading Shema or wearing Tefillin as he would be called an Onen and is involved in the preparations for the funeral. The Gemara there adds that when one is an Onen s/he does not eat meat or drink wine unless the day is Shabbos in which case it would be permitted.
Rabbeinu Yonah (Berachos 10b in Rif pages) comments that an Onen is not obligated to eat meat or drink wine on Shabbos. Rather, the Talmud is telling us that one may eat meat or drink wine should the state of Onen continue over Shabbos.
The Tur (Y.D. 341) only notes that an Onen eats meat and drinks wine when the status of Onen continues during Shabbos. It is not clear if he is stating an obligation or merely an opportunity. The Darchei Moshe cites the Rabbeinu Yona and adds that this was the intent of the Tur as well, to note that one is permitted to eat meat and drink wine but is not obligated to do so. The Rema expresses this idea clearly as he notes that one may eat meat and drink wine during the Onen status IF S/HE WISHES TO. The Shach notes that one is not obligated to eat meat on Shabbos if one does not wish to.
On the other hand, the Mishna in Nedarim (7:7) specifically creates an opening to revoke a Neder on the basis of the fact that one might have forgotten to consider his inability to eat meat on Shabbos. The implication is that there is a Mitzva involved in eating meat on Shabbos. Indeed the Rambam (Hil. Shabbos 30:10) notes that eating meat and drinking wine is part of the Mitzva of Oneg Shabbos. The Torah Temimah too (Berashis 2:3) goes to great lengths to demonstrate an obligation to eat meat and drink wine on Shabbos.
L’halacha the Rema holds like Rabbeinu Yona and notes no obligation to feast on meat and wine on Shabbos. However, given the Rambam’s strong support for the practice, the Shmiras Shabbos K”Hilchasa (Chapter 42:16) notes the ability to be lenient on non-meat meals but encouraging to people to follow the Rabbinic advice to partake of meat and wine – each person within his/her means.