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Please include Israel's captive soldiers in your tefillot: Zecharia Shlomo ben Miriam Baumel, Tzvi ben Penina Feldman, Yekutiel Yehuda Nachman ben Sarah Katz, Ron ben Batya Arad, Guy ben Rina Chever.

 

 

Rosh Chodesh I - Friday,  30 Tishrei 5775 – October 24, 2014             

              

            Rashi, in a perplexing and oft-quoted passage in his commentary to Parashat Noach (7:7), cites the Midrash’s description of Noach as “mi-ketanei amana” – “among those of deficient faith.”  Noach, in Rashi’s words, “believed but did not believe that the flood would arrive, and thus he did not enter the ark until the water compelled him to do so.”

            Many writers have raised the question of how to reconcile the Midrash’s comments with the Torah’s description of Noach as an “ish tzadik” – “righteous man.”  If the Torah itself called Noach “righteous,” why would Chazal question his faith, the very foundation of religious commitment? 

            One possible solution may be found in another context where Chazal use the term “mi-ketanei amana” and apply it to righteous people.  The Gemara toward the end of Masekhet Sota (48b) cites Rabbi Eliezer’s comment, “Whoever has bread in his basket and says, ‘What will I eat tomorrow?’ is among those of deficient faith [mi-ketanei amana].”  The Gemara then adds that this was the intent of Rabbi Elazar when he said, “What causes the tzadikim to receive cheaper tables in the next world?  Their deficiency, as they did not believe in the Almighty.”  In this passage, the Gemara explicitly speaks of righteous people who are “mi-ketanei amana.”  These are people of genuine faith and piety, but their faith is deficient in the sense that they worry about their long-term financial stability despite having what they need in the present. 

            The Midrash perhaps had a similar idea in mind when it described Noach as “mi-ketanei amana.”  Noach believed that the flood would come, but he was apprehensive.  He would have to live with his family and all the world’s animals in a hermetically sealed ark for an unknown period of time, and would then be charged with the responsibility of building the world anew.  The uncertainty of the situation, and of what the future would bring, unnerved Noach and caused him anxiety.  Like a patient who requires painful surgery and delays scheduling it out of fear, Noach remained outside the ark as long as he could.  He knew the time would eventually come, but he was frightened and anxious, and so he stalled as much as possible.  

            Noach was thus “mi-ketanei amana” just as one who worries about his finances despite having his needs cared for at the present.  Certainly, we can and should be responsible and plan for long-term financial stability.  But the Gemara warns against fretting about the uncertainty of the future.  We are to act responsibly but at the same time trust that God can and will provide our needs.  As the Gemara notes, even tzadikim are sometimes guilty of misplaced anxiety about their livelihood in the future, and thus it comes as no surprise that Noach, too, despite being a tzadik, is described as having had deficient faith, which was manifest in his anxiety and fear about how he would survive the Flood and its aftermath.

 

Rav David Silverberg      

 

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(c) 2014 Israel Koschitzky Virtual Beit Midrash, Yeshivat Har Etzion.

 

 

 

 


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