1. In the portion of Noach, which we read this week, the Torah relates the story of the flood. When Noach was commanded by G‑d to build the ark, he was given a detailed description and blueprint of the boat, including the provision for providing light during the hours of darkness. And the Torah states:

Make a light source (tzohar) for the ark. (Bereishis 6:16)

Rashi immediately explains:

Some say it was a window (skylight) others say it was a precious stone that gave light to them (luminescent stone). (Rashi, loc. cit.)

In contemplating this observation we are immediately struck by a Klotz-Kashe, a difficult and perturbing query. Why is it necessary for Rashi to bring any commentary on what seems to be a simple verse?

The five-year-old Chumash student can easily see that the word tzohar comes from the same root as tzahorayim — afternoon — and he certainly understands that the meaning of the word was that Noach had to provide a source of light. This is elementary. It is also elementary for the five-year-old Chumash student to deduce on his own that the source of light for the ark could be the same as that used in other ships — or even in his home — namely, candles or lamps.

Why then was it necessary for Rashi to explain what tzohar meant? Why was Rashi not satisfied with the obvious deduction reached by the five-year-old Chumash student that the ark was illuminated by candles? Furthermore, Rashi seems to be not completely satisfied with his own words, for he says: “Some say...others say....” Evidently Rashi himself, for some reason, did not want to or could not give the definitive definition.

We may understand Rashi’s approach by going back for a moment to the logic of the five-year-old Chumash student.

When he studies the story of the flood and the preparatory commands given by G‑d to Noach, he sees a pattern. Every specific command which included details also included some factor which would be unknown without G‑d’s directive. For example:

The ark’s length shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits and its height 30 cubits...make it slanted, so that it is one cubit wide at the top. (Bereishis 6:15-16)

These and other details were explicitly told to Noach, for he never could have guessed this information on his own.

On the other hand, any and all specific details which he should or could have known on his own, G‑d did not tell him. For this reason G‑d did not specify how to attach the boards together. Should he use nails or ropes? etc. In these matters he had to use the accepted procedures of the day to build the best possible boat.

With this in mind the five-year-old Chumash student wonders why it was necessary to command Noach to illuminate the ark. Noach knew that he would be in the sealed ark for many days, without being told he certainly planned to take along enough candles to illuminate the ark.

Consequently, the sharp student realizes that G‑d’s command related to some “natural” forms of light which G‑d wanted Noach to provide for, in addition to the candles he would stock up on.

This light should not be man-made, like candles, but G‑d made, as emphasized by the term tzohar. It should be similar to the light of day (tzahorayim) which is made by G‑d in nature. All this the five-year-old Chumash student figured out by himself.

At this point Rashi steps in and teaches us that this splendid source of light was either a skylight or a luminous gem, both of which are “natural,” as opposed to artificial sources of light.

The first meaning in Rashi is the window (skylight) which would allow daylight to shine into the ark. The problem is that this choice is not satisfying because at a time of heavy overcast and rain there is little light in the sky and precious little will shine through the window.

So Rashi adds the second opinion that the tzohar was a luminous gemstone. While this source of light is not the light of day (as alluded to by the word tzohar) it is nevertheless similar to daylight in that it is G‑d-made and implanted in nature, and therefore better than the artificial man-made light which would be emitted by candles alone.

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2. In today’s study section of Rambam we learn the laws of damages caused when something falls into a pit. The Rambam writes:

If articles fall into a pit and are broken the owner of the pit is exempt. For since Scripture says: “And an ox or donkey fall therein” (Shmos 27:33), the sages learned from tradition that an ox implies “but not a human being,” and donkey implies “but not articles.” Even if an ox wearing its trappings falls in and dies and the trappings are broken, the owner of the pit is liable only for the animal and is exempt from payment for the trappings. (Rambam, Laws of Damages by Chattels, 13:1)

This particular law carries with it a profound, general lesson in Torah philosophy. We will learn from the rule that even those principles and laws of Torah which are termed “Mishpatim,” logical laws of society, must also be observed and fulfilled as if they were “Chukim” — illogical statutes, only because G‑d has so commanded us. This principle is expressed in a formula which we say in every mitzvah blessing: “Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us...” (Siddur).

Let us analyze this point.

Generally speaking, among the many Mishpatim” — logical laws of Torah — there is no group which is more logical and understandable than the civil laws dealing with money and possessions. As the Mishnah declares:

He who would be wise should engage in the study of civil laws, for there is no branch in the Torah more comprehensive than they, and they are like a welling fountain. (B. Basra 175b)

If we view the liability of a pit from a purely logical perspective it would seem just to apply the liability across the board — the “owner” of the pit must pay damages for an ox or ass as well as inanimate articles, and especially for a person. In this framework we would interpret the words of Torah which mention only “ox” and “ass” to be merely representative of the most common cases of damage in a pit, following the Talmudic rule that: “Scripture spoke of the more usual [animals]” (B. Kama 54b). However the pit owner should also be responsible for any other damages caused by his pit.

Here, however, we see the mechanism of Torah. Despite our logical deductions, the sages learned from Tradition that ox implies “but not a human being” and ass implies “but not articles.” This is not a logical rule. And then when we go on to discover that even when an ox wearing its trappings fell into the ditch and died the pit owner would be liable for the ox but not for the broken articles it wore. This is an outright contradiction. In the same mishap he must pay damages for the life of the ox and not for the articles!?

What we see from here is that even the logical branches of Torah, which normal human intelligence demands compliance with, are actually not governed by basic logic. When it comes to the basic and essential reality we see that in truth they are also G‑d’s statutes — and this G‑dly supralogic is expressed in the rule that “an ox and not a human...an ass and not articles.”

There is another important lesson we can glean from these laws pertaining to our general Divine service.

In the laws of a pit there are two cases:

A) “If one digs a pit ten handbreadths deep....” (Rambam, ibid. 12:12)


B) If one raises a mound on a public domain...ten handbreadths high.... (ibid.:15)

These two cases, a pit and a mound, symbolize the activity of a recipient and a giver. The “deep pit” represents the recipient and the “high mound” is the giver.

Actually every person has both of these characteristics. One must receive and hear from others and one must bestow wisdom and charity to others.

Since G‑d has given us the choice between good and evil in this area, too, we are faced with free choice. And so, in the case of the “deep pit,” for the good a person will learn and accept wisdom and good things and subsequently as a “high mound” he will generate goodness to others.

Yet, there could also be a negative side to this process, as the prophet laments: “They are wise to do evil” (Yirmeyahu 4:22). As in the case of the student who receives and instead of being a disciple who increases the wisdom of his mentor, he assumes an attitude of chutzpah and arrogance and causes pain and heartache.

The rule also includes the detail of “ten handbreadths,” which symbolizes the involvement of the ten powers of the soul. When the reception of good penetrates the ten powers of the soul and the generation of good emerges from all ten powers, then the person has attained a true state of spiritual accomplishment. On the other hand, if G‑d forbid, all the powers of the soul have been penetrated by evil traits either in reception or radiation, then you have a seriously damaged spirituality.

Consequently, much care must be exercised to be certain that all of these aspects of the individual will be devoted to positive and good things, and not, G‑d forbid, become one of the “four categories which cause damages.”

This discussion will also apply in relation to the subject of “Chabad Houses,” for dealing with other people follows two paths. A) Like a “deep pit,” you can wait until someone comes to you to pour out his/her heart and seek advice and counsel. Of course you will help that person to the best of your ability.

B) You do not wait for people to find your address, but, like a “high mound,” which can serve people as a place to rest and put down their packs or a place to climb and see into the distance, you go out into the street and stand tall (aloof from the influence of the street) and you help and assist the needy.

The establishment of Chabad Houses must follow the path of the “high mound in the public domain,” to go out and create a “mound” for Torah, prayer and acts of lovingkindness, from which the light will radiate and illuminate the world around it. The Previous Rebbe said that “a Chassid is a lamplighter” who walks through the streets and kindles the street lamps. When you kindle a torch in the darkness of night people will gather round, coming from places where no one even imagined that people were there. Animals also are attracted which would indicate that your role is not only to help Jews and non-Jews but also to purify the world to the point that “the wolf also shall dwell with the lamb” (Yeshayahu 11:6).

The main point is that when a Jew goes out into the street and proclaims that he wants to spread Yiddishkeit, Torah and mitzvos, as well as the fountains of Chassidus, and he has no ulterior motive, not money, not honor, only the dissemination of Yiddishkeit and the wellsprings to the outside, then the previous Rebbe guarantees him that he will attain great and amazing success.

May it be G‑d’s will that everyone will endeavor to act on all these matters, to study Torah, observe mitzvos with diligence and beauty, and thereby reach perfection in his/her body and soul. And also reach out to others to spread Torah and Chassidus in a perfect manner. Then we will merit very speedily the true and complete redemption in a perfect manner. The redemption after which there will be no exile — and the building of the complete and perfect Third Beis HaMikdash — may it be built speedily and truly in our days.

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3. Last week we discussed the Rashi on the verse dealing with leather garments.

We discussed the opinion of one of the annotators that Rashi was reluctant to leave the plain meaning of leather garments because it would infer that G‑d had to kill some animal in order to provide Adam and Chavah with garments.

This idea was rejected with the argument that in Gan Eden everything was available, including leather. This point is a bit difficult to accept for although every material was probably present in the Garden of Eden it is possible that leather which is made from the skin of a living animal was actually not available without killing the animal.

To clear up this difficulty we must consider another question. When Rashi speaks of the leather garments G‑d made for Adam and Chavah he says, “Such as the wool of hares which is soft and warm and of this He made garments for them” (Rashi, Bereishis 3:21).

Where do we find reference to “wool,” the verse speaks of “leather garments” not “woolen” clothes?

One question provides the answer to the other. It may be true that to make leather in the Garden of Eden it would have probably been necessary to kill some animal — therefore Rashi circumvents this problem by saying that the Torah does not mean leather at all, it means something that grows on the skin of an animal such as the wool or fur, and to get that you must only shear the wool or fur, you do not have to take the life of the animal.

Therefore Rashi teaches that the garments in fact were made of the wool of hares.