1. Today is the first Shabbos and first Rosh Chodesh after the month of Tishrei, and it is the time when service dealing with worldly matters begins. The month of Tishrei is “replete with festivals,” from Rosh HaShanah to Simchas Torah; and even the days after Simchas Torah contain a residue of the festivals. Only in the month of MarCheshvan does service in worldly matters, weekday work, really begin.

The above is expressed by the fact that when the Jews returned to their homes from their pilgrimage to Yerushalayim for the festivals, the last Jew reached his home on the seventh of MarCheshvan. Thus the entire month of Tishrei is still connected to the concept of the festivals and the pilgrimage thereto. The return is connected to the month of MarCheshvan.

This difference between Tishrei and MarCheshvan is emphasized in their names. The letters of the word Tishrei may be rearranged to form the word reishit, “beginning,” alluding to the fact that Tishrei is the head of the year, and MarCheshvan and the rest of the months are the limbs of the body.

This difference translates into terms of man’s spiritual service. Work, service, is done by the body’s limbs; the head’s function is to direct the body and to instruct it how to serve. Even the individual organs of the head help in its task of leading the body: through the senses of vision and hearing, for example, the head assimilates outside knowledge, and on this basis directs the body what to do.

So too Tishrei vis-à-vis MarCheshvan and the other months. A Jew’s service in general, which is to make this world a dwelling place for G‑d, pertains to MarCheshvan and the other months, which are similar to the body’s limbs through which actual service is performed. Tishrei is the “head”: it does not perform the actual work, but instead leads the body and directs its limbs in the proper way of service.

Just as the concept of being the “head” is reflected in the name “Tishrei” (the same letters as “reishit”), so the concept of actual work is alluded to in the name “MarCheshvan.” “Mar” means “drop,” referring to drops of rain. Scripture (Bereishis 2:5) says concerning rain that, “The L‑rd G‑d had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no man to work the ground.” Rashi explains that G‑d had not caused it to rain “because there was no man to work the ground, and there was no one to recognize the benefit of rains. And when Adam came and recognized that they were necessary for the world, he prayed for them, and they came down.” Thus, rain is associated with the working of the land, and hence the name “MarCheshvan” — rain drops — emphasizes the idea of man’s work and service.

That service begins in MarCheshvan, whereas Tishrei provides the strength for that service, is stressed by the fact that Tishrei is blessed by G‑d, without Jews’ service playing a role, whereas MarCheshvan is blessed by Jews (on Shabbos Mevarchim).

We noted above that even the weekdays which follow the festivals in the month of Tishrei are associated with Tishrei, and that actual service in the world begins with the month of MarCheshvan. This is particularly emphasized this year, when Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan follows the Shabbos on which Parshas Noach is read, while the days before Rosh Chodesh MarCheshvan belong to Shabbos Bereishis. The difference between these two parshahs is that Bereishis talks of the world in its fullness and perfection (when it was created), while Parshas Noach talks of the world on the basest of levels, that of the sinful generation of the flood.

This difference between the parshahs corresponds to the difference between the types of service of the weekdays at the end of Tishrei and that of the month of MarCheshvan. In Tishrei, even weekday matters are not really secular, for they still retain the influence of the festivals. In MarCheshvan, a Jew deals with totally secular matters, things of this gross, corporeal world. When, therefore, a Jew prepares to enter the service of MarCheshvan, Parshas Noach is read as a preparation and source of strength — for this parshah emphasizes the power a Jew has to influence this world, even when the world is on the lowest of levels. How?

Parshas Noach talks about Noach’s generation, which was on the lowest of levels. In the words of Scripture: “All flesh had perverted its way upon the earth” — to the extent that there was no choice, as it were, but to destroy all life. Yet this corruption did not disturb Noach’s service to G‑d, and he remained untouched by the surrounding evil, as written: “Noach was a righteous and whole man in his generation.” Similarly, when the whole of that generation was destroyed by the flood, Noach remained untouched, he and his family taking refuge in the ark. Moreover, by taking into the ark every species of living being, he saved the whole world, through which the world was established anew — and in a loftier fashion than before the flood — as we shall shortly explain.

In Noach’s service, then, we see three aspects: 1) His service was untouched by the world’s abysmal state; 2) He saved and reestablished the world; 3) In doing so, he raised the world to a yet higher level. Let us explore each of these aspects separately.

Noach’s service untouched by world’s abysmal state:

That Noach was “righteous and whole” even in his corrupt generation is emphasized by the way he entered the ark. His entire generation did not wish him to do so, as Rashi writes (Bereishis 7:13), “The people of his generation said, ‘If we see him entering the ark, we will break it and kill him.’ G‑d said, ‘I shall bring him in before the eyes of everyone, and we shall see whose word will prevail.’“ When the people saw that the flood was really beginning, and Noach was preparing to save himself in the ark, they wanted to prevent him from entering, thereby thinking to save also themselves. For, knowing that G‑d would not allow the flood to harm Noach, they thought that if they would not allow him to enter the ark, G‑d would halt the flood.

Yet their opposition did not help them. Indeed, G‑d said, “I shall bring him in before the eyes of everyone, and we shall see whose word will prevail.” We can easily picture what was happening then. The people were standing outside the ark, thoroughly drenched from the flood rains which had already begun to fall, and before their eyes was the ark in which Noach and his family were going to save themselves. And yet all their efforts to prevent it — were unavailing! Moreover, they saw a long line of animals, of every species in the world — going two by two (or seven by seven of the clean animals) into the ark to be saved — and yet they were outside the ark, unable to do anything!

Noach saved and reestablished the world:

Two aspects are present in this: 1) Noach’s efforts before the flood; 2) His salvation of the world by bringing all species of life into the ark. Concerning the first aspect, we learn that the ark took 120 years to build, and Rashi (6:14) tells us the reason why: “So that the men of the generation of the flood should see him occupied with it for 120 years, and [could] ask him, ‘What is [the necessity of] this to you?’ and he could say to them, ‘G‑d is about to bring a flood upon the world’ — perhaps they will repent.” In other words, for 120 years Noach’s work consisted of getting his generation to repent.

Noach’s efforts to turn them to repentance could have had an effect to the very last moment. Even after 120 years had passed and they didn’t repent, and the rains began to fall, Scripture relates (7:12), “The rain was upon the earth,” upon which Rashi comments, “He (G‑d) brought them down with mercy, so that if they should repent, these should be rains of blessing.” Thus, even at the very last moment, if Noach could have been able to get them to repent, not only would there have been no flood, but the rains would have been transformed into “rains of blessing,” similar to the idea that through repentance, “sins are accounted as merits.” This teaches how great was Noach’s power to influence his generation: On his side, he could have brought them to repentance even at the last moment, thereby not only eliminating the punishment of the flood, but transforming it into “rains of blessing.”

The second aspect is that by bringing every species of being into the ark, Noach kept the world in existence — despite the fact that the world was in such a dismal state that the people did not repent even when the rains began to fall.

Noach raised the world to a higher level after the flood:

All living beings in Noach’s ark — i.e., the whole world — was in a state resembling that of the future era. All the different species, animals, beasts and fowl, predatory or otherwise, did not attack or do any harm one to another during the entire duration of their stay — a whole year. This was a most unnatural phenomenon. When every species of life in the whole world is confined together for a long time in a very limited space it is impossible that not even one instance of attack should occur — especially when talking about predatory beasts whose very nature is to take the life of other beasts.

This phenomenon happened because the G‑dliness in the ark was of a very lofty order, similar to that of the future era, when a wolf will dwell together with a lamb, an eagle with a kid, and none shall harm another, for “the earth will be full with the knowledge of the L‑rd.” And this was the state of affairs in Noach’s ark: Even when the world was on the lowest of levels (so corrupt that it had to be destroyed), the spiritual condition within the ark resembled that of the future era.

That the animals in the ark behaved totally contrary to their natures makes the first aspect of Noach’s work — that the people of his generation were unable to disturb Noach’s service — greater still. The transformation of the animals actually began before they were in the ark, when they came to enter it. They were then all gathered together in one place — and yet did no harm to each other.

This was a miracle unlike any other. Every miracle affects a particular object or place. The miracle that the manna descended for the Jews during their forty years sojourn in the desert, for example, happened only to the manna, and only in a particular area (that part of the desert in which the Jews were traveling). Similarly, the miracles that happened to the Jews in Egypt were devoted to a particular category, in a particular place.

In our case, in contrast, the miracle concerned all species of life in the world, and everywhere in the world, for the animals came to Noach’s ark from the four corners of the earth. It was a miracle that affected the very creation. There were several aspects to this miracle:

1) Animals from all over the world came to Noach’s ark of their own accord; no one drove them to come to that particular spot.

2) Not all animals and beasts came; only two of each species.

3) Seven of each clean species came.

4) Only the choicest of them came — “Those that had associated with their own species, and had not corrupted their way” (Rashi, 6:20).

5) As above, they all entered the ark in an orderly manner, without harming one another — completely contrary to their natures.

Can there be a greater miracle than this?! Moreover, this miracle occurred at the end of the 120 years, when the world was on such a low spiritual state that, despite 120 years of Noach’s efforts, they did not repent.

All this emphasizes how impossible it was that the people of his generation should prevent Noach from performing his service. He entered the ark (his service of saving the world) against the wishes of the people, with great miracles. And he saved the world, to the extent that he raised it to a higher level. All this was accomplished despite the fact that he was a single individual against the whole world.

2. The story of Noach provides lessons for Jews’ service to G‑d. The waters of the flood correspond, in spiritual terms, to the flood of financial worries and worldly thoughts which engulf a person. The three aspects noted above concerning Noach teach that 1) the world cannot prevent a Jew from performing his service; 2) on the contrary, a Jew can affect the world; and 3) a Jew can even raise the world to a level loftier than before.

A Jew in this world must know that the “waters” of the world — worldly matters — cannot extinguish the innate love to G‑d concealed in every Jew’s soul. In the words of Torah Or (beginning of Parshas Noach): “Even after the soul has been enclothed in a corporeal body to engage in material matters — which are called ‘many waters’ — they cannot extinguish [or prevent the soul] from continually being on a level of love and wondrous longing to ascend to and be encompassed Above.”

Indeed, not only is a Jew not affected by the “many waters,” but “through [the soul] being enclothed in the ‘many waters,’ it can reach a level higher than before it descended into this world.” Further, the waters themselves are transformed into “Noach’s waters,” “Noach” being related to the word “neicha,” meaning “comfort.” Thus the flood waters are transformed into “waters of comfort,” “comfort to the upper worlds and a comfort to the lower worlds.” This double “comfort” refers to the upper and lower regions within man — the soul and body — meaning, that not only do the flood waters not disturb the soul’s work, but also not the body’s. “Comfort to the lower worlds” refers also to this actual, physical world: A Jew, through his service to G‑d, brings comfort to the world, to the extent that he brings the world to a state resembling the future era.

The lesson from Parshas Noach, then, is that a Jew need not fear the “flood waters,” and, indeed, he has the power to transform them into “Noach’s waters.”

If the above applies to the generation of the flood, a generation of a very low spiritual stature, it certainly applies to our days, since 1) such a spiritual descent as happened in the generation of the flood is impossible in our days, and 2) Noach lived before Matan Torah: If he was nevertheless able to carry out his service without being hampered by his environment, we, who have the strength from Matan Torah, certainly can.

Let us explore this concept further. Noach was able to save the world by entering the ark, as commanded by G‑d (7:1), “Come you and all your house into the ark.” In spiritual terms, the Baal Shem Tov explains that “ark,” in Hebrew “teivah” — which also means “word” — refers to the words of Torah and prayer. “Come ... into the ark” means that a Jew can save himself from the “many waters” of the flood by entering into the words of Torah and prayer.

This applied not just to Noach, but also to his family (“you and all your house”) — and he also brought into the ark all species of beasts in the world, meaning, he raised the world to a level resembling that of the future era.

But after the command “Come ... into the ark,” G‑d also commanded, “Go out from the ark”: The purpose of entering the ark — the words of Torah and prayer — is that afterwards, upon exiting, one has gained the strength to infuse G‑dliness into the world as it is (and not just to raise the world to a higher state — i.e., to bring it into the “ark”). In other words, a Jew, working in this corporeal world, brings it to a state resembling that which was in the ark, until the ultimate state of the future era.

The above parallels the difference between the months of Tishrei and MarCheshvan. Service of the month of Tishrei is analogous to bringing the world into the words of Torah and prayer — i.e., to raise the world to a higher level — for during Tishrei, the world is on a more lofty spiritual level, the world as it is in Torah. The service of MarCheshvan is to infuse G‑dliness into the world as it is, a world which contains “many waters,” the waters of the flood.

The ultimate in service is that of MarCheshvan. But the service of Tishrei — of “Come into the ark” — is necessary as a preparation and source of strength for the service of MarCheshvan, that of “Go out from the ark” into the world.

Another lesson we can derive from Noach concerns the way events happened. Noach only had to fulfill G‑d’s command, whether that of building the ark or of feeding the animals in the ark; everything else — the fact that the people could not prevent him from entering the ark, the fact that the animals came to the ark of their own accord, and that they coexisted peacefully — all happened automatically, as a result of Noach’s fulfilling G‑d’s will.

This teaches that a Jew need but devote himself to carrying out his mission of serving G‑d, and everything else will be taken care of without any effort on his part. The Talmud for example, states that when Jews do G‑d’s will, “strangers will stand and pasture your sheep.”

May it be G‑d’s will that everyone take the powers offered on this Shabbos, and go forth to perform service throughout the year — in general, to utilize every moment in fulfilling his task of serving G‑d.

Most importantly, may it be G‑d’s will that through our service in all the above discussed concepts, we merit to have the Beis HaMikdash built speedily in our days.

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3. We said above that the service of MarCheshvan is to work with the world as it is. We may add, that special distinction accrues when this service is performed through the power of the Torah — i.e., through Torah study. But before we elaborate on this, let us first explore the effect Matan Torah — the Giving of the Torah — had on the world.

Service to G‑d existed before the Torah was given. The purpose of man’s existence then, as now, was, in the words of our sages, “I was created to serve my Master.” The world, too, was affected by man’s service, as stated, “All that G‑d created in His world, He created solely for His glory,” the service connected with this being to reveal that such is the case — by behaving in the manner of “All your deeds shall be for the sake of Heaven,” and “In all your ways you shall know Him.”

Matan Torah, nevertheless, introduced an incomparably greater loftiness in service. It brought together the “upper regions” with the “lower regions,” which until Matan Torah were kept separate by Divine decree. At Matan Torah, this decree was abolished, and service to G‑d would now combine “lower” with “upper.”

This was achieved by the Giving of the Torah because Torah itself is a synthesis of “upper” and “lower.” On the one hand, the idea of “heaven” — “upper,” is emphasized in Torah, as written, “From heaven He made you hear His voice.” Even after Torah descended into this low, corporeal world, it still retains its heavenly character, as written, “Are not My words as fire,” and as our sages say (Berachos 22a), “The words of Torah do not become impure.” Thus, even when Torah is learned by a Jew who is in the most impure of states, the Torah learned is unaffected, for it is “My words” — G‑d’s Torah.

On the other hand, Scripture states explicitly that Torah “is not in heaven,” and thus, when the question is asked in the heavens, “Where is Torah?” G‑d answers, “I have given it to the earth.” Because, Torah itself thus fuses together “upper” and “lower,” it is Torah which fuses together the upper and lower regions (Matan Torah). It thus also follows that a Jew’s work in the world acquires special distinction when it is done through the Torah.

The above lends understanding as to why the service of the month of MarCheshvan — service dealing with worldly matters — follows Simchas Torah specifically. Tishrei is the month of festivals, beginning with Rosh HaShanah and concluding with Simchas Torah. Rosh HaShanah is the concept of the acceptance of G‑d’s sovereignty; it is followed by the service of observance of mitzvos — the festival of Sukkos, with its mitzvos of sukkah and the four kinds; and Simchas Torah is the conclusion of the festivals, celebrating the idea of Torah, which shares a bond with a Jew transcending comprehension, a bond of the essence, expressed by a Jew dancing with the Torah as one entity. Thus one goes forth to perform service with worldly matters in the month of MarCheshvan after having gained the strength of Simchas Torah (and not just after the service of Rosh HaShanah). This is similar to Jews’ work in the world after Matan Torah.

Just as the world was on a loftier plane after Matan Torah than before, so a Jew’s service in MarCheshvan in worldly matters is much loftier when done through Torah. Man’s service in general is performed in two ways: 1) service with corporeal matters — observance of mitzvos using physical objects, including dedicating even one’s personal matters to G‑d; 2) the service of Torah study, through which the world is automatically affected, since Torah is master over the world. The service of Torah study takes precedence, for our sages have said, “Torah study is equal to all [mitzvos].”

It follows that at this period of time, when we leave the service of Tishrei and Simchas Torah, and enter the service of MarCheshvan (that of working with corporeal, worldly matters) there is special emphasis on the type of service performed through Torah study.

Another wondrous advantage unique to Torah study, most pertinent to our times, is that through it the future redemption is hastened. Rambam rules that in the future era, “the whole world will be occupied only in knowing the L‑rd ... and they will comprehend the knowledge of their Creator ... as it is said, ‘For the whole earth will be full of knowledge of the L‑rd as the waters cover the sea.’“ This refers to the ultimate in Torah study — the esoteric aspect, the “soul of Torah”; and since all the revelations of the future era will come about through our service now in exile, it is important to do one’s utmost to increase in Torah study as a preparation to the fulfillment of the promise, “The earth will be full of knowledge of the L‑rd, as the waters cover the sea.”

All of the above concerning Torah study follows that which we spoke about in the previous farbrengen (the second farbrengen of Shabbos Bereishis) and in the Letter of Motzaei Shabbos Kodesh Mevarchim MarCheshvan, concerning the establishment of set study sessions in Torah. One must do one’s utmost to ensure that every Jew, whoever he or she may be, should establish set study sessions for learning Torah. This applies to all Jews, young and old, men and women, for women, too, are obligated to study Torah.

What is important here is that it be a set, fixed study session — fixed in both one’s soul, and in time: The litmus test if it is indeed fixed in one’s soul is if one has set aside time every day to learn Torah, allowing nothing to disturb him from dedicating this time to Torah study.

The above applies not just to those who as yet have no fixed study sessions, but also to those who already have such sessions: They should increase in these sessions, “ascending in holiness.”

4. Parshas Noach relates that after Noach and his family and two each of every species of living being (or seven in the case of clean animals) were rescued from the flood which destroyed the world, G‑d promised Noach that He would establish a covenant to never again bring a flood. Chapter nine verse 12 then states: “And G‑d said: This is the sign of the covenant which I give between Me and you and every living creature that is with you, for everlasting generations.’“ The next verses tell us that this sign of the covenant never to destroy the world is the rainbow.

Rashi, quoting the words “for everlasting generations,” notes that the word for generations in Hebrew — “doros” — is written without the letter “vav.” He writes: “[The word doros] is written defectively (i.e., without the letter vav), because there are generations which do not require a sign, for they were perfectly righteous, such as the generation of Chizkiyahu, king of Yehudah, and the generation of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.”

Rashi is saying that the word “doros” — “generations” is written with a missing letter to teach that there are some generations (“doros”) in which the sign of the rainbow is missing, for, since they were completely righteous, they did not need the sign of G‑d’s assurance never to again to bring a flood. Such generations, Rashi says, were that of Chizkiyahu and Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.

There are quite a few perplexing points to this Rashi.

1) Rashi writes that “there are generations which do not require a sign, for they were perfectly righteous.” In other words, since the punishment of the flood could never happen to the completely righteous, there is no necessity for a sign — the whole idea of the sign being that although there could and should be punishment by a flood (because of man’s evil conduct), there would not be a flood because of G‑d’s promise to Noach.

Now, the flood came upon the earth only when the world’s spiritual level was at its absolute nadir, as written, “G‑d saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth,” and “all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.” Until the world had sunk to this lowest of levels, punishment by flood upon the whole earth was not contemplated by G‑d — even though the people were not “perfectly righteous.” We find, for example, that people in Enosh’s generation practiced idolatry, and yet G‑d did not contemplate destroying the entire world, until “all flesh had corrupted its way upon the earth.”

It therefore seems most peculiar that the impossibility of punishment by flood should apply only in the case of the perfectly righteous, and not also in the case of the incompletely righteous, or the average person, or even the normally wicked — as long as they have not sunk to the level of the generation of the flood.

2) Rashi’s examples of the perfectly righteous are “the generation of Chizkiyahu, king of Yehudah, and the generation of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.” This, too, is puzzling, for:

(i) Why need Rashi bring any example of the perfectly righteous; it seems a simple enough concept. Indeed, when Scripture says at the beginning of Parshas Noach that “Noach was a righteous man,” Rashi does not explain what “righteous” means, for it is self-understood that a righteous person is one who fulfills G‑d’s will. Yet in this case, Rashi finds it necessary to bring examples of the perfectly righteous. Why?

(ii) The five-year-old to whom Rashi addresses his commentary has not yet learned about Chizkiyahu and Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, and thus his teacher will have to tell him who they were, and when they lived. When the student will hear that they lived after the times of Moshe Rabbeinu and King Dovid and King Shlomo, he will be astonished: Were all the generations until King Chizkiyahu on such a low spiritual level that without the covenant, the sign of which is the rainbow, they would have been punished by a world flood?! The same question applies to the generations between King Chizkiyahu, who lived in the times of the First Beis HaMikdash, and Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai, who lived after the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash. Is it possible that all these generations needed the rainbow as a sign that they would not be punished by flood?

3) There is also a question that the five-year-old living in Rashi’s generation has: When he sees a rainbow, the sign that there will never again be a flood destroying the earth, he wonders: He lives in Worms, Rashi’s city, and sees Rashi’s yeshivah, Rashi’s grandsons’ — the Baalei HaTosfos’ — yeshivos, in which students learn Torah. Similarly, he sees that there are many synagogues and study-halls full of Jews learning Torah and observing mitzvos. How is it possible, he wonders, that such a city should need a sign forestalling punishment by flood? Moreover, the student will be further astonished when he sees a rainbow again, a few days later (especially if it is winter), for, he will wonder, what has happened in these few days to warrant another sign that a flood will not come as punishment? Yet Rashi says nothing to provide an answer to such a question.

The Explanation

Rashi explains (Bereishis 9:9) the necessity for a sign that never again will there be a flood as being because “Noach was worried about engaging in being fruitful and multiplying” — i.e., he was worried that if people would again sin G‑d would again bring a flood and destroy the world. Noach was not willing to engage in procreation “until G‑d promised Him not to destroy the world again; and so He did. And at the end He said to him [to Noach], ‘Behold, I agree to make a confirmation and a strengthening of the covenant for My promise, and I shall give you a sign.’“

Now, a student learning Scripture and Rashi’s commentary understands that just as Noach was worried about the destruction of the whole world, he was presumably also worried about the destruction of part of the world. For, since every person in the world after the flood was his descendant, he would have been concerned that not even one should be destroyed. G‑d therefore promised him not just not to destroy the whole world, but not even a small part of it, and not even to bring a less severe punishment than loss of life. Only when Noach received such a promise was his mind set at rest.

Accordingly, the student living in Rashi’s times will not be astonished to see a rainbow in Worms although it is a city full of yeshivos and synagogues. For although Worms is a place in which the people act properly, according to G‑d’s will, and therefore a rainbow is not needed as a sign that a flood will not come, other places may be different, and the rainbow is a sign saying that a flood will not be sent as punishment to that particular place for its improper conduct. A rainbow a few days later simply means that yet another place is deserving of flood as a punishment — but will not receive it because of G‑d’s promise to Noach. A place in which the residents behave properly, in contrast, does not need a sign for itself, for besides G‑d’s promise to Noach, G‑d anyway would not punish the righteous together with the wicked.

In sum, then, a rainbow is a sign that punishment will not befall even a particular part of the world, including punishment of a less severe degree than loss of life. Accordingly, a generation that would not need a sign would have to be on the loftiest of levels — a generation in which all Jews in all places throughout the world behave such that they are not deserving even a light form of punishment! Rashi therefore must explain that such a generation consists of the perfectly righteous.

Because this is obviously a very unusual situation, Rashi provides examples of such outstanding generations — “the generation of Chizkiyahu, King of Yehudah, and the generation of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.” Indeed, the Talmud (Sanhedrin 94b) tells us explicitly just what kind of generation was that of Chizkiyahu: “What did he [Chizkiyahu] do? He planted a sword by the door of the schoolhouse, and proclaimed, ‘He who will not study the Torah will be pierced with the sword.’ They searched from Dan to Be’er Sheva, and no ignoramus was found; from Gabbos to Antiperes, and no boy or girl, man or woman was found who was not thoroughly versed in the laws of cleanliness and uncleanliness.”

This shows the lofty nature of the generation of King Chizkiyahu: All Jews were engaged in the study of Torah, to the extent that in all Israel’s borders not one boy or girl was not thoroughly versed in the laws of cleanliness and uncleanliness, the most difficult laws in Torah! And just as every Jew in Chizkiyahu’s generation was perfectly righteous, so too concerning the generation of Rabbi Shimon ben Yochai.