Friday, October 19, 2007

Rabbi Rosensweig On Noach

At Shalosh Seudot at YU last week I heard Rabbi Michael Rosensweig speak. Here's my take on what he said. I've adapted and re-rdered a bit, but stuck to his ideas without adding in my own. Any mistakes are mine:

Noach did better as an Ish HaElokim than as an Ish HaAdamah. In the aftermath of the flood Noach offers a sacrifice to G-d, plants a vineyard, and then a short time later Noach fades away. The sacrifice goes very well. The Ramban comments that part of what the allowance to eat meet following the flood had going for it early on was the fact that Noach immediately used the animal meat for a sacrifice for G-d. Noach forsaw the concept of Kodshim, of using the regular in a holy way. The commentaries however, go to town, regarding choice in planting. Rashi and the medrash say that a vineyard shouldn't have been the first priority in agricultural ventures. The Ramban paints the vivid image of "rows and rows" of grape vines that Noach cultivated.

Noach, apparently had an easier time with the concept of sactifying the profane than he had with the idea that nothing is profane. When it came to daily life, rather than a one time sacrifice, Noach fell short. This led to the disappearance of Noach and to Avraham's emergence.

Avraham understood that true holiness pervades every aspect of life. This legacy is inherent in the tradition Avraham transmitted to his descendants in the 613 mitzvot of the Torah. On the other hand the 7 Noahide laws represent a narrower view of holiness more in consonance with the approach of their movement's founding father. As opposed to Noach, who worshipped the G-d of the heavens, Avraham was known for recognizing G-d as Elokei ShamayimVa'Aretz, the G-d of heaven and earth.

This year's Shabbat Noach is also Rosh Chodesh and so it is a juggernaut of kedusha-holiness. The question always arises, if one forgets Yaaleh veYavo in Bentching on Shabbos-Rosh Chodesh, need one repeat the Birchat HaMazon? The concensus is that the answer is no, although some Rishonim say yes. On Shabbos you repeat because the meal is obligatory. On Rosh Chodesh you don't repeat because the meal is optional. But when Rosh Chodesh is on Shabbos the meal is obligatory because it's a Shabbos meal, so does that fact mean that the repeating rule now applies to forgetting yaaleh VeYavo as well? The question can be seen as paradigmatic of the issue of the messhing of these two days.

Rosh Chodesh is kind of like Chol HaMoed - holy but not. There seems to not be kedushat hayom as there is with Shabbos or Yom Tov. On the other hand it's a reminder of the kedusha of every day. And it dovetails well with either Shabbos or weekday. Rosh Chodesh is a seemingly regular day that reminds us to sanctify everything we encounter in life.

One of the new sgan mashgichim in YU got funding for a program to learn right after Shabbos in the YUBM and be paid per hour. Right after Shabbos is often down time after the holy time of Shabbos. In life it's important to remember priorities. In the Mishna Torah, in Sefer Mada, the Rambam writes that the way to recognize G-d is via the wonders of the world. In the Sefer HaMitzvot, he says it's through Torah. The first is in the context of the book of Madda. But that is the tafel, and the Ikar is what's layed out in the Sefer HaMitzvot as a yesod.

Shabboss' holiness is meant to overflow into the full week. May we be zocheh to see G-d as Elokei Shamayim Vaaretz in our lives every day.

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