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How’s your commute?

By Rabbi Jonathan Tawil
October 14, 2015

If you think your commute home is bad, well you’re lucky you don’t live in China! Nobody likes sitting in traffic, but in the overcrowded People’s Republic of China, rush hour has an entirely different meaning. Last week saw a national week long holiday in China, where More than 750 million individuals — double the population of the United States — left their homes during the so-called “Golden Week”. They might all leave at different times, but the problem occurred upon their return! Fifty lanes were whittled down to fewer than 20 around a toll, which left hundreds of thousands of travellers stranded in a desperate attempt to pass through. The massive traffic nightmare recalled memories of the now-legendary China National Highway 110 traffic jam of August 2010 for some. The jam kept thousands of vehicles at near standstill for more than 60 miles and lasted a whopping 10 days, causing many to abandon their cars altogether.

Sounds horrific? Would you like to have been caught up in such a place?

For some the answer is yes and I will explain what happened next shortly.

But first a delve into the Parsha.

G-d saw that man’s evil on earth was increasing. Every impulse of his innermost thoughts was only for evil, all day long. G-d regretted that He made man on earth, and He was pained to His very core. G-d said, ‘I will obliterate humanity that I have created from the face of the earth; man livestock, land animals and birds of the sky. I regret that I created them.’ However, Noach found favour in the eyes of G-d. (Bereishit 6:5-8)

Noach’s uniqueness was present even at birth, having been born already circumcised.

This is perhaps why his presence on earth greatly impacted creation:

He called him Noach, saying,

“This one will comfort us from the work and sorrow of our hands because of the ground that G-d cursed.” (Bereishit 5:29)

This one will comfort us … he will ease the burden of our hands, for until Noach came people had no agricultural instruments and he made some for them. The earth had brought forth thorns and thistles when they sowed wheat because of the punishment of Adam HaRishon; in Noach’s time, this stopped. (Rashi)

Noach represented a breath of fresh air. Life was tough, but it was hoped that with the birth of Noach things would improve.

The only question is, if Noach was born with such special qualities, then why was he considered unique? The answer is that, it wasn’t the qualities that Noach was born with that made him special; it was what he did with those qualities that found him “favour” in the “eyes of G-d.”

Everyone has potential, it is about materialising that potential and creating yourself a life out of even the most tough of circumstances.

Back in the Garden of Eden, when Chava gave the forbidden fruit to Adam and they both sinned, they were severely punished. Adam put the blame on Chava, and Chava in turn blamed the snake. Hashem still punished both of them as they should have known better, and at the end of the day it was down to their own decisions that they sinned.

Nevertheless, if you were Adam at the time, how would you feel by having been influenced by Chava. You might be justified in being angry at how she manipulated the situation and convinced you to eat the forbidden fruit. Perhaps you would have opted for a divorce, or decided not to speak to her ever again. After all she was the cause of the punishment.

Yet the Torah relates a fascinating encounter.

Adam is told about his punishment and how he will be exiled, and in the midst of the tough new reality the Torah relates that he then called his wife Chava – because she was the EmKolChay – mother of all life.

Why is the Torah telling us now what Adam called his wife? Surely he should have called her a name earlier. What is the significance of this name?

Our Sages explain that Adam had an awesome capability, he was a very spiritual being. He realised his sin and lack of appreciation of his wife. He knew her regret and bore no grudge and instead focussed now on a new life together built on positivity. He concentrated on her constructive character – she was after all the one who would bring continuity into the world – she was the Mother of all life.

What a wonderful lesson. Amongst all the mist and darkness, don’t dwell on the sad situation, move on, and focus on the positivity of others.

So what happened back in China in 2011 when hundreds of thousands of people were stranded in the cars for days?

The incident is also known for its creation of a “mini-economy,” which saw vendors sell goods like water, noodles, snacks, and cigarettes to the stranded at highly inflated prices. Well at least someone benefited.

Of course that is not the ideal. But the point is always focus on the positive. Noach was so called to bring about ‘rest and ease’, Adam was able to look through the destruction and see the great virtue of his wife.

A wise man once said “If you focus on results you will never change, if you focus on change you will get results.”

As the year 5776 let’s begin by appreciating those around us and building a new positive vibe achieving the results we deserve.

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