How are you feeling this week?
Well, where do I start? After a month of waking up early for Selichot, two deep days in prayer at Rosh Hashanah, ten days of repenting followed by a beautiful fast on Yom Kippur, a further few days building a Succah and searching for that perfect Lulav and Etrog, followed by seven days spent outdoors living in a Succah, and two final days dancing with all our energy for Simchat Torah!
Wow! What a manic two months!
So, what’s next??
Shall we shut our eyes? Where are we heading to now?
It’s interesting to note that the next month Cheshvan is void of any festivals.
After such commotion, we seem to be left with a void. How are we to proceed after such a successful run?
In life, we are faced with many challenges. Sometimes, these challenges start small. We garner the courage and outweigh these. We can do it!
Yet at other times, we are faced by a barrage of challenges one after the other, slowly hitting us and eroding away at our faith.
It is at times like these that we need to dig deep into our heap of faith, be strong and face these challenges with a strong hand.
Our Parasha relates how the whole world was flooded; only Noach, his immediate family and the animals in the Ark survived.
It must have been tough, but Noach exits from the Ark and aims to rebuild.
The Midrash Tanchuma explains that Noach began and planted a grapevine. On a single day it grew, he harvested it, crushed the grapes, drank from it, got drunk and his embarrassment was publicized.
The Torah relates that whilst his son Cham took advantage of his father’s situation, his other brothers Shem and Yefet came to his father’s aid and covered his nakedness.
Eventually, when Noach sobered up, Cham was cursed whilst Shem and Yefet were blessed.
Interestingly, Shem received a bigger blessing than Yefet.
Rashi, commenting on this narrative (9:23), notes that the Torah describes Shem and Yefet’s response with the singular form “Vayikach (not Vayikchu) Shem VaYefet Et Hasimla”, indicating that one of the two brothers played the primary role in this Mitsva.
Citing the Midrash (Tanchuma 15, Bereishit Rabba 36:6), Rashi explains that “Shem exerted himself in the Mitsva more than Yefet.” Shem’s greater role in this incident, Rashi adds, is reflected in the eternal reward granted to his descendants, Am Yisrael. We are given the Mitsva of tzitzit – corresponding to the garment used by Shem to cover his father. The reward for Yefet, by contrast, was the burial that the nation of Magog – who descend from Yefet (10:2) – will receive in the future (Yechezkel 39:11). Shem’s descendants received a greater reward because Shem played a greater role in dressing Noach.
Although Shem and Yefet seemed to act similarly, yet at the end due to their exertion of the action they both received different rewards.
Sometimes, we perform Mitzvot with lacklustre. We don’t understand that the extra effort that we put in could be the jackpot – it could end up making all the difference.
There is a fascinating story of a lazy young man who grew up at home with everything being prepared for him. He never worked, always rising from his bed at 2pm. His mother prepared him brunch daily, catered and pampered him. Yet as he grew older, his father was starting to worry. “What is going to be with you? How are you going to settle down, get married? You need to go out into the real world and work!”
The son, of course, took no notice until one day, the father put his foot down.
“Son, if by tomorrow night you don’t go out to work and come back with at least £20, I am throwing you out of this house. No roof over your head and no food!”
The son knew that the father was serious and that night went to sleep worried.
He arose the next day at 2pm as usual. Time was against him. He waded down to the kitchen and begged his mother to give him £20!
“Please mum! If you don’t, dad will kick me out. Give me £20! You don’t have to tell him, and I will pretend I worked”.
The mum had mercy on her child and handed over £20.
That night, when the dad came back from work, his son happily rushed to him with £20.
The father looked at the money and tore it up.
The son was startled, but didn’t say anything.
The father looked to his son and said, “Tomorrow I want at least £20 or you are out!”
The next day, the son found himself in the same situation. He arose at 2pm, ran to the kitchen, begged his mother and received £20. That night, he handed it to this father who again tore it up.
The third day, the son arose and ran to the kitchen. “Mum! Did you tell dad that you paid me £20?” asked the son.
The mother answered with an emphatic “No”.
So why does he keep tearing it up, he thought. Nevertheless he continued to ask his mother for £20.
This time, however, the mother said that she had run out of cash, and wouldn’t be able to help till next week.
He was in hysterics. Not knowing what to do, he ran to his local food store and begged for the chance to perform some cheap deliveries for them. They agreed and that night he returned tired with £20.
He then handed it over to his father, who proceeded to tear it up.
“DAD, DON’T DO THAT!” screamed the son.
The father now turned to his child and said,” AHAH! Finally, NOW I know you worked!”
On the first two occasions, the son never worked for the money and didn’t really react when the father tore up the £20. Only on the third occasion did he really react, because it was only on that time that he actually worked hard to gain the money.
Shem went out of his way, put in that extra effort and was eternally rewarded.
We don’t realise the reward for every small action; were we to realise, our efforts would change for ever.
This is the lesson that we can take as a bridge from the busy Chagim we have experienced to the seemingly empty month of Cheshvan.
Over the past months, we have experienced real energy. Now it’s up to us to take that energy and input it into our daily lives.