Rabbi Benjamin Yudin
Rabbi Benjamin Yudin

Let's Cut to the Chase

The wise King Solomon in Mishlei (3:17) informs us that "its ways are ways of pleasentness and all its paths are peace". I'd like to share several insightful observations of our Chazal as to just how pleasant and sensitive is our holy Torah.

In the opening part of Parshas Noach, Hashem informs Noach of the impending almost total destruction and the remnant that will be spared and perpetuated via the ark. Eight humans were invited to enter the ark, and a pair of species of the wide variety of the animal kingdom that successfully passed the ‘moral detector' of the ark were also invited. These animals came miraculously on their own to perpetuate their species after the flood, and Noach did not have to travel to great distances or exhibit prowess in hunting them.

Then the Torah teaches that Hashem tells Noach (7:2) "tikach lecha…"- you are to take seven pairs of every clean animal. Hashem does not tell Noach why he is to take these additional animals, later to be pronounced kosher to the Jewish People (Zevachim 116A). The Medrash (Braishis Rabbah 34:9) tells us that Noach on his own reasoned that their purpose was for offerings. What is fascinating, notes the Ramban in 6:20, is that these clean animals Noach had to hunt and bring himself to the ark, and they did not participate in the incredible Divinely orchestrated parade of all other animals into the ark. The reason being that those whose purpose was pure physical salvation were invited and assisted by Hashem in coming to the ark. The other seven pairs that were to be offered on the altar, Hashem did not bring them to the slaughter, rather Noach had to take the initiative, for after all this was for his benefit.

It is exciting to note that the effect of these offerings was most positive and beneficial to mankind. Following his offering them (8:41) "Hashem smelled the pleasing aroma and said ‘I will not continue to curse again the earth because of man'". Moreover, Noach's taking them on the ark extended their lives by a year. Still, because of their ultimate end - being slaughtered- Noach had to take the initiative. (The Ramban suggests a second reason and that is to enable Noach to gain more out of the mitzvah of offering these animals by involving him in the tircha- preparation- or hechsher mitzvah.)

It is interesting to note that the Meshech Chochma in Parshas Noach (9:7) comments on the command to Noach and his sons of "Peru urevu"- the mitzvah of procreation- that this is the source of the Talmudic teaching (Yevamos 64b) that man is commanded with the first mitzvah of the Torah - procreation; and not woman. The Rambam in the beginning of chapter 15 of the laws of Ishus codifies this as law. The Meshech Chochma explains that in chapter 1 in Beraishis when Hashem blesses the first couple and directs them to be fruitful and multiply, that is before the sin of eating from the forbidden fruit and its consequence of "b'etsev taldei banim"- in pain shall you give birth. Having undergone this change in nature, the Torah which personifies "dracheha darchei noam"- its paths are paths of pleasantness- could not and does not legislate to womankind that she subject herself to a painful situation of childbirth.

The Meshech Chochma further suggests that the Torah, whose ways are pleasant, only imposes one fast day- Yom Kippur - during the entire year. Moreover, it legislates as a caring mother that we eat in preparation for the fast on the day preceding the fast (not leaving it to chance or probability).

Continuing this theme of sensitivity we (Ashkenazic Jewry outside of Israel) do not recite the bracha of Shehecheyanu at the occasion of a bris milah. Despite the fact that the Talmud (Shabbos 130a) attributes the verse from Tehillim (119:162) "Suss anochi al imrasecha k'motzei shalal rav- I rejoice over your word (commandment) as one who finds abundant spoils" to refer to the mitzvah of milah, thus teaching us that aside from the criteria of a mitzvah that is performed from time to time, or certainly if this is the first child that the father is circumcising the blessing Shehechyanu should be recited as found in Ramah Yoreh Deah (28:2) that the first time one performs a mitzvah Shehecheyanu is said. The answer is provided by the Meiri (Shabbos) that since the baby experiences pain (tza'ar d'yinukah) no Shehecheyanu is recited. Similarly, as a display of sensitivity to the discomfort of the baby- the Talmud Kesubos (8a) teaches that we do not include "sheha simcha b'm'ono"- included at the Grace After Meals during the week of sheva berachos, following the bris.

The book of Beraishis is referred to in the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 25A) as Sefer HaYasher- the book of the upright . Not only because of the Avos- the Patriarchs- who lived s life of yashrus, but because of the incredible sensitivity that Hashem teaches us as taught by our Chazal.

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