Next week I will not be around. Thankfully, we're making our first bar mitzvah, which is taking some energy to plan.
Being one of the few families in the community without any family in the country, we're trying to plan things out so my kids shouldn't feel any different. So, two families that we're close with and have the honorary title of "cousins" will be coming up north for Shabbos. I think we'll have 22 people or so. It should be exciting. I plan to be slightly drunk the whole time to survive.
What's nice is that on Shabbos morning, my son will be finishing one Gemara (Beitzah) which he has been doing with a friend of his with Daf Yomi, and then after Shabbos, he'll make another siyum on Taanis, which he has been doing with another friend. By the time he's bar mitzvahed, he will have learned an entire section of mishnayos and three tractates in Gemara. Not bad. That certainly wasn't the focus in my life when I was his age :) Different worlds, different lives....
"I will not continue to curse again the ground because of man, since the imagery of man's heart is evil from his youth" (Bereishis 8:21).
From the very beginning, the Torah testifies that Noach was a tzaddik. In fact, it's clear from the narrative that in his merit, did Hashem make this promise that he will never destroy the world again. So, the obvious question is: what was different about Noach that before the flood he did not have the merit to save the world, yet only after the flood did he have enough merit that Hashem should make an eternal promise?
Rav Yitzchok Zilberstein explains that the growth Noach experienced while he was in the ark enabled him to grow into a bigger tzaddik than he was before.
Rav Yaakov Meir Schecter, one of the leaders of the Breslov community in Yerushalyim delves much deeper into the issues based on the teachings of Rebbe Nachman. In short...
Rebbe Akiva commented on the verse "In the morning sow your seed, and in the evening, stay not your hand" (Koheles 11:6), "If you raised up students in your youth, raise up more in your old age".
This is the same Rebbe Akiva, who, after losing 24,000 students, started all over again, in his old age, and raised only five more students, who are responsible for all of the Torah we have today. Can you imagine starting from scratch after such a devastating loss, and thinking, "Well, at least I have these five students"? Most people would end their lives in depression.
However, despite the destruction of the world around him Rebbe Akiva continued to do his job, despite the hardships and the bleary outlook. Because in the end, he knew that his job was to do what he needed to do. The outcome was not in his hands and never was. That "G-d's business".
Noach too saw his entire world, literally destroyed in front of his eyes. In the end, he was stuck in a boat with a few family members, and was responsible for taking care of all of the survivors. In the end, he did not look around and succumb to depression. Rather, he built an altar and gave thanks to Hashem for saving him. He did not worry about how the world was going to grow and survive. That wasn't his job. He focused on the task at hand and gave thanks for all the good that was done for him. With that attitude, he grew in stature, just by simply doing what was expected of him at that time.
There are times in life when people ask themselves, "What am I doing? Where am I going? What will be?" And all of these questions are legitimate. However, sometimes, when things are seemingly low, one simply needs to focus on the moment and the job at hand. It might seem very little with very little payoff, but it's during these "low" times a person can grow to greater heights than he could during the "high times".
Have a wonderful Shabbos!