Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Parshas Noach 5783



Erev Shabbos Kodesh parshas Ha’azinu - Succos

12 Tishrei 5783/October 7, 2022


For the past few summers Camp Dora Golding, our summer home, has had a bunch of chickens on campus. The director of camp’s wilderness program constructed a sophisticated coop and the chickens enjoy free room and board for the 8 weeks of the camp season. The chickens roam the campgrounds during the day and return to the coop around sunset. At that point the coop is locked to keep the chickens safe from predators overnight.

Our 6-year-old twins, Gavriel and Michoel, were enamored with the chickens. Whenever they were in the vicinity, no matter what was going on, they would make a beeline, or rather a chickenline, for the chickens. They loved to watch them, feed them, chase them and hold them. In Camp Dora Golding the chicken likely crossed the road to escape one of the Staum twins.

Recently, our yeshiva, Heichal HaTorah, had a beautiful shabbatone at Camp Nageela in the Catskills Mountains. On the grounds of Camp Nageela there is an area where they have a bunch of animals, including a mule, horse, rabbits, and… chickens.

Our twins were very excited with all the animals, but they were most excited with the chicken. As soon as they saw the chickens they started running after them like long-lost friends. The chickens didn’t share their sentiment and scattered in all directions.

In the corner of my eye, I saw Michoel running after a chicken. A moment later, I saw him running in a panic in the other direction with a chicken in hot pursuit. It was rather comical until I saw the chicken peck him on his hand. I don’t know if he was more shocked than hurt, but Michoel was crying for a few minutes. He later told me that he doesn’t like chickens anymore.

What Michoel didn’t realize was that the chicken that pecked him wasn’t a chicken at all. It was a rooster. Unlike docile chickens, roosters are more aggressive and protective of their territory. Poor Michael had unwittingly encountered their cantankerous rooster.

That rooster also had a terrible peculiarity of cockadoodling all day long. Every three minutes he would bellow another call. It seems that not only was the rooster moody, but his body clock was also completely out of whack.

In the first of the series of berachos recited each morning we thank Hashem for giving the “sechvi” wisdom to differentiate between day and night. The common definition of sechvi is rooster.

Chidushei HarRim explained that thanking Hashem for giving roosters the ability to distinguish between day and night is indirectly thanking Hashem for giving us bechira - free will to choose between right and wrong. Just as the rooster can differentiate so do we have that ability throughout our lives.

Judaism rejects the notion that our decisions and behaviors are predetermined, as if we are conformed to a computer program encoded within our minds.

People would rather believe in predetermination, because it means they cannot be held accountable for their actions.

The gemara (Berachos 33b) famously states, “Everything is in the hands of heaven except for the fear of heaven.” In other words, everything that occurs to us is divinely ordained and we have limited control. However, whether we choose to exercise our free will and behave as G-d-fearing people is in our control.

Rambam (Teshuva 5:3) writes that free choice is a principle of our faith.

Soon after he was appointed king over the nation, when Shaul Hamelech set out to destroy Amalek, he failed to kill Agag, the Amalekite king. When Agag was captured and brought before Shmuel Hanavi, the pasuk (Shmuel I 15:32) states that Agag appeared before Shmuel ma’adanos. Some commentators interpret this as “in chains”, while others explain it to mean “with delights.”

Rabbi Yitzchok Hunter (Pachad Yitzchak - Purim 29) noted that combining the two meanings symbolizes the false ideology of Amalek. Amalek espouses that we are chained by our desires and pursuits of delights and pleasures. Our desires are part of our genetic makeup and there is nothing we can do to overcome them. We are chained slaves to our whims. That belief stands in stark contrast to our belief that free choice is granted to every person and therefore we must take responsibility for our actions and their consequences.

The rooster who pecked Michoel did not have free choice to decide whether to hurt a young child. Nor does that rooster have the ability to choose not to crow all day long. But Michoel has the ability to differentiate between a rooster and a chicken, or at least to ask someone else who does.


Shabbat Shalom & Good Shabbos,

            R’ Dani and Chani Staum