Parshat Noach is an intriguing parsha, full of stories that teach us valuable mussar lessons and introduce the beginning of the world & human history.
This parsha has both fascinated & inspired its descendants worldwide for literally millennia.
In Parshas Noach: Great Men of the World, Rav Miller starts us off imagining those first events of human history as if reported in an ancient newspaper.
Also, Rav Miller introduces concepts I never imagined, like how the creators of tents and musical instruments were inspired by the mechanisms of wildlife around them.
He also introduces some intriguing chiddushim regarding their sister, Na'amah, who is mentioned alongside them.
Rav Miller notes that in those days, Kayin's family looked super-successful; they had it all.
Adam & Chava's third son, Sheis/Shet/Seth, could barely be noticed amid all the flashy innovation of Kayin's brood. In Rav Miller's words, Kayin's offspring were considered "the heroes of humanity."
Yet only Shet remains. No human descendant remains from Kayin today.
Who's the Last Man Standing? The Nice Guy.
It was the descendants of the overlooked nice guy (along with his descendant, another overlooked nice guy) who saved humanity.
This is a running theme throughout Tanach, as discussed on the blog previously.
The very people who are ignored, rejected, dismissed, overlooked, and overshadowed end up as the Chosen and saving the day: Leah Imeinu, Yosef Hatzaddik, Chana Haneviah & Mother of Shmuel, David Hamelech, Gidon, Har Sinai, and on and on and on.
Even ma'asu habonim hayata l'rosh pinah – The stone despised by the builders became the cornerstone.
That's the history of Jewish greatness in a nutshell (and this still applies to Noach even though he wasn't Jewish).
Every living creature you see today survived through Noach's Ark.
And even a squirrel is a happy reminder of this fact (pg. 12):
When we see today a squirrel climbing a tree or a bird flying in the sky, we know it was an inhabitant of the Ark.
Don’t waste that opportunity when you see a squirrel – you’re being taught now that the righteous individuals are so important in the eyes of Hashem that for their merit the entire Creation continues to live.
"It’s a lesson for always; it was intended as an eternal demonstration for all future generations that those who are serving Hakodosh Boruch Hu, they are the protectors of the world."
Who are Hashem's Celebrities?
By his fellow Jews.
Not all Jews, of course. Just the apikoris Jews.
Sort of like today.
Also, Rav Miller notes that many people think they're doing a big favor by supporting the Torah-learning poor in Yerushalayim, like those with 14 kids living in a small apartment.
But really, he notes, they're doing US the favor.
The greater the person is in Torah and personal refinement, the greater their merit.
Here's Rav Miller's take on the role of tzaddikim (pg. 14):
A tzadik is a very great benefit for you, for the generation.
The Gemara (Taanis 24b) tells of a bas kol, that’s a minor form of prophecy, that was sent to reveal that the entire world received its sustenance in the merit of Rabbi Chanina ben Dosa.
Who knows how many times we have had good suppers because of tzadikim?
Who knows how many times you’ve made a good business deal or found a good job because of tzadikim?
Who knows how many times tragedies would have happened; families destroyed, communities uprooted if not for the merit of the tzadikim who have found favor in the eyes of Hashem?
Who knows how many times you didn’t get sick because of the nighteousness of tzaddikim?
And we should look with love upon all Jews who strive to fulfill Torah & mitzvot.