When Noach’s family was huddled in their little ark for one full year they were
busy thinking. They were busy with other things too; they were very busy taking
care of their cargo, but at the same time they were thinking, “What’s going on out
there? What’s happening to our cousins? What’s happening to our uncles and
aunts? What’s going to be with all our nieces and nephews?” That’s Noach’s nieces
and nephews! “What happened to our friends, our neighbors?”
And they knew unfortunately what did happen to them; and they were talking
about it. They knew about the aveiros that people were involved with, and they
were witnessing the results now. The water came pouring down, flooding
everywhere, and there was no recourse. There was no place to go. Even the highest
mountains eventually were covered.
It was a terrible sight. If you could look through the window of the teivah, you
would find people holding on to pieces of wood for their dear life but the waters
were too strong. And they were boiling hot too. Mankind was being wiped off the
face of the earth because of their sins! Such a catastrophe!
And they studied that in the teivah. For a full year, as death raged around
them, Noach and his family studied the terrible event of how all Mankind was
destroyed. They sat and pondered the lesson that there is such a thing as
responsibility for sin, punishment for aveiros.
Nowadays the world has forgotten that. Today the ideal of punishment has
gone lost. When a man commits a crime, it’s only a question of the utilitarian
achievement of punishment. In the universities they’ll make committees and
discuss it. Is it a deterrent? Or is it a rehabilitation? Maybe it’s restitution? Whatever
it is, it’s a debate, and in the debate, punishment goes lost and Mankind loses sight
of the great principle that there is such a thing as intrinsic responsibility for sin.
It’s a duty of the conscience; the conscience must feel that the sinner deserves
a punishment. Of course, we want the criminal locked up because we want to be
safe, but that’s not the primary purpose of punishment. When Mankind steps in
and inflicts punishment, we do it more than anything else because wickedness is
wrong. We are actually only vicars, emissaries, of Hakodosh Boruch Hu whose
abhorrence at a sin, at a crime, is tremendous. Sin is wicked! Wrong behavior is
wicked! That’s what punishment comes to tell you.
Today that attitude that the Mabul came to teach has gone lost, and we’re
worse off for it. There’s no such thing as wickedness anymore, no punishment.
What Mabul? Who cares? Who thinks about that? Wickedness has lost its edge in
modern society and that’s caused a breakdown in society and on all sides. Mankind
is suffering because of that.
But I’m not talking only about the gentiles. Even the frum Jews have forgotten
this lesson of the Mabul, that Hashem doesn’t put up with wickedness. How could
it be that just recently, only fifty years ago Hashem brought a Mabul on our people
in Europe and we react to it like a horse would react. Punishment? Oh no! That
Even the Orthodox, I’m afraid to say, don’t want to open their mouths and say
anything. Nobody wants to say the plain truth that the Holocaust was a Mabul
brought by Hashem because of our sins. The Jews in Europe had learned to hate
Judaism. Not all of them, but there were so many of them that it became a wave of
revolt against the Torah.
I saw a photograph in the Chubashav pinkas; it’s a book describing the town
of Chubashav in Europe. It’s a picture of a parade through the streets of the town
in the 1930s. And the people, the paraders, are carrying a big banner, all the way
across the street from one side to the other, and on the banner inscribed in Yiddish
it says, “Nider mit der klerikalism.” It means “Down with the clericalism.” Clericalism
means the rabbis. A big sign openly displayed in the streets of a Jewish town. Down
with the rabbinate! Down with the frumme! It means down with the Torah, down
with Hashem. And it was like that everywhere.
“The Jews in Europe declared war on Hashem.” That’s what Reb Elchonon
Wasserman zichrono livracha said. “And now He has declared war on them. That’s
why He’s sending His armies against them.” Reb Elchonon said that about Hitler.
Now, Reb Elchonon knew about the yeshivas. He knew about the talmidei
chachomim more than you. But he knew that the yeshiva people with their rebbes
were only a drop in the ocean of European Jewry and they didn’t have anybody who
listened to them.
Now, it doesn’t mean all the Jews were mechallel Shabbos, no. But even the
Jews who kept Shabbos and kashrus and everything else, they were no longer on
the side of the roshei yeshivah.
And their children were leading the way. I remember we sat on Shabbos
singing zemiros in the small town where I used to stay but we were drowned out.
Because outside the town there was a big hachshara of Jewish boys and girls who
were preparing to go to Eretz Yisroel. And they made fires on Shabbos and they ate
tarfus and they threw away all of Judaism. That was the new generation and they
were going to settle in Eretz Yisroel. Aretz! Aliyah! That’s what mattered. Shabbos,
not important. Tefillin, not important. Mikveh, not important.
And here in the town, the old people were left without a generation to follow
them. So even though they sang zemiros, their hearts were with their children.
That’s how parents are – when their children forsake the Torah, the parents lose
hope and they are no longer enthusiastic for the Torah.
The Am Yisroel stopped keeping Shabbos in Europe. They stopped putting on
tefillin. They stopped keeping everything. There was a large-scale rebellion against
Hakodosh Boruch Hu in Europe. They were getting worse and worse until Hashem
finally said, “It’s enough! I’ll bring it to an end!”
But this they don’t want to talk about in the synagogues; it’s not popular talk
and therefore the people don’t get the lesson. And all those who perished in the
Holocaust perished in vain because nothing is being learned from it; nobody’s
getting better. Even many Holocaust victims didn’t learn anything; many of those
who escaped the concentration camps didn’t learn anything.
Only that the lessons of the Torah, the attitudes of the Torah are so far from
our minds, that nobody wants to tell people the secret that Hakodosh Boruch Hu
punishes for sins. Such a secret that it’s everywhere in the Tanach. Not only the
Mabul. Wherever you look in Tanach it’s reiterated so many times that it’s perhaps
one of the most salient features of Tanach:
If Jews will forsake the Torahּ […] – if you’ll refuse and you’ll rebelּ […]
– you will be consumed by the sword (Yeshaya 1:20).
That was one great achievement of the Flood. It came to show the remaining
family from whom the world would be built up again that sin is not just bad, it’s
catastrophic. The family that walked out of the teivah after a year, they knew in
their blood, in their bones, that sin is a terrible misfortune
R' Avigdor Miller Zt"l
Based on his books, tapes & Writings of Talmidim
Lessons of the Flood
Email: ey@TorasAvigdor.org | Telephone: 076-599-4020
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Many rabbonim say we should not discuss in public
why the churban of Hitler happened. Why do you, Rabbi Miller,
think it is important to discuss it?
And the answer is this: Because it’s one of the most frequent questions
against emunah. The public has the impression that everybody in Europe was an
observant Jew and therefore there’s the argument, “That’s what happens to
observant Jews.” And then there’s another argument: “In America they’re not
observant and it didn’t happen.”
And so it’s important to defend the honor of Hakodosh Boruch Hu and
explain to people that in Europe it was much worse than America. Not that there
was less observance, no. Less observance than America is hard to find. But in
Europe, the people were throwing away the Torah more rapidly than any other
place. They had just two generations ago kept everything and now they had
revolted against the Torah violently! Not like American ignorami who went to
public school and never learned anything and they became goyim because of the
environment. These Jews in Europe learned to hate Judaism. Not all of them, but
there were so many of them that it became a wave of revolt against the Torah.
And Reb Elchonon Wasserman zichrono livracha said, “The Jews in Europe
declared war on Hashem.” And he said, “And now He has declared war on them.
And that’s why He’s sending His armies against them.”
So therefore, if you won’t speak in this vein, the people will remain with their
fatal error and they’ll think that the Jews in Europe were all perfect and they were
unjustly visited with retribution.