|NOACH: Mitzvos for Pleasure|
In the portion of the week we read about the ark that had to be built by Noach. After seeing what happened to the generation at that time, G-d decided to destroy the world and everything in it except for Noach, who was a tzaddik. G-d commanded Noach to build an ark in which he would bring his family and all the living species on earth and they would be spared.
Torah tells us that everything G-d commanded Noach “so did he do.” The Midrash comments that the words, “so did he do” mean “so did he make the ark.”
A question comes to mind immediately. Noach was a tzaddik who, in the face of a generation that was absolutely perverted and committed every cardinal crime in the book, remained righteous. Is it such a great revelation that Noach did everything as G-d commanded? Who would think otherwise? Is it possible that a person who is a tzaddik would not do everything according to the dictates of the A-mighty? Why does Torah take time out to tell us that everything G-d commanded Noach “so did he do”? Doe the Midrash have to come and tell us that even the Ark was made according to the instructions of G-d?
The interpretation may be as follows: We know that there are many mitzvahs a person performs from which he also has a personal physical satisfaction. It is difficult to know whether or not the person fulfilled the mitzvah because G-d had commanded him to do so or because he received some personal satisfaction from its performance. However, if he also fulfills the mitzvahs which contain no personal physical enjoyment, this is an indication that he does the other mitzvahs also because G-d commanded and not for any personal reason.
A typical example is the third meal, which is eaten on the Shabbos day. We call that meal Sholosh Seudos, which literally translates as “three meals.” Why do we call it “three meals” rather than “the third meal”? The answer is that a person eats the first two meals on Friday night and Shabbos morning or afternoon because he is hungry. For instance, on Friday, one works very hard, hustling and bustling in preparation for Shabbos, comes home, prepares himself, goes to the synagogue and davens, makes Kiddush and sits down to eat. He certainly eats with a wonderful appetite and enjoys the meal. The same is also true with the morning meal. A person goes to synagogue and after several hours learning and davening he has worked up an appetite. He comes home, makes Kiddush and sits down to eat his Shabbos meal with all the wonderful delicacies that have been prepared for the Shabbos day. Perhaps, he eats out of the personal enjoyment and satisfaction that he gets from the meal. When it comes to the third meal, however, the person eats when he is actually satiated. Not enough time has elapsed for him to become hungry, but nevertheless, he eats because it is a mitzvah. This indicates that just as he eats the third meal because it is a mitzvah and for no other reason – hungry he isn’t – so too, the other two meals are also eaten only because it is a mitzvah.
When it says that Noach made the Ark as G-d dictated, the Midrash is trying to tell us that just as Noach did all the other mitzvahs for no reason other than they had been commanded by the A-mighty, so did he approach the building of the Ark. He built the Ark, not because of his personal safety but only because G-d had commanded him to do so. He wasn’t interested in saving himself from the flood, but in fulfilling the mitzvah of Hashem.
This teaches us that in everything a person does, he should never forget the commandment of G-d that accompanies the mitzvah. In spite of the fact that one may derive a certain amount of pleasure, benefit and enjoyment from a mitzvah he performs, his motives must not be anything personal, but rather because G-d has so commanded.
This could be seen very vividly when choosing a mate. It is quite obvious that a person goes out to choose a mate because of a certain amount of personal enjoyment. The person wants to get married, so he chooses someone to whom he’s physically attracted. This sole criterion is the basis by which he makes his decision as to the person he wants for his partner in life.
When an individual, however, understands that the whole concept of marriage is to fulfill the mitzvahs of G-d, which cannot be fulfilled unless one has a mate, his entire approach will be different. He will find someone with whom he can accomplish that which the A-mighty wants him to accomplish, namely, to bring a generation into the world that will be a blessing to G-d and man and carry on with the beautiful heritage that has been handed down from generation to generation. He tries to seek out the kind of a person who is not only attractive superficially, but will search for one who has the character traits, virtues and qualities of refinement and dedication which will guarantee that his partner will strive for the same goals for which he strives. Ultimately, the two, together, will be able to fulfill and accomplish the mitzvahs of Hashem.
This is what the Torah teaches us. Noach built an Ark in the face of a flood that was going to devastate the world. Nevertheless, his ultimate thought and conviction was to fulfill the mitzvah of the A-mighty and not to think about his personal satisfaction and enjoyment. In everything one does he must use this as his guideline seeing to it that he fulfills the mitzvahs because A-mighty G-d has commanded. Then the ultimate success in this endeavor will be guaranteed.