23 Oct Watch Out for the Good Times
Let me ask you my dear reader, What is the common denominator between the generation of the flood, the townspeople of the great metropolis of S’dom and Amorah, and the populous of Mitzrayim during the era of the Pharaohs. The answer might surprise you: They all were people who enjoyed the good life. They were men and women who enjoyed highly prosperous economies and thrived on the best that their times had to offer.
During the generation of the flood, people lived until nearly a thousand years of age, enjoyed a perfect climate, never had headaches and only had to plant crops once in forty years. S’dom and Amorah were so attractive that when Lot decided to separate from Avraham, his eyes were immediately attracted to S’dom and its four sister cities for, as the Torah describes it, it was ‘K’gan Hashem – A veritable paradise.” So too, Mitzrayim in its prime did not live and die according to the whims of the clouds and rain; rather it was known as the breadbasket of the world since it was constantly irrigated by the Nile. It was the land of the plenty.
Not that we’ve arrived at this intriguing common denominator, we must ask ourselves the question, What caused all three of these societies to become so corrupt? What caused the generation of the flood to be so sinful that Hashem had to wipe it out, men, women and children. So too, what was the catalyst to make S’dom and Amorah so heinous that they needed to be nuked by Hashem Himself. And what caused Mitzrayim to become so promiscuous that it needed to suffer the plagues and the ultimate disaster of nine million of its soldiers drowning in the Red Sea?
The answer bears a very fundamental lesson. When things are going well, people do not need to turn to G-d. They have no need for spirituality. Thus the Torah warns us, “Vayishman Yeshurun vayivat – The Jews became fat and they kicked out in rebellion.” We all know that the moment we are motivated to turn to the tear-stained pages of the Tehillim is when we have a problem, when someone is ill, when someone is childless, when the marriage is on the rocks. When things are going well, who needs Hashem? The Dor HaMabul, S’dom and Amorah, and Mitzrayim were on top of their games. They didn’t need to turn to the Higher Power so they forgot all about it and led decadent, base existences. This is a chilling reminder to us as we live in the relatively good times of America – Never forget about Hashem. As the Chovos HaLevovos tells us, “Devarim sherotze lehasmid bah, al tiftach bah – Things that you want to continue, don’t take them for granted.”
In a recent Daf Yomi, in the famous Aggadata in Cheilek in Masechtas Sanhedrin [98b], the Gemora teaches us that the world was created for Dovid HaMelech. Rashi elaborates that the whole world was created for the songs and praises of King David. When times are good, we should remember our national name, Yehudim, the people who give thanks and exercise our Jewish duty to say Modim and brachos with greater fervor. Our name, Yisrael, is an anagram of Shir Keil, a Song to G-d.
So let’s not fall into the trap of the generation of the flood, S’dom, and Mitzrayim. Rather, when we enjoy the good life, let’s direct our thanks to the Source and say with great devotion, “Thank You, Hashem, shehakol nihiyeh bidvoro – For everything comes about through His word,” and “She-asah li kol tzarki – For providing me with all my needs,” and “Rofei kol bosor u’mafli laasos – Who heals our flesh and does so wondrously.” And in the merit of not taking Hashem for granted, may He continue to bless us with long life, good health, and everything wonderful.
Please learn and daven for the refuah sheleima of Miriam Liba bas Devorah, b’soch shaar cholei Yisroel.
Sheldon Zeitlin takes dictation of, and edits, Rabbi Weiss’s articles.
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