Friday Candle Lighting: 5:43 pm
Shabbat Ends: 6:38 pm
Of Men and Mice
“Behold I am about to bring the flood waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which there is a breath of life under the heavens.” (6:17)
The prophet Yeshayahu (Isaiah) refers to the flood as the “waters of Noach,” implying that Noach bears at least partial responsibility for the flood. For, if Noach had taught his generation to know G-d by instructing them to emulate G-d’s midot (character traits), they surely would have repented.
A story is told about a rabbi who had a dispute with a philosopher as to whether instinct or behavioral training governs the behavior of an animal. The philosopher held that an animal can be trained so completely that it can be made to do almost anything. To prove his point he painstakingly trained a number of cats to stand upright, balance trays on their paws and serve as waiters. He dressed them for the part in white shirts with little black ties, and conducted a banquet with the cats as the waiters. As these feline waiters were serving the soup, the rabbi, who had been invited to the banquet, released a mouse. The banquet room was turned to pandemonium as the cats, forgetting all their hours of training, let their trays crash to the ground, rushing about on all fours after the mouse.
Without training, a person’s baser instincts and desires will drag him onto all fours. However, a human being is different from the animals because he can perfect his character so that it controls his baser instincts. One who has not yet worked on perfecting his character will, like the trained cat, be able to put on a show of discipline for a time, but only so long as no “mice” are released in his path.
Only after a person has anchored good character traits in himself will the Torah reside in him. Only the Torah can bring one’s character to ultimate perfection, but where there is no foundation of proper midot, the acquisition of Torah is impossible