In this week’s Parsha, we read about the mabul. Immediately following the mabul the Torah tells us that Noach planted a vineyard. The pasuk says “vayachel Noach ish ha’adama vayita kerem” (9:20). Rashi explains that the word vayachel comes from the word chulin and the Torah is teaching us that Noach profaned himself. Rashi explains that this was because immediately following the mabul, Noach should have begun with something else; other than planting a vineyard.
The Mirer Mashgiach, Rav Yerucham Levovitz, explained that we see from Rashi the power of beginnings. There is nothing wrong with planting a vineyard, yet it should not have been the first thing that Noach did after the mabul. Rav Yerucham explains that the beginning of everything defines what it will be. We find that in the beginning of the parsha, Noach is referred to as an ish tzaddik tamim, and now he is referred to as an ish ha’adama. This is because after the mabul, Noach and the entire world entered a new beginning. Noach was given the opportunity to start the new civilization. He could have chosen to begin with a better act. Yet, Noach began by planting a vineyard. This defined him in the new civilization, as profane. Therefore, the Torah now referred to him as an ish ha’adama. The lesson that we can take from here is the power of beginnings.
We find this concept in Shema where the pasuk says, “Teach it to your children lidaber bam – to speak in them” (Devarim 11:19). Rashi there says that when a boy learns to speak his father should teach him Torah, and, Rashi continues and says, that if he doesn’t it is considered as if he has buried him. We see that even though a father can learn with his son for many years when his son is older, there is a strong emphasis that right when a child begins to speak that he should speak words of Torah. This is because if the beginning of a child’s ability to speak is in words of Torah his entire life will be directed in the path of the Torah.
The reason for this emphasis is because whenever we enter into a new beginning, we are planting the seeds and laying the foundation for that endeavor. It is very hard to change from the direction of the foundation once it has been laid. Just as a tree will follow the direction that it begins to grow, so too we will follow the direction that we take in the beginning of our endeavors.
The siddur HaGra points out that the first tefillah that we recite after brachos in the morning is “shetargelenu bisorasecha.” This is because every morning is a new beginning and a new start, and we want that the first thought, the first tefillah, that first request that we make of HaKadosh Baruch Hu, to be for Torah. This way we begin each day on the path of the Torah. Each day brings new challenges and we want to ensure that each day begins on the right path – the path of the Torah.
There are always new beginnings. There are beginnings of days, weeks, months, years, etc. One of the reasons that Hashem created us to require sleep at night, is so that we can wake up and begin the new day on a new slate. We can wake up and redefine the new day.
We should utilize this power to help us set and direct all of our endeavors in the right path. We should be mindful of the potent influence that each beginning possesses and use it to guide and direct each day and each undertaking in the path of the Torah.