צהר תעשה לתיבה
“You should make a source of light for the Ark.”
Rashi comments: “Some say that the source of light was a window, and others say that it was a precious gemstone that brought light to them.”
A window and a precious gemstone are both sources of light, but there is an important difference between them, as the following story illustrates:
The holy tzaddik, Rabbi Moshe Leib of Sassov zt”l, had a close disciple who lived in abject poverty. Although he could barely provide for his own family, his home was open wide to the needy of his town. Every beggar in need of a meal was warmly welcomed at his home and served nourishing food.
Rabbi Moshe Leib once visited this disciple and was most impressed by his high standard of hospitality, despite his meager means. He therefore blessed the man with wealth, which he felt he rightfully deserved.
The tzaddik’s blessing brought the desired results, and the man became extremely prosperous. After s short while, he became fabulously wealthy. He built a spacious mansion for himself, but he completely forgot about the poor. Instead of increasing his hospitality now that he had the means, he refused to allow poor people to enter his beautiful home with their scruffy clothes and muddy shoes. He hired a doorman to throw a few coins at the beggars who knocked on his door, but no one was permitted entry.
Many months passed in this manner, until word reached Rabbi Moshe Leib about his disciple’s behavior. The Rebbe was dismayed that his blessing of wealth corrupted his disciple, as the possuk in Koheles (5:12) says: “There is wealth that is designated to bring evil upon its master.” The Rebbe immediately traveled to the hometown of his now-wealthy disciple, in the hope of turning him around.
When the Rebbe’s carriage stopped in front of the disciple’s new mansion, the wagon driver walked up the stone-paved pathway to the front entrance. The doorman was about to throw him a few pitiful coins, but the driver informed him that an important rabbi is in the carriage. The doorman disappeared for several moments, and returned with a message that his boss is too busy to receive the rabbi at the moment. Upon hearing this brazen reply, the driver said that the Rebbe of Sassov is waiting to meet with his disciple. Once again, the doorman disappeared. This time, he returned with the rich man hot on his heels, personally welcoming the Rebbe with great respect.
The rich man led the Rebbe into his home and took him to one of his elegant receiving rooms. The Rebbe’s eyes fell on an ornate mirror that graced one of the walls. Reb Moshe Leib pointed to the mirror and asked: “What is this?”
“This is a mirror,” the disciple explained. “It is a special glass that reflects whatever is placed in front of it.”
Now the Rebbe took his disciple to the window and pointed to one of the passerby.
“Who is that?” he asked.
“He’s the water carrier.”
“How is he doing financially?”
“I think he’s really struggling,” the rich man replied.
“And who is that?” the Rebbe asked, pointing to another fellow in a tattered coat.
“He’s a tailor.”
“How is he doing financially?”
“He is unfortunately quite poor,” the rich man replied, not sure to where all these questions are leading.
The Rebbe lifted his penetrating gaze to his disciple and asked. “I don’t understand. The mirror is a piece of glass, and the window is also made of glass. So how come when you look into the mirror your see your own face, and when you look out through the window you see other people?”
The rich man smiled and patiently explained: “The mirror’s sheet of glass is lined with silver, and this is why the glass reflects the person, instead of allowing him to look through. The window, on the other hand, is made only of glass, enabling the person to look through and see everything that’s on the other side of the pane.”
“Very true, very true,” the Rebbe sighed. “I want you to listen to your own words: when lined with silver, all one sees is oneself, but when the silver is removed, other people can be seen… Perhaps we should remove the silver, to enable you to see others…”
The rich person blanched. He understood the import of the Rebbe’s words. Before he became “lined with silver” he saw the needs of the poor and strived to help them. But since he became wealthy, all he sees is himself! Suddenly realizing how low he had fallen, he became full of remorse. He promised the Rebbe to mend his ways and open his home to the poor. From that day onward, he greatly increased his standard of hospitality and charity and became once again the central address for the needy in town.
When a person experiences a tzara – troubles, he may ask a tzaddik to pray for him. Tzaddikim have the power to turn the word צרה (tzara – trouble) into צהר – a source of light.
The verse is telling us that Noach brought light into the Ark. Rashi says that the light could either be a window or a precious gemstone. Some people who merit Hashem’s salvation become like a window – they see the needs of others and try to help them with their own bounty. Others become like a precious gemstone, of which Rashi says that it “brought light to them” – only to them. They forget the needs of others and become wrapped up in their own good fortune, refusing to share their blessings.
A person who merits having light in his life must be like a window, and remember the needs of others who may be struggling with difficult issues. He should open his heart and extend a helping hand to those in need, offering assistance and encouragement. This way, he will merit continuous blessings of eternal light, both in this world and in the next.