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Parshat - Rosh Chodesh Noach

Thursday, 19 October, 2017 - 4:28 pm

There is a fascinating Midrash about Creation that relates to the main subject of this week’s Parsha, the Great Flood.  When Hashem first created the world, it was entirely covered with water, and on day 2, He brought about the cataclysmic events that separated the seas and the dry land, ultimately leading to the creation of human life.  The Midrash tells a story of a king who built a beautiful palace, and populated it with people who were mute.  Every day these people would praise the king with sign language and thank him for giving them such a magnificent place to live.  The king said: If I get so much praise from mute people, imagine how wonderful it would be if the people could talk, how sweet would it be to hear the praise!  So he brought people who were able to talk to the palace. However, those people did not praise the king and instead claimed that the palace was their own and turned against him. So the king decided to go back to the way it was before, bringing back the mute people and kicking the others out. This, says the Midrash, is what happened at the beginning of Creation. The world was filled with water, and the raging waters sang Hashem’s praises. So Hashem decided to create human beings who could speak and through whom His praise would be so much greater. The people, however, rebelled and denied Hashem’s existence, living lives that were the opposite of Hashem’s will. So Hashem said, let the world return to its original state, and covered it again with water.

I could write many pages discussing this Midrash, but I will just give a very brief explanation from Chassidus. What does all this mean, how is Hashem praised by water, and why did He make a covenant after the flood never again to flood the entire earth?  The mystical interpretation of this story is as follows. What is the difference between a world covered by water and dry land? (If you don’t know, I’m not going to let you plan my vacations, just kidding.) Sea creatures live in the water. All their sustenance comes from the water, and they can’t leave the water and live. Land creatures also receive all their sustenance from the land, but they are not living inside the land.  They are separate from it, and can even fly away from it and live. In mystical terms, water represents a state where holiness is revealed, where one recognizes clearly that our source of life is Hashem and there is no possibility to separate from Him. Living on dry land represents a state where we don’t experience Hashem with our eyes, where the fact that our lives and sustenance come from Him can be denied, and it takes choice to connect to and follow Hashem’s will. 

The earth was first created covered with water. Hashem’s light was clearly visible and there was no way to deny His existence. As great as this state may be, however, Hashem wanted to create beings that have free choice and the ability to deny His providence. As wonderful as it is to be sure of the praise that will come if we clearly see, visibly, Hashem’s presence, this praise is not that exciting, because there is no alternative. True praise comes when a person has the choice to deny it, and instead chooses to turn to Hashem, so Hashem created people, with real free choice. Instead of looking for the source of their life and following a just path, the people felt separate and self-made, and corrupted everything. So Hashem decided to return everything to its original state, to cover everything with water, bringing revelation of His light back to the world. But this was not permanent. The idea was to purify the world (the flood acted like a Mikvah) so that the world and its creatures, as they are on the dry land, would not be as separate as they had been before and would have more of a tendency to have faith in Hashem. The flood brought a synthesis of choice and faith, and gave future generations the tools to overcome our narcissistic tendencies and live for a higher purpose.  

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