Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Parshas Noach — floodgates of teshuva

On Shmini Atzeres we prayed for rain, which we received next day on Simchas Torah — the rain of Torah, which starts with the account of the creation of the world. This week we are reading the next parsha: about Noach and the flood. Because nothing in Torah is random, we should be able to examine the connection between all these ideas.

Torah is compared to water in many places. In Tanya, Alter Rebbe compares Torah to water that falls from high and cascades from level to level until reaching its final destination, down below. So does Torah originate in the Will and Essence of Hashem, beyond creation (Torah is one of the things said to precede creation), and cascades from one spiritual world to another, taking form of each world, along the chain of creation, until it reaches our lowly and physical universe and takes in it the form of physical laws regarding material objects.

The importance of this analogy is two-fold:

First, we need to understand that all the halachos of Torah (and the physical events described in Torah) are nothing but the superficial aspect of Torah, whose essence is beyond mere physical laws and forms. We must strive to understand the inner essence of the laws, always remember where they came from, and never allow our observance of mitzvos to take superficial, routine form of execution of rituals.

Second, just like water that originates from great heights is destined for the lowly valleys, Torah, despite originating from great spiritual heights is destined for this world — and once it reached it, it stays here.

All the spiritual foundations of our physical laws exist so that a Jewish soul can descend into this world and bind these spiritual and lofty phenomena with lowly material matter. We must be, therefore, extremely careful with Halacha and very respectful to even minute aspects of it — there are no “more” or “less” important mitzvos. Even the slightest, minute mitzvah closes a circuit connecting the matter of this world with infinitely removed spiritual heights.

In the first chapter of Torah, Bereishis, we learn about the creation of the world, whose center is human being. The energy sustaining our world’s existence has recently been renewed on Rosh HaShanah, commonly called “Jewish New Year”. The day of Rosh HaShanah, however, is not the first day of creation, but the day when human was created — because the purpose of creation is for human to transform the physical universe into G-dly world, to unite the infinite and the finite, revealing thus the Oneness of G-d.

Jewish sources describe Adam as extremely wise human with prophetic abilities. How could he sin then, knowing what his actions will lead to? The answer is: he knew the Ohm’s Law. If you raise resistance, you also raise voltage. If you connect to G-d through holiness, you are revealing G-dliness in light. If you are connecting to G-d through unholiness, you are revealing G-dliness in darkness, a much more intense revelation. In order to connect to G-d through darkness, he had first to know of light and of darkness, and he reached for the source of this knowledge.

Adam was right: the connection to G-d through darkness is much stronger. This is why this world, the world of darkness and concealment of G-d’s existence, was created, and that is why our souls descend into it. In order to know how to find life in death, however, one must first taste life. Adam first tasted death and was exiled…

In the generation that followed, Adam’s error became increasingly difficult to rectify. The world was exposed to sin, to darkness, but inner essence of darkness, the Hidden Light, was difficult to access, because this Light was not tasted a priori.

This is what the Flood accomplished. It erased the sin and made teshuva (repentance) — an act of transforming sin into mitzva — easier. The original plan was to taste Life first and, “cook” the physical world with it, enfusing it with this taste. The plan did not work — raw flesh of the deadly and dark world was tasted first. That taste had to be washed out with the Flood, and a new sequence had to be invented: humans would not come into darkness with a priori experience and knowledge of light; they would be born in the darkness and discover light hidden in it.

Mendy Deren, flanked by his father, gets on aliya to the Torah in 770 for his Bar Mitzva with the Rebbe watching * JEM/The Living Archive

It was not, however, until Avraham Avinu, when this process started. In his ma’amor Bosi LeGani, the Previous Rebbe of Chabad quotes medrash that explains that through the sin of Adam, Presence of G-d that was in this world departed. Through sins of following generations, it departed six more times, further and further.

Through actions of Avraham and his descendants, the Presence started to return, until It did so completely with the giving of Torah. The damage done by the sin of Avraham was reversed; the job of the Flood of teshuva has started. Now came the time to bring the world to its desired state: the state of unity between G-d and the world.

The sparks of Adam’s soul returned into this world in a form of Jewish souls to finish the job that he started: to do the collosal act of Great Teshuva: to return this world into the state of its oneness with G-d. Throughout the history, this process had success and had failure. Sometimes the end of Teshuva was near; sometimes it drew farther. Yet the Presence of G-d never departed this world again, as long as Jewish children were learning Torah.

Three centuries ago (as predicted beforehand by Kabbalah) the floodgates opened again. Not the floodgates of destruction, but the floodgates of life. The final act of teshuva started happening: the Essence of Torah was revealed in teachings of Chassidus — a recipe of how to complete the Return of the world to its source. At the same time, the floodgates in the material reason also opened, starting the era of discovery and increased understanding amongst the Nations. Today we have access to the deepest phenomena of the physical Universe that reveal the source (albeit incompletely studied and understood) of the physical phenomena. At the same time, we have access to teachings that reveal the source and essence of our Torah.

Just like a physicist can understand the classical phenomenon of friction better with knowledge of quantum mechanics, a Jew can understand — lehavdil — five classical levels of Torah knowledge (pardes — pshat, remez, drush, soid) much deeper with the help of essential level of Torah, Chassidus. More importantly, however, one has access to explanation of how to complete what was started in the first six days of Creation, what (after Adam messed up) was started by the Flood, by work of Avram Avinu and his descendants, by Exodus from Egypt, by giving of Torah, by building of the Temple — how to bring about the Era of Mashiach when the great teshuva of the world will be complete, and the revelation of G-d’s Oneness will be higher than it was before the physical world was created.

May this happen speedily in our days.

1 comment:

menachem said...

"five classical levels of Torah knowledge" should be "four classical levels of Torah knowledge"