Tuesday, October 5, 2010
Parshas Noach — the role of the rainbow
In this audio-shiur, Rabbi Paltiel discusses the role of the rainbow as a guarantee that the world would never be destroyed. Why a rainbow? What does it mean that the rainbow is a guarantee by G-d — isn’t it just a physical phenomenon?
That’s the whole point. It is a regular physical phenomenon, which was created de novo in the crucible of the Flood that changed the physical and spiritual laws of the Universe (Rashi comments that during the Flood, sun was suspended in the sky and time did not move). Nowadays it is a regular occurrence, in which we can see a direct promise of G-d. This is representative of hashgachah protis, Divine Providence.
Miracles can be of two types, says Rabbi Paltiel. One type is a direct violation of nature — e.g., the splitting of Yam Suf, the suspension of the sun, manna descending from the sky. The other type is a miracle occurring “through” the nature, without breaking its order. An example of the second type is the miracle of Purim. No natural laws were broken: right people were in the right place in the right time, making right decisions. This is the type of G-d’s involvement that is mentioned in the commentary of Bava Metzia (the volume of Talmud starting with discussion of laws regarding lost and found objects — which, both the loss and the discovery of the object, are seemingly random): G-d involves himself in the world, but in such a way that His involvement can be attributed (if one wants to) to random occurrences. Lehavdil, Einstein said a similar thing: “Randomness is G-d’s way of staying anonymous”.
This is what we call Divine Providence — when we attribute a natural occurrence to G-d’s involvement. Of course, a student of the second book of Tanya will tell you that all reality happens through G-d’s direct and willful creation of the world; G-d is constantly involved with every aspect of creation which He constantly brings out of nothingness into existence. Here, however, we are talking about a situation when Divine Providence can be readily observed — a ray of light penetrates through a veil that conceals the Creator from this world. Yet, this light could be interpreted as another shade of darkness, if one wanted to — it is clothed in the darkness.
This type of miracle is of an even higher order than an open miracle. It takes no effort to just circumvent the laws of Nature — indeed, they are nothing but a shell covering up the truth anyway. A miracle of such kind is no display of G-d’s Oneness with the world, the absoluteness of His existence. Chassidus (hemshech Samech-Vov, for example) teaches us that revelation of light does not come from the deepest and most essential aspects of G-d. Light and revelation of the truth of G-d’s existence is a natural state of affairs. C’est normal, as French say.
The concealment of the light and creation of the darkness is what takes a more essential “effort” (so to speak). It goes against the essential desire of the existence to reveal G-d in it. That is why it takes G-d’s Essence, not just his Light, to create the material world, and that is why the material world seems to have independent existence — only a world created with G-d’s Essence that itself has no source can have such a property (the upper worlds, created with the Light, reveal their dependence upon their source, because Light, being Ein Sof — Without End — is, nevertheless, not without a Beginning).
The revelation of of the light together with darkness, then, is a revelation of even a higher caliber. Before the flood, such a revelation could not happen. Such a revelation would destroy the world. After the flood, a possibility of revealing the light bound in the darkness was created. This is what teshuvah is all about — ability to turn one’s sin into a virtue through repentance. This also, says Rabbi Paltiel, is a lesson to our everyday life. We must see rainbow in everything that happens to us: we must see that every occurrence in our lives is an act of G-d, despite having ability to be described through laws of physics, biology, economics, etc. All our success and livelihood comes from G-d. It does not mean we can sit around and wait for success to happen. We must build our own Arc, despite the fact that it is up to G-d to deliver us. What we must realize is that our (required) efforts are nothing but a vessel filled with G-d’s blessing.
Living in such a way, we will complete the work of the Flood. Not only the rainbow, but every single aspect of physical reality will be a revelation of G-d inside the material world, Light revealed in darkness. This is what the Messianic Era is all about, and our efforts in living our life with recognition of G-d’s Oneness with the world (which we openly reveal by performing mitzvos in this world with this kavanah) draw it closer. May it come speedily in our days.
(I recommend listening to Rabbi Paltiel’s shiur for more details and much better presentation.)