Shalom and Bracha!
This is the first Shabbat in the month of
Cheshvan and we read the portion of Noach, the narrative of the
great flood. Because of the depravity of humankind, Hashem
decreed that the entire human race was to be destroyed through a
great flood. The overwhelming majority of the animal kingdom was
destroyed as well. Noach and his immediate family, together with
representatives of each species, were spared by entering an ark
and remaining there for a full year.
The flood began on the seventeenth of Cheshvan, and continued
for forty days and nights. The waters rose fifteen cubits above
the mountains and raged for one hundred and fifty days. It took
an entire solar year from when the waters began until they
receded and the earth dried.
At first glance, the flood is difficult to
understand. Why did the flood continue for forty days? Surely
the wicked could have been eradicated in one day? Further, why
did Noach have to remain in the ark for a year? Within the
boundaries of nature, a flood of such magnitude wouldn’t recede
in thousands of years. Miraculously, it could clear in a day.
Why, then, did it take exactly a year?
The flood was more than just a means to destroy
the wicked. It served to purify the world. Since the world was
created in order that man should perfect it through divine
service, the sins of Noach’s generation defiled the earth
itself. This is why the upper crust of the earth was destroyed,
as Rashi comments. The flood served to purify the earth. The
number forty represents the size of a Mikveh, and therefore it
rained for forty days and nights. This is also why the flood
began on the seventeenth, the numerical value of Tov, which
means good in Hebrew.
The number fifteen is the name of Hashem: Ten is Yud and five is
Hey. The fifteen cubits represented Hashem’s presence above the
earth the hundred fifty days represents the fifteen permeating
all ten aspects of creation.
The ark was also not only a refuge, but an
elevating experience. In order to enter the newly purified
earth, Noach and the animals needed to be raised to a higher
level. The spirituality of the ark paralleled the Messianic era.
One of the prophecies concerning Moshiach is that “The wolf will
dwell with the lamb … because the world will be filled with the
knowledge of Hashem as the waters fill the ocean.” Throughout
the entire year, wild and domestic animals coexisted in a small
space without injuring each other. This was due to the intense
divine revelation in the ark. It lasted for an entire year, in
order that this sanctity should permeate Noach and the animals
throughout each of the seasons. This is the reason Noach had to
force the animals to leave after the ark rested, as mentioned in
The word ark in Hebrew is Teiva, which also means
word. The Baal Shem Tov explained that the command to Noach
“enter the Teiva” is relevant to each one of us. When we feel
surrounded and overwhelmed by the world around us, we must enter
the words of Torah and the words of prayer. Not only must we
study and pray, but also we must immerse ourselves in the depth
of the words. The deeper we immerse ourselves in the words of
Torah and prayer, the greater their effect. If we immerse
ourselves sufficiently, not only will they serve as a refuge,
but also they will bring us to the ultimate heights.
The Zohar notes that the flood is referred to as
the waters of Noach, even though he was the righteous man Hashem
saved! This is because Noach did not pray for the wicked to be
saved. Avraham prayed for the well being of the people of Sodom,
even though they were wicked. Noach did not, and so the flood
was accredited to him. We must pray for everyone’s well being.
This Tuesday is the seventh of Cheshvan, when
they begin to pray for rain in Israel. (Outside of Israel we
begin December 5th). In truth, rain is needed earlier. However,
in the times of the Temple, it would take until the seventh of
Cheshvan for everyone to get home after visiting the Temple for
Sukkot. The prayer for rain was therefore delayed until that
date. This teaches us a beautiful lesson in caring: even when
praying for our basic needs, we must consider the discomforts of
others. The Zohar teaches that the sanctity of the holidays
continues until the seventh of Cheshvan and any resolutions that
we wanted to accomplish during the holidays can be done until
The Rebbe explains that the flood was a precursor
for the knowledge of Hashem filling the world as the waters fill
the ocean, which will occur with the coming of Moshiach. May our
increase in acts of good and kindness immediately allow us to
see true world peace, “The wolf dwelling with the lamb”, not
only in a limited place and time, but forever.
Dedicated in memory of Chaim Shmuel Ben Leib
Hakohen, Herb Futoran. May Hashem grant him perfect bliss in Gan
Eden and grant solace to his family.
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