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Shalom and Bracha!

This Shabbat we take out two Torah scrolls. In the first 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 and those that preceded it 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. Yud and Hey form the name of Hashem. The fifteen cubits represented Hashem’s presence above the earth and the hundred fifty days represent the fifteen permeating all ten aspects of creation. Rashi explains at great length that the ark was submerged eleven cubits. This is because impurity is connected with the number eleven and submerging the eleven cubits represents subjugation of the impure.

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 Rashi. This is a lesson that unity prepares us for the coming of Moshiach.

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.

In the second scroll we read the offerings of Shabbat and Rosh Chodesh. Shabbat represents sanctity decreed from above, whereas Rosh Chodesh is sanctity through human effort. Together they form a perfect bond with Hashem.

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.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Biggs

Dedicated to my dear friend Morris Sabbagh on the occasion of his birthday wishing him a wonderful year.

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