Noah was instructed to build an ark in order to survive the flood. Why Noah? What were the characteristics or human qualities he had? what does one need in order to live a life of righteousness? join me and discover the Baal Shem Tov thoughts about the matter.
Last week on Bereshit portion, we talked about the Kabalistic term of seder hishtalshelut – the order of evolution. We learned that all worlds are like dresses or garments to one another, and so does the years of our lives and time in general. Especially when it comes to creation. Well the Torah story naturally corresponds with this idea and the Noah portion is a great example for that, because Noah is the second first man to build humanity after Adam and eve failed to do so.
The physical order of evolution resembles with a spiritual order of evolution. Under this consumption, let us observe some interesting developments that accrue in Noah portion, while reading it in according to the understandings we have acquired in Bereshit about 'seder hahishtalshelut' - the order of evolution.
First: we know that the Torah is signified by water. It nurtures man in particular and humanity at large as the ultimate representative of the force of living. We know that the Torah was given to the children of Israel in the Book of Shemot, the second of the five books in the biblical story. However, already in the first book of Bereshit, or as the commentators as well as Kabbalah scholars like to call it, the Book of the roots, we received it, in its preliminary stage of seder hishtalshelut – we received it in the form of actual water.
Now, if taking under consideration that seder hishtalshelut - the order of evolution - is in fact a process in which the spiritual world has its own ways to evolve and make creation as it is in stages – we can maybe say that in our Parashat Hashavua - Noah, the Torah came to earth in a different garment in the book of roots. Its unique behavioral framework of laws and commandments came to humanity in its primordial state but instead of coming as a beneficial thing, it came as a destructive force. As Noah’s generation was not ready, unworthy and was unwilling to receive it. hence instead of a living force it manifested through a great power that destroyed everything.
Some more interesting examples of how the portion of Noah gives us a magnificent overlook on how seder hahishtalshelut - the order of evolution works are as follow. just look at how Noah's portion allows us to see the repair of creation or in other words, the processes of spiritual healing.
If in the first portion of Bereshit, The sneaky snake has caused man to lose his life and be expelled from the garden of Eden. Comes now Noah and actually saving the snake by welcoming him to the ark along with the rest of the animals. So Noah is responsible for the snakes survival even though when the situation was reversed, the snake caused the departure of the human legacy from the Garden.
Moreover, in the portion of Bereshit, we know that due to the fact Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge, they received the punishment of death. And now here, in Noah portion, the first thing Noah does when stepping out from the ark is to plant a winery. The Zohar refers to wine that is produced from grapes as the representative of the high wisdom. That is to say, that if in Bereshit wisdom was the reason for death, here in the portion of Noah, wisdom is the symbol for the human survival and human labor, Noah's first act of Mitsvah when it comes to the land, exactly as requested by God.
Another thing, we know that as result of the sacrifices made by the brothers Cain and Abel – the first murder accrued, while here in this portion, Noah's sacrifice is the reason God make a covenant with humanity to never destroy it again by flood. So instead of murder we witness the continuation and survival of the human race as a result of the sacrifice.
The figure of Noah
It is written in the beginning of this portion that Noah was a righteous man. “These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations“. there is a discussion among commentators in regards to of how much of a righteous man was he really, and how much innocent was he as well? Because in comparison to his generation he was indeed a righteous man. However, in comparison to Abraham generation for example or the generation of Moshe he wasn’t so righteous or innocent. that is according to commentators. So what does a righteous person or an innocent man even means?
And that is important for us to understand this because this man – Noah – is about to start humanity all over again. And so we need to understand better what were his qualities that were sufficient when it came to G-d’s decision to choose him as the main figure to start new bloodline of generations in his creation.
So who would be a righteous man? or what kind of qualities does a righteous man possess?
So the BST brings two sentences, one from Mishley and another one from Jub, which explain who is righteous.
From MISHLEY he brings the verse“When the whirlwind passeth, the wicked is no more; but the righteous is an everlasting foundation.’ and then he explains. according t othe Baal Shem Tov every man faces storms in life, however, the righteous is the one who can have difficulties – but will still hold himself and will not fall. and ‘the righteous is an everlasting foundation’ Means the righteous must be a foundation for the entire world and not just himself. We are talking here about a very unique quality - This is someone that is taking under consideration in day-to-day life the entire world’s benefit and not only his own – so much so, that the entire world is dependent on him. Only one that possess those qualities according to the Baal Shem Tov can be called a righteous man.
Also, He says, when one gets great pleasure by serving and working G-d, then we can actually have visualization of the second sentence from Jub – מבשרי אחזה אלוה – 'from my flesh shall I see God'. which we will explain in a minute.
So the first verse given by the Baal Shem Tov ‘When the storm passeth, the wicked is no more’ is basically a definition of behavior. The ability to withstand storms is a needed quality for a righteous man. We know that the greater a man is, the greater also are his cravings and desires. A small man has a small desire but a great man has big desires and therefore also bigger attempts that he needs to overcome. The greater the man the greater the mental storms he will have in regards to his desires..
The second verse however, is a sign מבשרי אחזה אלוה – from my flesh shall I see God'. this is a soul level. it is a feeling on which from the flash itself - from his own flesh one can see how G-d's treating him, or what is the divine behavior towards him. Or in other want, the Baal Shem Tov says look at what brings you pleasure, and you can then see your level, your spiritual level. The sign for a righteous man is an inner peace. one of the qualities a righteous man possesses is a mental state on which the soul and the body have made peace between themselves.
We know that sometimes the soul wins and sometimes the body wins, as usually there is a constant struggle or conflict between those two. But when it comes to the humanly divine display of the righteous – a man is in a state on which the soul and the body made peace between them. This happens according to the Baal Shem Tov when one is enjoying working for G-d. Such a thing would mark the ability of one to hold God as the supreme source of pleasure. From even only living in accordance with the divine ways. So as human beings we must always strive to in a way, to fix our pleasure. Not only our thought, speech or desires but also the pleasure itself. From self-oriented pleasures to a pleasure in making things for others. In expending love and kindness.
So in order to get to this level of righteousness, one needs to be able to stand strong and not fall when encountering storms in his life, whether the’ll be physical, mental, emotional or environmental. Also he needs to live under the conception he is a foundation for the world. So much so, that he can actually see the behaviour of G-d towards him in his flesh, meaning, to acknowledge or observe the divine participation in his life in day-to-day occurrences. This task is not an easy one, but it is definitely something that one can aspire too. To stand strong and not only for your own selfish needs but for the entire benefit of humanity
To find out more about this week's portion watch the Torah lesson.