Noach 5752

Translation by Sichos In English

1. Shabbos Parshas Noach is of general importance, for it is the first Shabbos after the week following Shabbos Bereishis, which concludes the month of Tishrei. It is in this week that the Jews begin their service within the context of mundane activities. In this context, the name of this week’s parshah, Noach is also significant. Noach in Hebrew is identified with rest and satisfaction, for this service should arouse such feelings.

In this context, we can appreciate the contrast between Shabbos Bereishis and Shabbos Parshas Noach. The Zohar states that all the days of the following week are blessed from Shabbos. Thus Shabbos Bereishis represents the blessing for the first week of ordinary mundane activity in the new year.Shabbos Parshas Noach represents the conclusion of this week, the day which infuses rest and perfection into this service. Thus Shabbos Bereishis can be considered as the source of potential, while it is on Shabbos Parshas Noach that we see how this potential is brought into actual expression.

There is another common, yet contrasting dimension to the Shabbasos of Bereishis and Noach. Both parshiyos are related to the existence of the world as a whole. Parshas Bereishis describes the creation of the world and Parshas Noach contains G‑d’s promise that the world will continue to exist forever.

There is, however, a distinct contrast between the two parshiyos. Bereishis describes the world as it exists as a complete and perfect entity, the world as G‑d conceived of it and created it. Parshas Noach, in contrast, describes the world after the descent into sin and the state of perfection that can be reached through the service of man who turns to G‑d in teshuvah. Through this service, man generates satisfaction and pleasure2 for G‑d as it were, fulfilling His desire to have a dwelling in the lower worlds.

To use different terminology, Parshas Bereishis reflects G‑d’s conception of the world — the potential. Parshas Noach, in contrast, reflects man’s service within the world as it actually exists. This can involve, as indeed is reflected in the beginning of Parshas Noach,a tremendous descent. Nevertheless, the ultimate result of this service is that the world is brought to a higher level of refinement and purity. This is reflected in the Midrash’sstatement, “Noach saw a new world.”

The service of man relates to a higher level of G‑dliness as is reflected in the contrast between the two parshiyos. In the beginning of Parshas Bereishis, when the Torah refers to G‑d, it uses the name Elokim.Elokim is numerically equal to hateva, “the nature” and is described as “the Master of potential and power,” i.e., the dimension of G‑dliness which brings our limited world into being.

In contrast, in regard to Noach, the Torah states “And Noach found favor in the eyes of Havayah,” i.e., he revealed a level of G‑dliness above the natural order within the world. Furthermore, this leads to the potential that Havayah will be fused with Elokim, that within the natural limits of the world, the name Havayah which reveals G‑dliness above those limits will be revealed.4

This fusion of Elokim and Havayah is reflected in the covenant G‑d established with Noach regarding the existence of the world, that the natural order would continue without interruption. For the maintenance of the natural order is a reflection of G‑d’s infinite power, i.e., the lack of change in the natural order is a reflection of how “I G‑d have not changed.”

And from Parshas Noach, we proceed to Parshas Lech Lecha, which begins with the command “Go out” — i.e., that a person must leave his previous spiritual level — and proceed to “the land which I will show you.” Moreover, the expression “I will show you,” arecka in Hebrew, can also be rendered “I will reveal you,” i.e., the Jew’s essential self will be revealed. For it is through the service in refining this earthly plane, that a Jew reveals his true potential. Regardless of a Jew’s position in the world, he is connected with G‑dliness and thus he can elevate the world, revealing G‑dliness within it. And in this manner, he relates to a higher level of G‑dliness and is able to draw down even this level within the world.

2. Based on the above, we can appreciate that Parshas Noach is an appropriate time to make a just account of our service in the new year, to examine our service in the days of the previous week and indeed on this Shabbos itself.5 This just account must focus on the intent described above, to draw down the transcendent aspects of G‑dliness (Havayah) into our material world.

This is reflected in the service of teshuvah of which it is said, “Return O Israel to G‑d (Havayah), your L‑rd (Elokecha),” i.e., that the transcendent dimensions of the Jewish soul become internalized and function as “your power and your life-energy.” To emphasize this, our Yom Kippur prayers, the peak of the service of teshuvah, conclude with the recitation of the phrase “Havayah hu haElokim,” (“G‑d is the L‑rd”) seven times.

To explain what is involved: Although Torah law teaches us that we can assume that every member of the Jewish people conducts himself in a proper manner, this applies when thinking about the conduct of a colleague. In regard to one’s conduct, we cannot rely on this assumption and from time to time, each person must go through a process of introspection in which he carefully examines his thought, speech, and action with the intent of correcting and perfecting his conduct. This should lead to an actual change in his behavior, for “Deed is most essential.”

These concepts are reflected in the service of teshuvah. Although “the essence of teshuvah is in the heart,”6 for teshuvah to be complete it must affect one’s deeds. In particular, this is reflected in the sphere of interpersonal relations, when in addition to feeling remorse for one’s previous deeds and resolving to conduct oneself in a proper way in the future, one must right the wrong which he committed, e.g., if one stole,7 one must return the stolen object. Furthermore, it is necessary to appease one’s colleague and arouse positive feelings.

{The focus on interpersonal relations is particularly appropriate on Shabbos, for there is a great emphasis on ahavas Yisrael and achdus Yisrael (brotherly love and Jewish unity) on Shabbos. This is reflected in the Jewish custom of inviting guests for Shabbos and spending time together at the Shabbos table.}

There are two approaches to the just account of one’s conduct mentioned above. One involves focusing one’s attention on the particular weaknesses and failings evident in one’s behavior. The other places the emphasis on involvement in positive activity, thrusting oneself into the service of Torah and mitzvos with renewed energy.8 In this way, all negative factors will be nullified for “a little light (— and how much more so, much light —) banishes much darkness.”

Ultimately, there should be a fusion of both services, that a person’s focus of attention to his past conduct be included in a process of growth and development that is intended to lift one to a higher and more elevated rung.

When one approaches this just account in this fashion, one’s feelings are not centered on bitterness or sorrow — although one is aware of problems that must be corrected. One is involved in a process of striving to ascend upward and this is the focus of one’s emotions. Furthermore, one appreciates that the reason for one’s descent is to come to the service of teshuvah, to demonstrate that regardless of the situation a Jew finds himself in, he still shares an essential connection with G‑d. For these reasons, the just account mentioned above will be accompanied by feelings of happiness and pleasure.

The above shares an intrinsic connection to Shabbos in general and to Shabbos Parshas Noach in particular. Shabbos is identified with the verse “And the seventh day will be a Shabbos unto G‑d (Havayah), your L‑rd (Elokecha).” More particularly, the passage Vayechulu which contains the Torah’s description of the Shabbos states, Vayechal Elokimwhich can be rendered “And Elokim was concluded…,” i.e., on Shabbos, the limiting influences associated with the name Elokim ceased and the unlimited light of Havayah was revealed in the world.9

Shabbos Parshas Noach emphasizes that this service must be characterized by happiness, for we are in the aftermath of the month of Tishrei, a month of festivals.10 Thus it indicates that our service of teshuvah must also be permeated with happiness.

The concept of making a just account of one’s service has a unique relevance in the present year. We are living in an era when, to borrow an expression from the Previous Rebbe, “the buttons are already polished”11 and all the service necessary to bring the Redemption has been completed. Ultimately, then, the just account we make must lead to the conclusion that Mashiach must come immediately.

Every individual may realize that his own service is lacking and, in need of correction. This, however, does not affect the status of the service required of the Jewish people as a whole over the course of the generations. In the latter context, we must be conscious, as the Previous Rebbe stated, that all the service necessary has been completed and we are “ready to receive Mashiach.” There is no explanation why his coming is being delayed.

Therefore, even if there is a particular dimension of service which is lacking and which is delaying the coming of the Redemption, this does not diminish the fact that as a whole, our service is complete and we are ready for the Redemption. Although these particular elements of service must also be completed, this does not detract from the service of the Jewish people as a whole. On the contrary, the fact that as a whole, we are prepared for the Redemption makes it easier for us to complete all the individual elements of our service and to do so with happiness.

To explain the concept in an analogy: When a person is healthy as a whole, if he has a small ailment in one of his limbs, it can easily be cured. Similarly, since as a whole, our service has been completed, teshuvah which is described as “healing” can cure all the particular difficulties of the Jewish people.12

This is particularly true when taking into consideration the influence of the present year, shnas niflaos bah, “a year imbued with wonders” and shnas niflaos bakol, “a year of wonders in all things.” Included in these wonders will surely be the wonders that will accompany the Redemption, “As in the days of your exodus from Egypt, I will show you wonders.” For all the appointed times for Mashiach’s coming have passed, and we have already turned to G‑d in teshuvah. Now the matter is dependent only on Mashiach himself.

* * *

3. In connection with making a just account of our service as mentioned above, one of the areas in which additional attention is necessary is Kiddush HaLevanah, the Sanctification of the Moon. This practice is intrinsically related to the Redemption, indeed, the renewal of the moon is used as a metaphor for the renewal of the Jewish people in this era.13

There are individuals who are not meticulous in their observance of this practice. Perhaps this is because the prayers for the Sanctification of the Moon must be recited outside and since they live among gentiles, this is uncomfortable. Needless to say, this is improper. On the contrary, the Sanctification of the Moon should be observed in public, “within the multitude of the people is the glory of the King,” and while wearing one’s finest clothing. For this reason, it is customary to recite these prayers on Saturday night.14 And through the Sanctification of the Moon, we will merit the renewal of the Jewish people and the renewal of the Davidic dynasty and then, we fulfill the command with which the Torah reading of the Minchah service begins, “Go out… to the land which I will show you,” Eretz Yisrael in its complete state, a land of ten nations in the Era of the Redemption. Then it will be revealed in a complete and perfect manner how Havayah hu haElokim, “G‑d is the L‑rd.” (The Rebbe Shlita concluded the sichah by reciting the verse Havayah hu haElokim seven times in the niggun in which this verse is recited at the conclusion of the Yom Kippur prayers.)

FOOTNOTES

1.

Our Sages also emphasize that Shabbos completes and elevates the service of the previous week. Thus Shabbos Bereishis is also associated with the service of the month of Tishrei. Because of this unique fusion of opposites, the Rebbeim would say, “The stance which we adopt on Shabbos Bereishis determines the nature of our conduct in the entire year to come.”

2.

As mentioned above, the Hebrew for these terms relate to the name Noach.

3.

Even later in the parshah when the name Havayah (v-u-v-h) is mentioned, it is a dimension of Havayah which can be enclothed within the name Elokim.

4.

Indeed, this brings about the revelation a higher dimension of Havayah.

5.

For Shabbos has the potential to elevate and enhance the service of the previous week.

6.

Thus our Sages explain that with one thought of teshuvah, a person can be transformed into a perfect tzaddik regardless of his previous level of service.

7.

This includes even a more abstract conception of theft, to cite an example given by our Sages, a person who does not return a greeting which he was given. Even if a person had no intent of hurting his colleague’s feelings and the reason he failed to return the greeting was because one was involved with the performance of a mitzvah, he is required to appease his colleague.

8.

This service has an advantage over the previous one. When a person is concerned with his own conduct, his approach is limited in nature. In contrast, in the latter approach, one is involved in the unlimited light of Torah.

9.

The association of both teshuvah and Shabbos with the fusion of Havayah and Elokim reflects the intrinsic connection shared by these two services. Indeed, the very Hebrew letters of the word Shabbos (שבת) can be rearranged to form toshev (תשב).

On Shabbos, the emphasis is on the higher level of teshuvah which as explained in Iggeres HaKodesh, is expressed through Torah study, man’s spirit clinging to G‑d’s spirit through the study of the Torah. The all-encompassing oneness achieved through such study reflects the oneness which will be experienced in the Era of the Redemption, “the era which is all Shabbos and rest for eternity,” when “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover up the ocean bed.”

10.

Although the Tachanun prayers were already recited in the previous week, since their recitation followed a hiatus of several weeks, it did not interrupt the atmosphere of happiness that continues after the festivals.

11.

This is all the more relevant today, over forty years after the Previous Rebbe’s passing, when we have been granted “a knowing heart, eyes that see, and ears that hear” in regard to all his teachings.

12.

Furthermore, teshuvah has the potential to “heal” in a manner in which it is as if the “ailment” never existed. In contrast, to other medical treatments which often heal the condition only in regard to the future.

13.

See the essay, “The Sanctification of the Moon; a Foretaste of the Redemption,” Sichos In English, 5752, where this theme is developed at length.

14.

Nevertheless, these prayers cannot be recited unless the moon is actually seen. If it is covered by clouds, their recitation must be postponed. There are two other factors to consider in regard to the time of the Sanctification of the Moon: a) According to Torah law, these prayers can only be recited until the middle of the month, i.e., 14 1/2 days after the rebirth of the moon. b) According to the Kabbalah, the moon should not be sanctified until seven days have passed since its rebirth.

In the winter months, when the skies are cloudy, there is a question if one should wait until Saturday night for the Sanctification of the Moon. For example, if Shabbos is the twelfth of the month, should one risk waiting until Saturday night if there is the possibility that the skies will be cloudy for the next three nights. We find indeed that because of such reasons, there were times that the Tzemach Tzedek would recite these prayers before the seventh of the month. Therefore, in these matters, it is proper to consult a Rav who is aware of the metrological conditions.

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