Generating Peace and Satisfaction

Based on Chassidic Talks by the Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson,

Presented with permission, as translated and published by Sichos in English

The history of the world [since the six days of creation] is broken up into three two-thousand year periods… The [first] two thousand years of “chaos” itself can be divided into two periods. The first thousand years expressed the attribute of chessed, kindness. [15] Like a generous man who bestows kindness upon a recipient without questioning who he is or whether he is worthy, G-d dispensed ample blessings although the people were corrupt and sinful. There were righteous men who lived during that era – Adam, Chanoch, Mesuchelach [Methuselah] – but they were isolated from the people around them. Indeed, even with regard to their own Divine service, it can be said that their connection to G-d was dependent on the awareness of G-d they were granted from Above and not on their own efforts. As the commentaries explain [16] with regard to Chanoch, although he was righteous, he was easily influenced and would have had difficulty maintaining his virtue. Hence, G-d caused him to pass away before his time. If this was true about the righteous, it certainly applied with regard to mankind at large. Although there was good in the world, it came from Above and did not affect the world as it existed within its own context. Therefore the world became corrupt and decadent.

CHANGE COMING FROM WITHIN

The second thousand year period manifested the quality of din, judgment. Judgment involves taking a careful look at the subject being judged. In this motif, the refinement of the world became important. Not only was good to be revealed from above, man would have to bring out the good that lies latent within the world. This process was begun by Noach [Noah]. [17]

To illustrate the difference between these two millennia by analogy: There are two ways in which a teacher can instruct a student. He can teach the student ideas, explaining concept after concept in a manner which the student could not grasp on his own. In this way, he gives him a multitude of information and exposes him to a higher way of understanding. Alternatively, the teacher can endeavor to mold the student’s process of thought. His goal is not to explain ideas, but to teach the student to discover explanations on his own.

Each path has an advantage. With regard to the depth of the concepts understood, there is an advantage to the first path. Since the first student is involved with the teacher’s ideas, he will reach higher peaks than the second, who is dependent on his own more limited potential. On the other hand, the first student’s own powers of understanding will not change. Although he will be able to repeat his teacher’s wisdom, he himself will not have become wise and will not be capable of grasping new ideas. The second student, by contrast, will lack the brilliance and clarity that results from his teacher’s explanation, but he will have learned to think for himself.

In the same way, in the first millennium of existence, the emphasis was on G-d’s beneficence. Mankind, as it existed for itself, remained corrupt. In the second millennium, the focus shifted to man’s efforts to refine the world. The one who initiated this new thrust of Divine service was Noach. [18] His efforts began with himself. For he was in contact with the wicked people around him, but was not swayed by them. Day after day, he rebuked them and tried to influence them to refine their conduct. Although he was not successful in affecting them, the fact that he personally remained righteous despite his interaction with them [19] reflected the refinement he underwent within.

THE RENEWAL OF CREATION

On this basis, we can appreciate the inner purpose of the flood. G-d’s fundamental intent was not to punish the sinners, but rather to purify the world. The depravity of the previous generations had degraded the world to the extent that man’s striving toward refinement could not be carried out within the world as it existed at that time. The entire framework of reference had to be changed.

In that vein, our Sages [20] [said that] the 40 days of the flood removed the evil and corruption from the world, making it possible for man to elevate even the material dimensions of our environment.

One of the effects of this process of refinement can be seen in the conduct of the animals. Among the signs of the decadence that preceded the flood was that animals mated outside their species, disrupting the laws of nature. While on the ark and indeed, even before they entered the ark, they abandoned this wantonness and clung to their own kind. [21]

The Sages state [22] that Noach “saw a new world” when he emerged from the ark. Not only was the evil of the world washed away and the world was returned to its natural state, a new motif was initiated. Instead of only having good revealed from above, from this time onward, positive influence would be generated primarily by man’s Divine service within his surrounding environment, taking material entities and using them for a spiritual purpose.

On this basis, we can understand the significance of the name Noach, a term associated with the concepts of rest and satisfaction. For Noach’s personal mission was to establish calm and tranquility among mankind and awaken satisfaction through his Divine service.

Moreover, the Torah repeats the name Noach twice in the same verse. [23] The Sages [24] interpret this to mean that Noach’s efforts to refine the world caused these qualities to be expressed not only in this physical realm, but also in the spiritual realms above. [25]

This allows us to appreciate a positive connotation in the flood being called “the waters of Noach.” [4] For it was the flood that purified the world and made it possible for Noach and his descendants to express a new phase of Divine service that would express these qualities.

A PRECURSOR OF REDEMPTION

Although the new phase of Divine service begun by Noach depended on his own initiative, it was inspired by a unique revelation from above. Our Rabbis [26] point this out, noting that in Noach’s ark, “a wolf dwelled with a lamb”; [27] predators didn’t prey on the more docile animals. Why was this? Because the spiritual climate that pervaded the ark was a foreglow of the revelations that will encompass the world in the era of Mashiach. The peace and tranquility [28] that will characterize that future era prevailed within the ark.

In order that this revelation would affect all existence, G-d commanded Noach to bring a microcosm of creation into the ark: humans, animals, and plants. Their experience within the ark endowed them with the inner peace and tranquility to conduct themselves differently afterwards.

BRINGING THE WORLD CLOSE TO G-D

The new phase of Divine service initiated by Noach was reflected in the first activity he performed after leaving the ark: offering sacrifices. Korban, the Hebrew word for a sacrifice, relates to the word karov, meaning “close.” [29] The purpose of the sacrifices is to draw the material elements of existence closer to G-d, elevating them to Him. This was where Noach focused his efforts upon emerging from the ark.

Noach’s sacrifices evoked Divine satisfaction and favor, [30] prompting Him to establish a covenant with Noach and his descendants. [31] At that time, G-d blessed Noach: [32] “Be fruitful and multiply and populate the earth,” renewing the blessing he had given to Adam. [33]

There is, however, a difference in the wording of these two blessings. Adam is told to “conquer” the world, while no such blessing is given to Noach. Conquest implies imposing one’s will, forcing the vanquished entity to do what the conqueror wants against its own tendencies. This was appropriate for the spiritual gestalt that prevailed at Adam’s time, for then, good had to be invested in the world from above, against its nature, as it were. Noach’s mission, by contrast, was to bring out the positive potential that exists within the world itself, to show that within the context of its own definition, the world is good.

LOVE THAT KNOWS NO RESTRAINTS

Noach’s role in the spiritual history of the world is reflected in the interpretation of the verse: [34] “And G-d remembered Noach and all the beasts and all the animals that were with him on the ark.” Chassidus explains [35] that the verse points to an essential connection, a bond that knows no bounds and therefore does not differentiate between humans and animals. [36]

Why did G-d remember Noach? Because He invested Himself entirely within His creation, loving man without any limits. Because of that love, even when the world was submerged in water, G-d remembered Noach and gave him the opportunity to renew life.

Developing this theme, Chassidus compares the covenant G-d established with Noach with those established with Avraham and Moshe [Moses]. The covenant with Avraham established a connection between his descendants and the Torah. [37] The covenant with Moshe was established after the sin of the Golden Calf and involved the Divine service of teshuvah [repentance]. Thus both of these covenants relate to G-d’s will as it is associated with revelation. [38] The covenant with Noach, by contrast, had no relation to any revealed levels of G-dliness, it was a bond with His very essence. And since it was an expression of His essence, it encompassed even the lowest dimensions of material existence, [39] offering assurance that “Never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth.”

MANKIND’S CHILDHOOD

On one hand, G-d’s relationship with Noach involved only the material dimension of existence…. He was given the responsibility to create peaceful harmony within the world, but only within the material dimensions of the world. In his era, the [Divine] decree separating the spiritual from the physical [40] was still intact. [41] Nevertheless, Noach was the beneficiary of the great love described above.

We see a parallel to this on the mortal plane. With regard to the intellect and understanding, it is obvious that we share far more with our adult children or with those who have matured to the point when their educational process has started. But to whom do we grant our deepest expressions of love? To our young children whose minds have not developed. With them, we are totally uninhibited, pouring out our inner resources of emotion.

On the other hand, no parent desires his child to remain an infant. He hopes that he will grow and mature into the most complete person he could possibly be. Indeed, from the very beginning, he points him in that direction, giving him subtle hints toward the course of his development.

In a similar way, Noach represents mankind’s childhood, a level that precedes the sharing of thought made possible by the Giving of the Torah. For that reason, he was granted the great love described above. Nevertheless, the purpose of the love showered upon Noach was to enable mankind to proceed to the higher level of fulfillment which would be realized with the Giving of the Torah. [42] Moreover, implicit in G-d’s covenant with Noach was mankind’s advancement towards the consummate fulfillment that will characterize the era of Mashiach [the Messiah]. In this vein, the Zohar [43] explains that the radiant colors of the rainbow showed to Noach alludes to the splendor of that future era.

Footnotes:

4. Isaiah 54:9.
15. See Ramban’s Commentary to the Torah, Genesis 2:3. The differences between these two millennia is also reflected in the differences between the Torah portions of Genesis and Noach.
16. Rashi, on Genesis 5:24.
17. In particular, these two phases can be seen in Noach’s own Divine service. The first is described in the section of Genesis (6:8): “And Noach found favor in G-d’s eyes.” Favor, chen, refers to a revelation from above (see the Chassidic discourse VeAtah Im Na, 5705). [The Torah prortion of] Noach, by contrast, reflects Noach’s Divine service following the motif of upward ascent.
18. There is a disadvantage in that this approach to Divine service lacked the heights of the first level. On that basis, we can understand the Sages’ statement (see Rashi on Genesis 7:7): “Noach was small of faith,” Faith stems from a revelation from above and Noach was lacking with regard to that quality. Instead, his Divine service focused on refining the world, an ascent upward.
19. As opposed to Chanoch who had to be removed from his surroundings lest he sin.
20. Torah Or [by Rabbi Schneur Zalman], p. 8c.
21. Tractate Sanhedrin 108a; Rashi on Genesis 6:20.
22. Genesis Rabbah 30:8.
23. Genesis 6:9.
24. Genesis Rabbah 30:5.
25. Noach caused the expression and revelation of these qualities from Above, through his Divine service.
26. Maamarei Admur HaZakein [Chassidic Discourses of Rabbi Schneur Zalman], Eshaleich Liozna, p. 57, et al.
27. Cf. Isaiah 11:6.
28. Qualities which relates to Noach as explained above.
29. Sefer HaMaamarim [Book of Chassidic Discourses] 5710, p. 113.
30. See Genesis 8:21ff.
31. See ibid. 9:9.
32. 1bid.:l.
33. Ibid. 1:28
34. Genesis 8:1.
35. The series of maamarim [Chassidic discourses] entitled BeShaah Shehikdimu, 5672, Vol. I, sec. 201.
36. For this reason, this verse is included as one of the Zichronos [Rememberance] verses in the prayers of Rosh HaShanah. For at that time, G-d renews the existence of the entire creation [each year].
37. Hence it is expressed through circumcision which like the Torah brings about a connection between the material and the spiritual.
38. The Torah obviously relates to the revealed dimensions of G-d’s will, because it conveys His instructions to mankind. Even teshuvah [repentance] – as evidenced by the fact that it compensates for a failure to observe His will – is not totally above that framework of reference. See Likkutei Sichos [Chassidic Talks], Vol. IV, p. 1145.
39. And thus the covenant did not relate only to humans, but to “the birds, the animals, and every beast” (Genesis 9: 10).
40. See Midrash Exodus Rabbah 12:18; see also the essay in this series [from Sichos in English] entitled “Avraham: The First Jew” which focuses on this subject.
41. For this reason, the Seven Mitzvos commanded to Noach and his descendants are of a different nature than the 613 [Jewish] Mitzvos of the Torah. The mitzvos commanded to Noach are intended to establish a settled environment and develop harmony within mankind. The mitzvos given to the Jewish people, by contrast, are intended fundamentally to establish a [transcendent] bond with G-d.
42. This is alluded to by the fact that the sacrifices offered by Noach were only of kosher animals, thus establishing a connection between Noach and the Torah (see Rashi on Genesis 8:20).
43. Zohar, Vol. l, p. 72b.

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