Torah Fax
Friday, October 27, 2006 - 5 MarCheshvan, 5767

Torah Reading: Noach (Genesis 6:9 - 11:32)
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 5:40PM
Shabbat ends : 6:39 PM
Face Off

When the Torah introduces Noah at the beginning of this week's Parshah, it calls him a "Tzaddik Tamim, a perfectly righteous person." Yet, when G‑d addresses Noah directly, He only refers to him as a Tzadik, a righteous person, but omits the added praise of Tamim.
Rashi explains that this teaches us that when we praise a person to his face, we may say only part of the praises he deserves. However, when we the person we are praising is not present, we say his full praise.
Apparently, the reason for this distinction is that when we speak directly to an individual, mentioning all of his or her qualities might cause that person to become conceited. To prevent the knowledge of one's own qualities going to one's head, we should never reveal all of their praises in their presence.
But this explanation is problematic. Knowing one's qualities is just as essential as knowing one's faults. Being aware of one's personal virtues does not in and of itself give rise to feelings of arrogance. Egotism comes from the false feeling that one's qualities are a result of one's personal effort, without recognizing the role G‑d plays in helping one's personal development.
That being the case, why would G‑d omit some of Noah’s praises, in order to insure humility, when He could have praised Noah fully and - at the same time - reminded him that his virtues were G‑dly gifts?
There is another pitfall that can come from telling someone all of their praises. It can lead to spiritual stagnation. True, the person receiving the praise might realize that his personal accomplishments are thanks to G‑d helping him and thus he may not become conceited, but a person might still delude himself into thinking he has reached the summit of his potential and that there is no more room for spiritual growth.
On the other hand, if a person only hears some of his praises voiced by others, he might realize that just as other people's perception of him is incomplete - after all, his admirers didn't notice qualities X,Y & Z - so too might his assessment of himself be incomplete. Maybe there are some issues he can improve upon. Maybe there are some qualities that can be further refined.
A person who feels he has reached a level of completeness is liable to fail in two areas. Firstly, such a person is vulnerable to backslide. Human nature is such that when one thinks he has reached the top, he can very easily lose some of the accomplishments he has already gained.
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, a person who feels that they have reached the pinnacle of their personal development will not strive to grow and reach greater heights. Why should a person strive to fulfill greater potential when others tell him, essentially, that he has "reached the top," that he "has made it?"
A deeper meaning behind Rashi's teaching that "you should not relate all of one's virtues to his face" can be interpreted to mean that we should not think that all of a person's qualities are "on the face," meaning fully evident on the surface. There are many qualities that have yet to be discovered. We should not offer all of our fellow's praise in their presence because we ourselves have not yet fathomed the depth of their personality. If we verbalize all of the evident qualities, we give the impression that there are no others, when in fact it would take years to uncover many of the qualities that are "not on the face," but are rather beneath the surface.
This might explain why many of the qualities the Jewish people have been endowed with were not fully articulated in the Torah or Talmud and were first brought to light more recently by the Ba'al Shem Tov, and even more recently by the Rebbe. For example, Chassidism teaches that each Jew possesses a unique G‑dly soul that is holy and pure, no matter how close or distant that soul appears to be from Judaism.
So why did it take until recent times, through the efforts of the Rebbe, to give more robust expression to this concept? In light of the above, we can say that since we are now on the verge of the arrival of Moshiach, qualities possessed by the Jewish people that until now were more hidden beneath the surface can finally be revealed and appreciated. At this late stage in our national spiritual development, there is no need to worry that revealing our hidden qualities will cause us to stagnate. To the contrary, as we prepare for Moshiach's arrival, it behooves us to appreciate all of our national qualities and capitalize upon them - and this includes even those virtues that for the majority of our history were hidden well below the "face."
Moshiach Matters
Though the month of MarCheshvan has no holidays in it, the Midrash tells us that it is “owed” a holiday. Though King Solomon finished the building of the Temple in MarCheshvan (see I Kings 6:38), the inauguration was not celebrated until the following Tishrei.When Moshiach comes, G‑d will “pay back” MarCheshvan by making the inauguration of the Third Temple in it. Let us hope that it happens immediately at the beginning of the month! (The Rebbe)

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