Torah Fax

Friday, October 12, 2007 - 30 Tishrei, 5767 

Torah Reading: Noach (Genesis 6:9 - 11:32)
Candle Lighting: 6:02 PM
Shabbat ends: 7:00 PM

Top Tier

The Ba'al Shem Tov taught that word for Noah’s Ark, Teivah, can also be translated as “word.” Thus, the ark can also be synonymous with words, words of Torah and prayer. The analogy teaches us that just as Noah's Ark saved the world from the devastating flood waters, so too, the words of Torah and prayer protect us from negative influences that surround us.


One can take this analogy one step further. The Ark, the Torah relates, consisted of three stories. The Talmud, cited by Rashi, describes the purpose of these three tiers: The upper tier was for humans, the middle one for animals and the bottom one was for the refuse.


Torah and prayer can likewise be said to consist of three tiers. 


Torah, on its most basic level is a day to day guide that instructs us how to live civil lives; how to deal with the most difficult of people and situations. It is analogous to the function of the bottom of the Ark in that it must relate even to those aspects of life that are likened to refuse. This level of Torah is relevant to every segment of society, including even its most uncouth members. This is the Torah that commands us not to commit murder and adultery along with the more lofty precepts.


On a higher level, Torah is a heavenly teaching that is the blueprint of the universe. As the Zohar states: "G‑d looked into the Torah and created the world; similarly, a person studies Torah and sustains the world." The Torah is more than just a guide for life it is the very source of life. Nothing in life can possibly be inconsistent with Torah since Torah embodies the Divine energy that created life and is what sustains it.


This approach to Torah study assists us in dealing with the "animal" or the natural forces within us.


One of the greatest challenges to sustained devotion to our highest ideals is the erroneous perception that the Torah's demands can be at odds with our needs and desires that we perceive as being part of our nature. How often do we hear people respond to a challenge to grow or change by saying, "I can't change; this is who I am…" In other words, we find our human nature to be in conflict with the ideals of the Torah.


In effect, this second level of Torah relates to our nature. Torah dictates that the entire universe—macro or micro—is animated by the Torah and will ultimately conform to the Torah's ideals.


There is yet a third and higher level of Torah: Torah that is G‑d's wisdom and delight. It transcends the heavenly as it does the earthly. The Torah in its essence is more than a source of all of existence. Just as G‑d is more than a Creator, so too, Torah in its essence is more than merely a G‑dly force within creation. 

This level of Torah is its highest tier and only the G‑dly soul within man can appreciate this level. This is the level of Torah that has no purpose and function other than to experience unadulterated Divine wisdom.


According to the Chassidic Master, Rabbi Mordechai of Chernobyl, there are three tiers within prayer that parallel the three tiers of Noah's Ark. The bottom tier of prayer is the one that emanates from those who find themselves in a spiritual quagmire. They feel that they cannot get close to G‑d because they are so far gone. This individual will cry out to G‑d in anguish: "Please have mercy on my soul that has strayed so far!” This heartfelt plea is prayed with no pretense that the person is worthy of anything. He simply throws himself at G‑d's mercy and pleads for Him to "schlep" him out his self-made morass.


King David alluded to this form of prayer in his Psalms as the "Prayer of the Poor." It is the prayer from a broken spirit; from one that is humbled. It is represented by the bottom level of the Ark that contained the waste products.


The second level of prayer is alluded to in the Psalms as the "Prayer of David." It is the prayer of the person who is engaged in the struggle between their G‑dly nature and the pull of their animal nature. It is the level of prayer in which we beseech G‑d to give us the moral strength to overcome the trials in our lives to enable us to conform to G‑d's ideals. This is the prayer of a person who is struggling with his or her animal nature.


The highest tier of prayer, however, is the one referred to in Psalms as the "Prayer of Moses." His was not a prayer of a broken spirit or from a state of spiritual impoverishment. Nor was it a prayer that expressed a struggle with his nature.


Moses' prayer was one of spiritual wealth. Moses' prayer was a request to experience even higher levels of G‑dly light than those to which he had been exposed in the past. Moses prayed to "show me Your glory." Moses' final prayer was for him to enter the Holy Land so he can attain even higher levels of observance of the Mitzvot and G‑dly awareness. Moses also prayed for others who were in need of forgiveness and assistance. Moses did not have to pray to shore up his defenses and strengthen his nature. Moses' prayer was on the highest tier: to experience the highest levels of G‑dly light.


Among all of our prayers, the one in which we pray for Moshiach contains elements of all three levels of prayer:


Moshiach will bring Jews from all remote places back to Israel. The meaning of remote in this context is not just geographic, but also in terms of their spiritual location. Even the most alienated Jew will return in the Messianic Age. No matter how far one has strayed from the ideals of Judaism, morality and decency, he or she will be inspired to return.


Moshiach will also be the spiritual role model that will help reveal our G‑dly soul's light so that we can overcome the temptations of our animal soul. Ultimately, in the later stages of the Messianic Age, we will experience the cessation of all forms of evil. We will deal evil a final blow and the war against evil will be won.


And finally, the Messianic Age will introduce us to the most sublime manifestations of the Divine. We will climb the heights of holiness and our challenge will not be with evil, but with the challenges of greater achievement.


In effect, when we pray for Moshiach we are combining all three tiers of the Ark. and is therefore the most complete form of prayer. 


Moshiach Matters       

The Brisker Rav, Rabbi Yitzchak Zev of Brisk, wrote: "It is not enough to believe in the concept of Moshiach but we must look forward to his coming every day, as Maimonides writes that whoever does not look forward to his coming is a heretic. "It is not enough to believe that he will come but as we say in our prayers, 'We hope for Your salvation all day,'-- we must yearn for Moshiach's coming every moment of every single day." (Hagadah Beit HaLevi)

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