Torah Fax

Friday, October 31, 2003 - 5 MarCheshvan, 5764

Torah Reading: Noach (Genesis 6:9 - 11:32)
Candle Lighting Time: 4:35 PM
Shabbat Ends: 5:35 PM  

Business As Usual

Our Parshah discusses the famous story of Noah's Ark. Due to people’s sinful ways, G‑d decides to have a flood destroy the entire human race - with the exception of Noah and his family. To save Noah's family - as well as the world's animals - G‑d tells Noah to build an ark and bring at least two (one male and one female) from every species on board with him.

But why did G‑d choose to save Noah in this peculiar way? Couldn't G‑d have provided Noah with a sheltered area that would have protected him from the devastating waters of the flood? (Indeed, some sources record that the flood did not effect the Land of Israel - see The Torah Anthology, pg. 372.)

Our sages tell us that Noah spent 120 years building the ark. The purpose for this extended construction project was to arouse curiosity. When people would question Noah as to why he was building this unusual sea vessel he would inform them of G‑d's intent to destroy the world. The more time Noah spent working on the ark, the more chance he had to strike up conversation with the passersby and hopefully get some of them to change their ways. Sadly, all of his efforts were futile.

This explanation, however, does not entirely answer the question as to why G‑d chose an ark to save Noah instead of some other means of rescue. If G‑d intended to inspire people to change their sinful habits, He certainly could have found a better - and more direct! - approach than to have them watch an old man (at the beginning of construction, Noah was 480 years old) build a boat with the hope that perhaps a conversation about repentance would ensue. Why didn't G‑d just have Noah speak to the masses - as did so many other prophets throughout history? And, as mentioned before, Noah did not succeed in inspiring even one individual to repent. Clearly, G‑d had additional reasons for using an ark to save Noah and his family.

Chassidic thought teaches that the ark was a model of the utopian world that was experienced at the beginning of creation, and - more correctly - that will be experienced when Moshiach comes. In the ark, people, carnivores and domesticated animals all existed peacefully side by side. The prophecy of "the lion shall lay with the lamb" was literally realized in Noah's ark.

True, G‑d could have had saved a few representatives of each species in a more "natural" way; G‑d didn't have to have Noah and his family live on the ark in such a miraculous state. But the ark offered an important message for its inhabitants who were about to repopulate the earth.

When Adam and Eve were created, they were placed in the Garden of Eden, Paradise. Despite the fact they were soon to be driven away from the Garden, G‑d wanted to provide the first humans with a view of their ultimate goal: Man was to perfect the world and work toward the G‑d’s objective of Moshiach - Paradise on Earth. True, there would be setbacks, but G‑d didn't want Adam and Eve to forget that their ultimate purpose was to bring down to earth the heavenly reality that they had already tasted from.

The survivors of the flood - knowing full well what G‑d's original plan was - might have thought that, since G‑d decided to destroy virtually the entire population of the world and start again, there might be a “New World Order.” “Maybe G‑d has a new, more simplified plan. Who knows? Maybe G‑d realized that you can't expect too much from mere humans and He is not setting such lofty goals for us. Maybe He wants us to try and live morally, but not work towards a perfect Messianic world even more blissful than the Garden of Eden.”

By starting the flood by placing Noah in the ark, a replica of Paradise, G‑d showed that He had not changed his plans. Our sages say that Noah started a new era, he actually saw a new world, a new beginning. And, at the beginning of that “new world,” G‑d again gave a foretaste of his ultimate goal - to bring about a spirit of holiness, unity and peace (just as there was in the ark) with the coming of Moshiach.

The lesson for our times is clear. Though we have been in exile for almost 2,000 years and have experienced devastating and catastrophic events in our history - we should never entertain the thought that G‑d "has changed his mind.” Some might think, “maybe the aspirations for world peace are beyond our reach. Times have changed - we would be happy to settle for relative peace.” The lesson of the ark is that - no matter how great the upheaval - G‑d's plan for the Era of Moshiach, for true world peace, has not changed. It is our job stay focused on the goal and attain it, by adding in our Torah and Mitzvot as much possible.  

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, the inauguration was not celebrated until the following Tishrei.When Moshiach comes, G‑d will “pay back” MarChechan 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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