Thursday, October 26, 2006

No'ach 5631 First Ma'amar

... נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק/… No’ach was a righteous man …” (Breishis 6:9) The word צַדִּיק/righteous has the same root as צֶדֶק/justice and צוֹדֵק/correct. Just as in a court room, a house of justice, there is a struggle between two sides until one side emerges "correct," so too, a righteous person is one who has emerged victorious from various struggles with his evil inclination. A חָסִיד/pious individual, on the other hand, is on a higher level. He no longer has a struggle with his evil inclination. David HaMelech alludes to this level when he says in Tehillim (109:22) , “... וְלִבִּי חָלַל בְּקִרְבִּי/… and my heart has died within me …” According to Chazal, David HaMelech is saying that his evil inclination had died within him. David HaMelech had reach a stage at which there was no longer a struggle with his evil inclination.

One who struggles with his evil inclination is one who is not fully aware of God’s presence. The person who is fully aware of God’s presence will not be tempted by his evil inclination. The evil inclination goes hand in hand with the physical world. In the physical world it is difficult indeed to be completely conscious of God. In a sense, the חָסִיד/pious, who, despite his physical surroundings is totally aware of God, can be said to be above nature. The צַדִּיק/righteous person, on the other hand, is one who struggles within the physical world and finally emerges from his trials victorious.

These two levels, חָסִיד/pious and צַדִּיק/righteous person, are exemplified by Avraham Avinu and Ya’akov Avinu. Avraham Avinu was on the level of the חָסִיד/pious. He no longer struggled with his evil inclination. He was completely aware of God’s presence. The physical world presented no barrier for him. Ya’akov Avinu, on the other hand, was on the level of the צַדִּיק/righteous person. He struggled within the physical to discover God.

This struggle and subsequent victory can be understood in terms of the days of the week and Shabbos. We struggle during the week to become more aware of God in spite of the distractions that surround us. The Sfas Emes uses a metaphor of a closed gate that during the week prevents us from being more aware of God’s presence. Our struggle ends on Shabbos when we rest from the week’s distractions and can spend time immersed in the spirituality of Shabbos. On Shabbos, the gate opens. How much the gate opens for us, how much we experience the spirituality on Shabbos, is in direct proportion to how much we worked during the week to become more aware of God’s presence.

In line with this metaphor Chazal tell us that Ya’akov Avinu kept Shabbos. He struggled to become more aware of God in spite of his physical surroundings. He reached a level, through hard work, on which he became as aware of God as possible within the physical world. He reached a level on which the physical world no longer presented a barrier to his awareness. This is the deeper meaning of Chazal when they say that Ya’akov Avinu received an inheritance with no boundaries. The plain meaning refers to his inheritance of the land of Israel. The deeper meaning, though, refers to his victorious struggle over the physical which prevented a total awareness of God’s presence.

Significantly, Chazal do not mention that Avraham Avinu kept Shabbos. Shabbos, representing the culmination of a struggle, did not apply to Avraham Avinu. This is because the physical world never presented a barrier to Avraham Avinu’s awareness of God’s presence. We find this idea in a Midrash which says that the word in parshas Breishis, “בְּהִבָּרְאָם/in their creation” (Breishis 2:4) refers to Avraham Avinu because it comprises the same letters as אַבְרָהָם/Avraham. Chazal are teaching us that Avraham Avinu’s awareness of God was on a level whereby the physical world did not conceal Him. In this sense Avraham Avinu’s awareness of God precedes the Creation.

Like Ya’akov, No’ach also struggled. As noted earlier, the pasuk calls No’ach a צַדִּיק/righteous person. Chazal, in fact, make this distinction between No’ach and Avraham Avinu. Referring to No’ach the pasuk says, “... אֶת הָאֱ-לֹהִים הִתְהַלֵך נֹח/… No’ach walked with the Lord.” (Breishis 6:9) Avraham Avinu, however, says, “... ה' אֲשֶׁר הִתְהַלַכְתִּי לְפָנָיו .../… God before Whom I walked …” (Breishis 24:40) The different wording indicates that No’ach needed God’s help to walk with Him. He struggled and required help. Avraham Avinu, on the other hand, was able to walk alone before God without help.

The idea that No’ach struggled within nature to reveal God explains an enigmatic Zohar. The Zohar says that No’ach is an aspect of Shabbos. (Tikunei Zohar 70:138b) Of course, No’ach’s very name means rest which happens on Shabbos (וַיָּנַח בַּיוֹם הַשְּׁבִיעִי/He rested on the seventh day. (Shemos 20:10)) but what is the significance of this? According to what we’ve said, though, it is clear. No’ach was righteous. As we’ve made clear, this means that he struggled within nature and emerged victorious. No’ach connected to God after a struggle. This, as we’ve seen, parallels exactly our struggle to connect to God during the days of the week culminating in revelation/rest on Shabbos.

God gave us the gift of Shabbos, a day on which the gate is opened. We can take full advantage of this gift by recognizing that our activities during the week affect how much the gate opens for us. As No’ach the tzadik and Ya’akov Avinu before us, our struggle to become aware of God’s presence during the week results in our fully experiencing the gift of God’s revelation on Shabbos. May we merit it!

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