Thursday, October 11, 2007

No'ach 5631 Second Ma'amar

אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק.../These are the offspring of No’ach; No’ach was a righteous man …” The strange construct of this first pasuk of our parsha requires an explanation. Rashi cites the Midrash which explains that the offspring of the righteous are their good deeds. What does this mean? What are Chazal teaching us? After all, not only the righteous perform mitzvos. What is special about the mitzvos that the righteous perform and what does it mean when Chazal say that those mitzvos are their “offspring”?

In order to understand this Midrash we need to understand that actions are imbued with meaning by the intent of the one who performs them. Two people can fulfill the exact same mitzvah, perform the same action, and yet the results of their actions can differ. In truth, every mitzvah, regardless of who performs it has spiritual ramifications. God structured the world so that effects in spiritual realms are dependent upon our physical actions in the material world. A tzadik, though, can lay claim to the spiritual effects of his mitzvos. They affect him directly. The reason, the Sfas Emes explains, is that the tzadik identifies so strongly with the mitzvos he does. The tzadik puts his life energy into the mitzvah that he performs. In Iyov we find, “... וּמִבְּשָׂרִי אֶחֱזֶה אֱ-לוֹהַּ/… and from my flesh I will perceive God.” To the extent we put our life energy towards the fulfillment of a mitzvah, we perceive its effects.

To the extent we do a mitzvah with all our strength and for the moment of the mitzvah, are totally dedicated to it, we will experience the spiritual effect of the mitzvah.

The Sfas Emes, therefore, understands this first pasuk of the parsha literally. Because No’ach united with his wife as a tzadik, for the purpose of fulfilling a mitzvah, the result of the union were offspring who were worthy as they reflected his intent.

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