Food For the Soul
The Great Flood
In the Parsha Bereishit (Genesis 1:1 – 6:8) we read about the creation of the world, of Adam and Eve and of their sons Cain and Abel. A third son, Seth, is born to Adam. Seth’s eighth-generation descendant, Noah, is the only righteous man in a corrupt world.
In next week’s Parsha, Noach (Genesis 6:9–11:32) we learn about Noah and the Great Flood. “According to Jewish mysticism,” writes Chava Shapiro, “by bringing the flood, G‑d was dunking the world into a giant mikveh (ritual bath). The 40 days of the flood hint to the 40 se’ah-measures of water required for a mikveh to be kosher according to Jewish law. The flood, then, was not a punishment, but a purification process that the world needed to undergo in order to be cleansed and reborn. Welcome to World 2.0. In this new reality, the knowledge of G‑dliness not only affected, but actually saturated (pun intended) the earth and every being upon it. Spirituality became so entrenched, so deeply rooted in the essence of existence that every human being could now access it within themselves. It became an awareness that penetrated and ingrained and was expressed in the very fibers of the universe.”
“But the message of the flood goes even deeper,” she adds. “The flood represents all of our issues—namely, the ones that plague us from without…The flood is all those things that threaten to smother the G‑dly spark that lies within us, which is crying and yearning to express itself, but feels it’s being drowned by the overwhelming anxieties and pressures of life…. Do not allow the floods to drown you into oblivion. First, find solace inside the ark. Then grab hold of the helm.”
October 17 (29 Tishrei) is Shabbat Bereishit.. Why is it thus named? Every week of the year we read another portion of the Torah. The cycle ends and begins anew on Simchat Torah, when we read the final portion of V’Zot HaBerachah and the opening lines of the first portion, Bereishit. On the following Shabbat, the full portion of Bereishit is read from the Torah. It is said in the name of the third Chabad Rebbe (known as the Tzemach Tzedek) that the way one conducts oneself on Shabbat Bereishit sets the tone for the entire year.
Appropriately, this Shabbat is often earmarked for inspiring farbrengens (gatherings) and resolutions to increase in Torah study. This Shabbat helps us gather up the spiritual energy of the past month, ensuring that we remain on track for the long haul ahead.
From an article by Rabbi Menachem Posner
Mind Over Matter
There is a raging storm at sea. There are hellish waves crashing and pounding upon the shore, carrying all away, leaving desolation behind. The sea is this world into which you were thrown. The waves are the stress and anxiety of indecision, not knowing which way to turn, on what to rely. Up and down, hot and cold—constantly churning back and forth. Do as Noah did and build an ark. Ark in Hebrew is teivah—which means also “a word.” Your ark shall be the words of contemplation and of prayer. Enter into your ark, and rather than drown you with everything else, let the waters carry you upward.
By Rabbi Tzvi Freeman
“The rainbow will be seen in the cloud.” Noach 9:14
The Zohar (I:72b) states that the rainbow is one of the signs of the future redemption.
Commentators note that the rainbow indicates the purification and refinement that the world underwent by means of the Flood. Before the Flood the clouds were very coarse, thus preventing a reflection of sunlight. Thereafter, however, the clouds became more refined; they reflected sunlight, thus bringing about a rainbow. This, then, is the connection between the rainbow and the future redemption: The entire world will attain the peak of refinement with the coming of Moshiach.
From an article by Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet
Have I got a Story
The Creation Story: It’s All There
So I’m working on selling ads for our yearly calendar, and I approach a local store owner with a form and a copy of last year’s edition. I show her the beautiful full-color layout and all the Jewish pictures and art spread throughout the pages. When she finishes flipping through it, she stops and asks, “What is the number 5769 on the front?” I responded quite simply, “The amount of years since creation.”
There was silence. “You’re not serious?” she asks. She wasn’t sure if I still lived in the dark ages or was in complete denial – and I was asking her to trust me with her money?
Because, really! Have you ever heard of carbon dating? Aren’t there stars a millions light-years away? Have you ever heard the word “dinosaurs”? It is kind of hard to believe in the Torah when you get stuck on the validity of the first chapter – no, the first sentence.
Well, I ask you to clear your mind and give me a second to present my case. Let us take things at the face value. G‑d created the world in six days. Adam and Eve are standing around in the Garden of Eden. Now what does that garden look like? Remember, the world is only six days old and grass was created on the third day…Was it a garden? A field with seeds? Small little buds looking like a nursery? Doesn’t seem too exotic or paradise-like!
On that train of thought, when they ate from the tree – how was there fruit if it was only a three-day-old tree? How many rings were in that tree? And wait – how did Adam and Eve reach to get it, or, for that sake, even walk, if they were two hours old? And that snake…he was two days old…boy, did they grow up quick. We must be missing something.
When you sit down and start reading your favorite novel, the first chapter starts off with John, a young 32-year-old stock broker, and his wife Amy, an interior designer with a degree from Princeton, walking up their driveway into their two-story colonial in downtown Boston. The book continues for another 244 pages and occurs over a five month period. But when you get to the bottom of page one – how old is the story line?
It depends. The author thinks that, for the sake of this story, it is a few seconds old. But in truth, both John and Amy have a few decades behind them. The fact that they were born, and grew up, and went to school, and met each other, and then married, and bought a house are all relevant parts of the story, but those details are placed throughout the following pages as the author deems necessary for the narrative. Sometimes you get those details and understand how they tie into the story, and sometimes they remain a mystery.
But although the characters are 32 years old, the story is only a few seconds old at this point! These two characters have a long and detailed history, but the book doesn’t actually begin until the author chooses to lift the curtain as they walk up their driveway.
So, too, when G‑d created the world, he slowly lifted the curtain over six days to reveal a rich and complete world with a long history and much planning that went into every detail. And in that story line there were dinosaurs, and trees with rings, and animals maturing, and continents shifting, and people growing up, and light traveling great distances across the galaxies. And at the right moment – exactly 5770 years ago – He opened the book to page one.
By Rabbi Mendel Teldon