relates: "At the beginning of Creation, G-d's praise emanated solely from the waters. When the Generation of the Flood rebelled against Him... G-d said: 'Let them be cast aside, and [in their place] shall come those who originally dwelled there.' Thus the verse states:
'The rain was upon the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.' "
According to the Midrash, the state of the world at the time of the Flood resembled the beginning of creation, when the world was "entirely composed of water." This was truly an exalted state, a condition in which the entire world praised G-d, as His praises emanated "solely from the waters."
How does the explanation of the Midrash dovetail with the simple text, which states that the purpose of the Flood was "to destroy all flesh"?
The Alter Rebbe explains that the inundation served not only to punish the Generation of the Flood, but also to "purify the world," similar to the purifying waters of a mikveh. Thus the Flood served a positive purpose as well.
Even according to this explanation, the purifying effect of the Flood was related to the sins of that generation - sins that brought impurity into the world. According to the Midrash, however, the effect of the Flood was to bring about a state of pristine holiness and goodness, bearing absolutely no relation to iniquity.
Our Sages relate that the Torah preceded the world. Thus, although Torah is always to be understood in its simple context as it is studied in this physical world, we should not forget that each letter also contains a deeper spiritual context, as it is studied and understood in the higher spiritual realms - realms that are far removed from physicality.
Understandably, this applies not only to Torah directives but to Torah tales as well. Although all the Biblical narratives occurred exactly as detailed, since Torah preceded the world, these stories must perforce embrace a spiritual element consonant with the higher realms.
Moreover, since "evil does not dwell with Him," we must conclude that even those aspects of Torah which in the simple sense seem untoward (misdeeds, punishments, etc.), are understood in the higher realms - where evil does not exist - as manifestations of complete goodness and holiness.
In light of the above, we can understand the following Chassidic tale:
The Alter Rebbe used to serve as Torah Reader. It happened that he was once out of town for the portion of Savo, which contains severe admonitions and maledictions. So that week his son, the Mitteler Rebbe, heard the Torah reading from another.
The Mitteler Rebbe's anguish on hearing the maledictions was so great that it was doubtful if he could fast on Yom Kippur. When asked: "But you hear this same Torah portion every year?" he responded: "When father reads, one does not hear maledictions."
Now, when the Alter Rebbe would read the Torah, the simple content of the reading was surely heard. What did the Mitteler Rebbe mean by stating: "When father reads, one does not hear maledictions"?
In light of the above, his meaning is clear: Maledictions exist only as they are understood within the physical world. As Torah also relates to realms of complete holiness and goodness, where evil does not exist (and hence where there is no punishment for evil behavior), the maledictions themselves are wholly good.
The Mitteler Rebbe would hear his father's reading of the maledictions as they existed above, where they are entirely matters of blessing.
The same holds true with regard to the Flood. It was merely in this world - in its simple context - that the Flood served as a punishment and a purification of sins. Since the Flood is related in the Torah, we must understand that it also exists in spheres where evil and sin simply do not exist.
The Midrash thus informs us that in those worlds, the Flood was an entirely good event; the earth reverted to a time when the entire planet sang G-d's praises.
Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXX, pp. 16-19.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 5:1. See also Eichah Rabbah 1:52.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 7:12.
- (Back to text) Bereishis Rabbah 5:2; Yerushalmi Chagigah 2:1.
- (Back to text) Bereishis 6:13.
- (Back to text) Torah Or beginning of Noach (8c ff.). See also Toras Chayim, Noach 59b ff., Or HaTorah, Noach 609b ff.
- (Back to text) Shabbos 88b; Pesachim 54a; Bereishis Rabbah 1:4 et al.
- (Back to text) See Shabbos 63a, and additional sources cited there.
- (Back to text) See Likkutei Torah, Tazria 23b ff.
- (Back to text) Tehillim 5:5. See also Likkutei Torah, Bamidbar 3c and Or HaTorah (Yahel Or) on this verse.
- (Back to text) See also Sefer HaMaamarim 5679, p. 515ff.
The Rambam writes:
"Although a person may have already fulfilled the commandment to 'be fruitful and multiply,' he is commanded by the Sages not to neglect being fruitful and multiplying as long as he has the strength. For whoever adds a Jewish soul is considered as if he had built an entire world."
"Be fruitful and multiply" is mentioned in the Torah portion of Bereishis, as well as in the portion of Noach. In the simple context of the verses, the expression in Bereishis is a blessing, while "be fruitful and multiply" in Noach is a command.
However, there is another reason why the source for the Rambam's statement that "whoever adds a Jewish soul is considered as if he had built an entire world" is derived specifically from the portion of Noach:
"Be fruitful and multiply" was told to Adam in Bereishis. Since this was said before he had children, it follows that it involved his fulfillment of the exhortation to "be fruitful and multiply" by fathering a son and a daughter.
In the Torah portion of Noach, however, "be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth" was said to both Noach and his children. This suggests that adding additional souls after one has fulfilled the commandment also falls within the parameters of being fruitful and multiplying; it is considered as if the person had "built an entire world."
The above applies not only to physical children, but also to spiritual children, one's Torah disciples, for "whoever teaches his friend's child Torah is considered as if he bore him." And in a more general sense it refers to any Jew that one draws closer to Judaism, to Torah and its commandments.
With regard to bearing spiritual children, there is absolutely no difference between one's youthful years and one's old age. As the Gemara states: "If one studied Torah in his youth, he should study Torah in his old age; if he had disciples in his youth, he should have disciples in his old age, for the verse states: ['In the morning sow your seed], and do not withhold your hand in the evening.' "
Thus, just as the obligation of personal Torah study extends to one's later years, so too with regard to the positive commandment of teaching Torah.
After a person has toiled to affect others during his youth and middle years, he may think that, having reached old age, he can rest from his labors. The verse therefore tells us "do not withhold your hand in the evening." For every beneficial effect that one has on the spirit of a fellow Jew "builds worlds."
On a deeper level, the explanation is as follows. The ultimate purpose of creation is to transform this world into a dwelling place for G-d. This is the inner meaning of the phrase "building a world." Left to its own devices, the world tends to conceal G-dliness. A "new world" must therefore be built, one that reveals rather than conceals G-dliness.
This change within the world is brought about through a change within the Jewish people: As long as there are Jews whose Judaism is in a state of concealment, i.e., whose actions do not reflect the fact that they are descendants of the Patriarchs and Matriarchs, then the G-dliness that pervades the world is also in a state of concealment.
By striving to reveal each and every Jew's connection to G-d, Torah and mitzvos, it is considered as if one "built an entire world."
Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXX, pp. 24-30.
- (Back to text) Hilchos Ishus 15:16.
- (Back to text) See Samag, beginning of Positive Command 49, and at length in the commentaries on the Samag.
- (Back to text) See Rashi, Bereishis 9:7; Ramban, Ra'am, et al., ibid.
- (Back to text) Sanhedrin 19b; Rashi on Bamidbar 3:1.
- (Back to text) Yevamos 62b.
- (Back to text) Koheles 11:6.
- (Back to text) Rambam, Hilchos Talmud Torah 1:8; Tur and Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh Deah beginning of ch. 260; Shulchan Aruch Admur HaZakein, Orach Chayim, beginning of ch. 155. See also his Hilchos Talmud Torah 3:4.
- (Back to text) See Rambam, beginning of Hilchos Talmud Torah; Hilchos Talmud Torah LeAdmur HaZakein, 1:8.
- (Back to text) Tanchuma, Naso 16; Tanya beginning of ch. 36.