“Moshe Min HaTorah Menayin? – Where in the Torah is the source of Moshe Rabbeinu?’
” [VaYomer Hashem, Lo Yadin Ruchi BaAdam L’Olam] B’SheGam Hu Basar, [V’HaYu Yamav Me’ah V’Esrim Shanah]’ – ‘[And Hashem said, this evil generation will not be maintained forever], for they are flesh, [they will be granted an extension of one hundred and twenty years]’. (Breishis 6:3)” (Chulin 139b)
Does the Gemara truly need to search for the first mention of Moshe Rabbeinu? Are we unaware of his place in the Torah?
“B’SheGam” is an allusion to the name of Moshe, the words being equal in their numerical value. It is not the mere hint of his name that is important, but rather, it is the context in which Moshe Rabbeinu first appears that teaches us the eternal nature of his Divine role.
The Talmud is seeking for the source of the particular character trait that defines the essence of Moshe Rabbeinu. As his name suggests, Moshe has the power to draw mankind away from the water. The daughter of Phaaroh recognizes this, and she names him Moshe – “Ki Min HaMayim MeShisihu” (Shmos 2:10). Not ‘Moshui’, drawn from the water, in past tense, but ‘Moshe’, the spiritual force that salvages the world from the depths of destruction. It is this force that defers the flood for one hundred and twenty years. It is this very period – in other words: the one hundred and twenty year lifespan of Moshe Rabbeinu – that prevents ruin.
Indeed, Moshe’s entire life is defined by his confrontation with the waters of the earth. It is he who takes the Bnei Yisrael across the sea on dry land, staying the mighty waters with one wave of his staff. And only Moshe Rabbeinu can draw water from solid rock, quenching the thirst of the Jewish people in the dry and arid desert.
In our shiur this week we will explain this idea, and demonstrate the connection between Moshe Rabbeinu, the small but mighty ark, and the Mabul that threatens to flood the world.
It is well known that Heavenly punishments are ‘Midah K’Neged Midah’ – meted out measure for measure, and hence, the ‘Mabul’ that destroyed the earth must find its parallel in the sins of that generation.
Our Sages speak of the particular sin of the Dor HaMabul, illustrating why the great flood was a most fitting punishment for their crime.
“Said Rebbi Yochanan ben Zakkai: They corrupted the ‘Tzurah’ (form) which is created in forty days, therefore [the world was flooded] for ‘forty days and forty nights’ ”
“Said Rebbi Yosi ben Durmaskas: They sinned with the ‘Galgal HaAyin’ (eyeball) which is comparable to water, so too, G-d took retribution with water”
“Said Rebbi Levi: They corrupted the ways of nature [by practicing adultery, homosexuality, and bestiality], Hashem too, changed the natural order. The normal order is for rain first, and then the Tehom (waters of the depths) rises…but here, ‘Nivke’u Kol Ma’ayanos Tehom Rabbah’ – ‘the springs of the great Tehom burst open’ (Breishis 7:11), and only afterwards, ‘V’Arubos HaShamayim Niftechu’ – ‘the windows of heaven opened’. ” (Breishis Rabbah 32)
These Midrashim all lead to the same conclusion: the great sin of the Dor HaMabul was in their pursuit of physical pleasure, and their total submersion in a world of Ta’avah. They sinned with their eyes, despite the Torah’s admonition not to follow appearances.
It is this characteristic, the reckless chase to satisfy desire, that brings a flood in its wake.
Let us explain.
At the onset of creation, the world was made up of two separate elements: Chomer and Tzurah.
“V’Ha’Aretz Haysa Tohu VaVohu….” (Breishis 1:2)
“Hashem…..brought forth from absolute nothingness a very subtle element, without substance, but a creative element ready to take form and become actualized. This was the original ‘Chomer’, referred to by the Greeks as ‘Hiyuli’….in Lashon HaKodesh it is called ‘Tohu’…for if man would attempt to define it by name, he would have to retract and refer it to it differently.” (Ramban, loc. cit.)
Chomer is pure materialistic matter, devoid of shape, form, or substance. It is unrecognizable and it cannot be defined, leading one to wonder as to its true character. This is the ‘Tohu’ that leaves man confused and dissatisfied.
Tzurah, on the other hand, is the defining core of existence. It has no physical characteristics, and its essence cannot be grasped, but yet, its impact is felt in every area of life. It is meaning and purpose that gives substance to an empty physical world.
These two elements find their human expression as well.
The classic Ba’al Ta’avah is a man who is relentlessly driven to satisfy every physical urge or whim. Since today’s craving often is discarded as tomorrow’s leftovers, he flits back and forth from one vain fantasy to the next, pursuing the endless chase for excitement and adventure.
He lives for the moment, one day at a time.
But he stands for nothing. No goal and no purpose, totally undefined.
In an ideological sense as well, the man of Chomer believes in nothing too strongly, and he is easily dissuaded of his loosely held convictions. He has no true anchor or ballast, and his opinions ebb and flow together with every passing fancy.
Just like water.
As a man with no clear identity, who shapes himself by the values of the surrounding culture, water too, is an element with no form of its own, automatically adjusting itself to fit the form of its container.
Despite this, a relentless torrent of water is not easily accommodated. Heavy flooding overcomes all boundaries, dissolving all form, obliterating all substance, and leaving in its wake one fluid mass.
Hence, the incessant pleasure chase of the Dor HaMabul brings a great flood in its wake, obliterating mankind, and destroying a world whose purpose was denied.
It is precisely what they deserve, ‘Midah K’Neged Midah’.
In Lashon HaKodesh there is no singular form for water. ‘Mayim’ is always plural, indicative of its unique nature. Unlike solid forms, drops of water congregate together, uniting as one into a larger body.
Just as the pleasure seekers whose lives they resemble.
Nobody has fun alone. Those who frequent places of entertainment always seek out others rather than venturing out on their own. Why? If a man thirsts for a drink, why travel to the nearest bar? If it’s alcohol that he needs, can he not drink at home?
The answer is this: Ba’alei Ta’avah need others in order to satisfy their own Ta’avos. Only a group can provide the wherewithal for every man to fulfill his friend’s desires, and only there provision is made for the varied pleasures of the flesh. For this reason, nightlife thrives only in the big city. The quiet solitude of a small country town cannot contain the man of Chomer. Bored by the dreary sameness of a contemplative life, he is drawn like water to the seductive world of the modern metropolis, where he finds 101 channels on big-screen HDT. Here, he discovers a new sensation every day, and a different restaurant every night of the week.
Unfortunately for him, he is rooted nowhere. With no direction and no purpose, he yearns only to release the restraints that shackle his desires. Like raging waters, he loses control of his very self, succumbing to the flood that dissolves any semblance of a meaningful and purposeful existence.
“L’Ta’avah Yivakesh Nifrad the search for desire separates” (Mishlei 18:1).
Actually, water only appears to be unified. The connection between each of the droplets is actually quite tenuous, as evidenced by a spill, where the disparate nature of a body of water is suddenly apparent, the liquid quickly dispersing in different directions.
Similarly, such is the case with all Ba’alei Ta’avah. Though they appear to be bonded in a lasting friendship, the slightest friction often reveals the flimsy nature of their relationship.
Perhaps the best example of this is at a professional sports event. With one man racing to the end zone, the outside observer may see seventy thousand people rising as an ocean tide, roaring in approval, united as one in devotion to their team.
But, one who has been inside a stadium, knows the truth to be far different.
What would occur, for example, to the naive individual who innocently turns to the man up ahead, and politely asks: ‘Excuse me, sir, could you sit down, please?’.
If people are truly so overjoyed when their team wins the World Series, why is the National Guard on call to insure that the city won’t be burned to the ground?
Why is every bar’s ‘happy hour’ the scene of violent confrontation?
In light of our description of the Ba’al Ta’avah, the answer to these questions should be clear.
The pleasure seeker’s true concern is himself. The presence of company is only to enhance his own enjoyment, so he dutifully feigns an interest in the welfare of others. But these relationships are all superficial, friends of circumstance whose common interests coincide for the moment. He cannot be trusted, for when the situation changes, he will switch allegiance to pursue an added advantage.
Like water, togetherness in Western society is only an illusion, a comforting salve on the festering emptiness that is modern man’s only true possession.
In a world of purpose and order, the rains fall from heaven, and only then do the waters of this world rise in greeting. “Tehom El Tehom Korei L’Kol Tzinorecha” (Tehillim 42:8), the lower waters of the Tehom call for the rain to descend, yearning for the opportunity to actualize the Divine plan.
Heavenly blessing is bestowed for a reason. A world flowing with bounty can more adequately serve its Creator. But, what if the world and its inhabitants misuse their treasure? What if people line their own pockets, rather than transferring the material benefits that G-d provides towards more worthy causes, for acts of charity and kindness?
They turn the world upside down. Disinterested in the values of Heaven, they give priority to the Mayim Tachtonim, the physical waters of the Tehom that threaten to flood the earth.
This was the Mabul, brought upon itself by a ravenous world. Misusing and abusing the gift that G-d grants to His servants, they breached the floodgates of the surging Tehom.
Klal Yisrael has a different approach.
“What is the Teivah? This is the Aron HaBris….’V’HaKimosi Es Brisi Itach [U’Vasa El HaTeiva]’ – ‘And I will establish My covenant with you, and you will come to the Ark’ ” (Zohar, Parshas Noach)
A world that has corrupted the material basis of its existence has no substance for the present and no basis for the future. Noach, the righteous man, has no place to turn. His Teivah is the lone refuge, protecting those who seek a new creation.
Only one force in life is capable of controlling the waters that threaten to envelop the earth.
“Moshe Min HaTorah Menayin? – What is the source of Moshe Rabbeinu in the Torah?’
” [VaYomer Hashem, Lo Yadin Ruchi BaAdam L’Olam] B’SheGam Hu Basar, [V’HaYu Yamav Me’ah V’Esrim Shanah]’
Moshe Rabbeinu brings the Torah to earth, and he builds the Aron, the ark that protects the Jewish people. The Torah is also likened to water, but when has his priorities in order, these Heavenly waters come first, and they give meaning, purpose, and direction to a physical existence.
Moshe Rabbeinu is the ‘Tzurah’ of the world. His forty days and forty nights above Mount Sinai, like the first forty days of a child’s development, stand in stark contrast to the forty days of rain that dissolved man’s previous and unsustainable form.
He is our last harbor in a world that threatens once again to flood all civilized life.
At a time when friends and neighbors ridicule the tiny ark we have built, let us remember, that as Noach in his time, our own Ark – the Aron HaBris – contains all of creation, or at the very least, all that’s worth saving.
There’s no need to swim.
“MiKolos Mayim Rabim Adirim Mishberei Yam, Adir BaMarom Hashem, Edosecha Ne’emnu Me’od L’Veischa Na’avah Kodesh, Hashem, L’Orech Yamim”
Have a good Shabbos!
JerusalemViews, Copyright (c) 2002 by Rabbi Heshy Grossman and Project Genesis, Inc.