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Posted on June 7, 2002 (5760) By Rabbi Pinchas Winston | Series: | Level:

Friday Night:

After seven days, the waters of the Flood came upon the earth. In the six hundredth year of Noach’s life, in the second month (Cheshvan), on the seventeenth day of the month, all the fountains of the depths burst open; the windows of the skies opened up. It rained on the land for forty days and forty nights. (Bereishis 7:10-12)

Today, the Flood remains to be the single most destructive event in the history of the world (talk about weapons of mass destruction!). As the Torah reports, the Flood “erased” every last vestige of life, save for Noach and his family. All the descendants of Kayin disappeared from the face of the earth as a result.

The Talmud states, at least according to one opinion, that the Flood waters did not enter Eretz Yisroel (Zevachim 113b), which is quite a feat, considering no wall existed at the border. Then again, the entire Flood was a miracle, so what’s one more miracle? However, there is a book called, “Mysteries Of The Creation” (Rabbi Dovid Brown) that brings sources to show how each miracle was possible to be achieved without going outside the framework of the “rules” of creation.

The author begins:

“How can water cover the entire world and not pour into Eretz Yisroel? With what we now know (i.e., from the previous discussion), we can readily see that according to Rabbi Yochanan, by the action of boiling magma in the interior of the earth, G-d raised Eretz Yisroel above the surrounding waters. After the mabbul (flood) the magma, and the land, subsided.” (page 101)

Though, we don’t have to explain G-d’s miracles according to the apparent laws of nature, and, according to Kabbalah, we often don’t, still, the author’s thesis is supported by the following midrash:

“If G-d intends to bring a flood of rainwater we don’t have to worry” [said the people to Noach]. “We are so tall that the water couldn’t get beyond our necks. If He plans to bring the water up from the depths of the earth, we will plug the springs with our huge feet.” When the water gushed from the depths, the people did as they said and plugged the springs. Therefore, G-d brought up water from the depths at boiling temperatures and it cooked their flesh and melted their skin. (Pirkei d’Rebi Eliezer, 22)

The author then goes on to posit that earthquakes are a medium of “change” that G-d has often employed throughout history, and therefore, will again employ at the “End-of-Days”:

“… We have here an earthquake splitting mountains and moving earth, all phenomena associated with plate movements. If we have any doubt that the novi (Zecharia 14:1-5) means to predict an earthquake, we can consult Yechezkel (38:18-20) who also foretold that war. He called the enemy leader Gog from the land of Magog far to the north (Targum Yonason: Germania (Germany); Talmud Yerushalmi: Goths; Yovlos 9:8: people north of Black Sea), and specified his allies and the progress of the war … We see from this prophesy not only that the events Zecharia foretells are clearly associated with an earthquake, but also that the effects of this catastrophe will be worldwide … This event is obviously more than the usual earthquake, which is not worldwide and does not bring down mountains. This is, rather, a major movement of the plates comparable only to that in the time of Enosh, the Arabian plate moving eastward, enlarging Eretz Yisroel, and the boiling magma rising and descending, flattening mountains.” (pp. 160-161)

This might explain the mysterious prediction of the Rokeach:

“Two-hundred-and-forty (240) years before the Seventh Millennium (Year 6000), the Lower Waters will rise up and cover the entire world, and only Eretz Yisroel will remain, which will float on the surface of the water like Noach’s ark. They will approach Gan Aiden (Garden of Eden, somewhere in present-day Iraq), the place from which the Four Rivers emanate …” (Gali Razyah, Rokeach, 1160-1237 CE)

Lower Waters cover the world? Eretz Yisroel float like Noach’s ark? What does this mean? In light of “Mysteries of the Creation,” we have a probable explanation.

To prove his point, the author quotes the following midrashim:

At that time, the whole world will quake and the people will wonder, “Is a new mabbul coming on the world?” … (Tanna d’Bei Eliyahu, Chapter 2)

In the future, when G-d will punish Edom, He will shake the entire world just as He did at the time of Mattan Torah (Giving of the Torah). (Sifri, Devarim 33:2)

There is a gorge of disbelief when it comes to prophecies and midrashim from the past about the present and the future. “Of Biblical proportions” once meant “monstrous in size”; in the minds of many modern, technological men, it now also means “mythical.” This opinion regarding the prophecies of the past and interpretation of the present is not based upon fact, but rather, assumption–assumption that the world functions today as it always has, and will.

What about the stories of the Bible and the ancients? Unlearned, inexperienced, and technologically-archaic, they simply didn’t have the wherewithall to put the catastrophes of their times into the proper scientific perspective. However, we do (assumption #2), and therefore, in spite of the fact that we have had four “major” earthquakes of in four different areas we are only curious, and not concerned–despite the warnings from the past, and now, the present.

Then again, they laughed at Noach, too. As I type and re-think all of this, I recall the words of one comedian who, comically portraying Noach’s own disbelief before G-d, answered (on behalf of G-d), “Noach–How long can you tread water?”

Hah! Good line! … I think ….

Shabbos Day:

Noach came in, and his sons, and his wife and … From the pure animals, and from the animals that are not pure … (Bereishis 7:8)

In other words, and the “impure animals” also came onto the ark with the pure animals. However, that is not the way the Torah phrased it, and though Rashi did not comment on this, the Talmud does:

Rebi Yehoshua ben Levi said: A person should always speak in a refined manner, for, the Torah spoke circuitously using eight [extra] letters to avoid speaking improperly, as it says, “And from the animals that are not pure…” (Pesachim 3a)

What the Talmud means is that it takes eight extra (Hebrew) letters to speak about “impure” animals as being animals that “are not pure.” The meaning of each phrase is exactly the same, except that the word “impure” itself is avoided, while the word “pure” is employed. This, according to the Talmud, is called “clean speech,” and even though the Talmud will later praise the teacher who is not flamboyant in speech, still, given the two issues, clean speech wins out.

This may seem like a side issue, an interesting positive character trait learned on the side. However, given that man was created in the image of G-d, and that Onkeles explains that godliness in terms of the power of speech (Bereishis 2:7), it can hardly be considered to be a secondary message. Make no mistake about it: improper speech is a profanation of one’s holy soul, and a primary cause of the Great Flood of 1656 (2005 BCE).

We have addressed the issue of speech before, and its role in the perfection of the person (see, “The Big Picture,” and, “Redemption to Redemption”). Now, we can add an additional element, one that comes from the Arizal himself in “Sha’ar HaGilgulim.” It is here that the Arizal points out that improper use of speech results in the person being reincarnated into a form that cannot speak, what, in Hebrew, is referred to as a “domaim.”

Says the Arizal:

“You should know that one who speaks loshon hara (TRUE derogatory speech about another, or even Eretz Yisroel), or similar, reincarnates as a non-speaking stone …” (Sha’ar HaGilgulim, Hakdamah 22, p. 62)

In fact, Rav Chaim Vital says that he learned from the Arizal that Naval (from King David’s time) had previously been a rock, which had been the tikun (rectification) for Bilaam’ soul, who had tried to VERBALLY curse the Jewish people (Bamidbar 22:2).

What is both fascinating and frightening is that I remember reading some “letters” years ago, passed on to me by the mother of an autistic child here in Jerusalem. It was the first I had heard of “Facilitation Communication,” a controversial process whereby a trained facilitator assists an autistic or brain-damaged individual to point out letters on either an alphabetized card or computer keyboard. These letters form words, and the words form paragraphs, which results in a message.

In other words, the world has discovered that mentally-impaired people are aware of the world around them, though they may be physically incapable of expressing that awareness in clear, verbal form. “Facilitation Communication,” as the process is called, is a way that the “inner consciousness” (or whatever it is) is able to express itself on the outside, or so it seems to those who believe in the process.

The “deniers” do not hold this is the case, and are baffled as to what is exactly going on, offering various different unconfirmed possible explanations for the phenomenon. The most obvious explanation: the facilitator is either consciously or unconsciously “faking” the whole thing.

Since then, I have investigated the procedure more thoroughly, and have addressed it in more detail in “An Even Bigger Picture,” and don’t wish to discuss its validity in this forum. The only point I wish to make is that, in those early letters, consistently, various facilitated children spoke out against loshon hara, claiming that they had returned in this form–unable to speak, the human equivalent of a “domaim”–as a rectification for having spoken loshon hara in their previous lives.

Hmmmmm. Well, you can be sure there are some of us who will simply balk at this and write the whole concept off. Then, there will be some of us who will believe and not believe the message above, and let our skepticism blind us to a warning that is really right there in the Arizal, and, according to the Talmud, in this week’s parshah as well.

And then, there are those of us who simply say, “What difference does it make whether I understand the messenger or not–the message is true in any case, and worth integrating no matter what! If clean, refined, SPIRITUAL speech is so important to the Torah, then who am I to say otherwise?!”

Here, here. Well said.


… Therefore, G-d scattered them from there over the face of the whole earth, and they stopped building the city, which is called “Bavel”, because that is where G-d confounded the language of the whole earth. From there G-d scattered them over the face of the earth. (Bereishis 11:8-9)

As we have discussed previously, all that happens in history over the millennia has its root in the first six days of creation. In other words, all that occurred in the first millennium (from creation) has its cosmic root in the first day of creation; in the second millennium, in the second day of creation, and so on.

If so, then one could ask: What is the “root” of Migdal Bavel (Tower of Bavel)–to build it and the Divine response of dispersion that followed?

To begin with, the tower was built and (Divinely) “dismantled” in the year 1996 from creation (1765 BCE), at the tail-end of the second millennium. Therefore, this event would be rooted in the second day of creation, and to answer our question, we have to look into the Torah and see what happened on that day of creation. The Torah provides this information:

G-d said, “Let there be a sky within the water,” and it will divide between water and water. G-d made the sky, and it separated between the water which was below the sky, and the water which was above the sky; and it was so. G-d called the sky, “Heaven.” There was evening, and there was morning, a second day. (Bereishis 1:6-8)

Fascinatingly, the second day of creation was a day of division, and specifically between Heaven above and the world below. It was such a day of division that, according to the Midrash, G-d didn’t comment and say “good” until Day Three, because division, even for the right reasons, is not an ideal situation.

For example, it is important to separate between Shabbos and the rest of the week. However, ideally, the entire week should be holy and not require such a separation, and won’t after history comes to an end. Nevertheless, for the sake of free-will, there exists, and must exist a difference between Shabbos and the other six days of the week, to require such a separation.

If so, that the Tower of Bavel, and the rebellion against G-d that it represented is rooted in a day of division, then really, it represented the culmination of the direction of man over the entire second millennium. It wasn’t that the Tower just sprang up, at least conceptually. Man had been pulling away from G-d for quite a long time now, and the tower was the crowning achievement of that effort over those generations.

After all, the Flood took place in that millennium as well (1656/2005 BCE). And, as Rashi points out, the word “mabbul” and “bavel” share the same root word, which means to confound, the meaning of “tohu,” the initial void from the first day of creation. You can’t have any better expression of the effects of division than tohu.

This is why unity is so important to creation, and particularly, unity of the Jewish people. Division within that which ought to be unified is a reversal of the purpose of creation, and defies the reason for existence. “Shalom bayis” (peace in the home) is not just a nice idea, it is THE idea and purpose of creation, when implemented on a national scale. “Achdus” (unity) of Klal Yisroel is, should be, the natural result of learning and living Torah.


For the Conductor; with instrumental music … (Tehillim 4:1)

This is the first time in the order of Tehillim that Dovid HaMelech starts off with this introduction, though he will use it often from hereon in.

Who was the “Conductor”?

It is not so clear. According to Rashi, Dovid HaMelech was addressing any of the Leviim, for, the word (lamnatzayach) is derived from another Hebrew word, “nitzachon,” which means “triumph.” Since, Rashi says, Leviim constantly tried to fulfill their responsibilities in the Temple to their best of their ability, Dovid HaMelech gave them this title, mentioning their “victory” over the yetzer hara and resulting zealousness to fulfill the will of G-d.

The Radak, on the other hand, is less philosophical. He maintains that Dovid HaMelech was addressing the person actually was responsible for directing the Leviim, who sang songs and hymns during the actual sacrificing–a normal part of the Temple service.

Then, on the other hand, the Talmud (Pesachim 119a) offers its own interpretation, teaching that Dovid HaMelech was actually referring to G-d Himself. The upshot is that Dovid HaMelech was speaking about how G-d lets righteous people “overcome” Him, with good deeds, prayer, and, as the following story portrays, sound Torah logic coupled with fear of G-d.

In this well-known section of Talmud (Bava Metzia 59b), Rebi Eliezer and Rebi Yehoshua are arguing over a particular law. To prove his point, Rebi Eliezer invokes Heaven, which complies by sending miracles in his favor. Unfazed, the rabbis invoke the well-known principle that “Torah is not in Heaven,” and decide the law in their favor.

After this dazzling legal disagreement, Eliyahu was seen and asked what G-d was doing during all of this down here on earth. Eliyahu answered, “G-d is [happily] saying , ‘My children have defeated Me! My children have defeated Me!”.

Not a simple concept to understand, but a beautiful one, when one understands the deeper meaning of the message, and what it means regarding our gift of free-will. It is not, obviously, an open invitation to distort Torah, but a challenge from Above to help “flesh-out” the Oral Law within its existing Sinaitic framework.

B’ezras Hashem, we will look at more of this tehillah next week.

Have a great Shabbos,
Pinchas Winston