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Weekly Thought - By Rabbi Shimon Raichik - Noach

Thursday, 7 October, 2010 - 3:25 am

This week’s parsha relates the story of how Noach built the teiva, the flood, and how the world was saved. How does this story which occurred so long ago, relate to our lives today thousands of years later? The Alter Rebbe in Torah Ohr explains that the raging waters symbolize the challenges of making a livelihood (tirdos haparnassa). Making a living is a flood of demands which require our attention day and night. This is not a punishment for all that needs rectification in our lives, for that could occur in an instant, not over a prolonged period of time. This flood, the Alter Rebbe explains is more analogous to the purifying waters of the Mikveh. Noach returned to a whole new and pure world after the flood. Similarly, we find this in our lives as well. The challenges of parnassa are not intended to break us (chas v’shalom), rather to awaken a sense of bitul to Hashem within our neshama. When we realize and accept that Hashem is behind everything and guiding every aspect of our lives, and creation in general, we can “float” calmly over the ups and downs of life’s daily vicissitudes. In order to float, we need to build a teiva.
What is our teiva? The Baal Shem Tov explains that our teiva are the teivos; letters and words of the Torah and Tefilla. Go into the davening and bring light, the awareness that Hashem is “michadesh b’tuvo b’kol yom maaseh breishis”; “Hashem in His infinite goodness constantly renews the entire work of creation. When we have difficulties in life we realize that Hashem is in control, He’s ‘running the ship’! This realization gives us the ability to ‘float’ and not be affected by the external environment. We do not infuse just ourselves, but our entire family and home as well. A home surrounded and infused with the warmth of the Torah and Chassidishkeit saves us from the raging waters of all types of worldly concern.
On the 27th of Marcheshvan Hashem commanded Noach “tzei min hateiva”; “leave the teiva” Why did Noach need a commandment? In his circumstances, having spent so long with all the animals and responsibilities, one would think that at the very first opportunity he would have packed his bags and run for his life!
The Rebbe explains that there was a unique condition, a special atmosphere, within the teiva which was similar to that which will be when Moshiach comes. Inside the teiva there were many small rooms housing all the animals, but the atmosphere was calm. The wolf and the sheep were living together in peace like in the times of Moshiach. Noach didn’t want to leave. Why should he want to return to the world he escaped? A world filled with endless challenges. For this reason Hashem made a specific command “tzei min hateiva”! The reason is because Hashem did not save Noach to remain locked up in his own holy and blissful world removed from all else. Hashem wanted Noach to go out of the teiva and rebuild the world and thereby fulfill the purpose of creation.
What additional practice can we learn from Noach entering and leaving the teiva in our service of Hashem? There are times that we feel ‘flooded’, like we are sinking. The best thing to do is to go into a shul and daven. It will protect you and enable you to float back to the top, to make a truly warm Chassidishe home. It begins with Modei Ani, a recognition that the Aibishter is King and we are under His supervision. All of this enriches and edifies our lives, to the point that we are able to “tzei min ha teiva”. We are able to go out into the world and make it a place for Hashem. We have the strength to look into our surroundings and see another person who needs our help and help them.
Once, a person came to the Maggid for advice. He told the Maggid that his mind is flooded, and that it is to the point that he cannot control his thoughts. The Maggid sent him to one of his talmidim. When he arrived the gates were locked. He looked around the house, and saw a light. He knocked and knocked but there was no answer. With no other alternative he bundled himself in what he had and slept in a corner somewhere. The next morning when the owner left for shul he almost tripped over him. Looking upon him and seeing him half frozen he brought him inside his home which was very warm. He placed him by the fire, rubbed him down and gave him a hot tea. Then he placed more logs on the fire, closed the all the shutters and windows firmly then left to go daven. As much as this visitor appreciated the hospitality, still, he was upset about his previous night’s experience. After about a week he told his host that the Maggid sent him to learn how to control his thoughts. Spontaneously his host replied; “I taught you that the first night you arrived”. The guest, no longer able to control his emotion retorted “What do you mean? You terribly mistreated me; I could have frozen to death!” The Host said; “I taught you an important lesson; that you always have the control to keep out whomever you want, it’s up to you and you alone”. Then the guest asked; “When you left for shul, the house was already warm, why did you add even more wood to the fire”. He answered; “It is my responsibility to keep this house warm always, even in my absence.” “But why did you need to be so careful to secure the windows and shutters” the guest asked. He replied; “To protect this home from fleas and insects searching for water from entering through the small cracks and crevices that can bother and eventually erode the quality of this house”. These details also relate to our responsibilities toward our homes. We need to keep out any negative influences from entering in the first place. That is within our power to do and we have the choice. We not only need to effuse our homes with true Chassidishe warmth, but we need to do so to such an extent that even when we are not physically there, that warmth is felt throughout the house. Even when it is difficult, and little things, like fleas, try to get through in the form of small compromises and relaxing of our sensibilities, we need to always remember that proper chinuch includes ‘shuttering ourselves’ even in times of spiritual drought so as not to compromise the integrity of our homes. Then we can “tzei min hateiva” leave our homes with confidence, and embark on the journey of ‘Yaakov halach l’darcho’. Let us take strength from the lessons of parshas Noach to overcome all challenges and build and maintain our homes and transform the world around us, thereby fulfilling the purpose of creation by making them a dwelling place for Hashem’s presence.
(Adapted from Likutei Sichos)

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