Floating (even) for Dummies

October 17, 2017 at 1:14 AM , , ,

“….Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations….”  (Bereishit 6:9)

״….נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו…״ – בראשית ו,ט

Some of our Sages interpret this in praise of Noach: How much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more righteous. Others interpret it disparagingly: Relative to his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Avraham’s generation, he would not have been regarded as significant.  – Rashi


According to the second opinion brought by Rashi, why does the Torah make a point of telling us that Noach was not objectively righteous (and was only regarded as such in comparison to the people of his time)? The Torah goes to great lengths to avoid even the shame of non-Kosher animals (calling them “not clean” instead of “contaminated”, see Bava Basra 123a)! Is there anything to be learned from the Torah’s emphasis that Noach was less then perfect?

The Baal Shem Tov taught that the Hebrew word for “ark”,teivah, also means, “word”.  And in order to save yourself from the ‘raging floods’ of worry about parnasah, and from preoccupation with materialism,” said the Baal Shem Tov, “you must ‘enter the teivah’, immerse yourself and cleave to the words of Tefilah and Torah.”

One might argue, however, that perhaps this is only effective for the perfectly righteous, like Noach. Even if “entering the teivah” saved Noach, what’s to say that people who are spiritually deficient and imperfect can save themselves from the “raging floods of worry” by immersing themselves in Tefilah and Torah?

To dispel this misconception, the Torah emphasizes that the refuge provided by the “teivah” is not exclusive the perfect and righteous – for if Noach had lived in the generation of Avraham “he wouldn’t have been regarded as anything”. Whether you are actually a Tzadik or not, you too can be saved from the “raging floods” by entering the teivah, immersing yourself energetically in the words of Tefilah and Torah. “And this,” guarantees the Baal Shem Tov, “will protect the person and his entire extended family, enabling them to receive from G‑d all their necessities.”

—Likutei Sichos vol. 5, pp. 279-283


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