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The Genesis Of Recovery

Did G-d Really Have To Destroy the World?

    Rabbi YY Jacobson

    2066 views
  • October 18, 2012
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  • 2 Cheshvan 5773
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Class Summary:

The Genesis Of Recovery - Did G-d Really Have To Destroy the World?

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in loving memory of a young soul Alta Shula Swerdlov daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov.
And in merit of Yetta Alta shula, "aliya," Schottenstein

Insanity

One of the loveliest stories told by the Chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Breslov goes like this (1):

A king was informed by his chief minister that there had been a blight on the crops that year. They were affected so greatly that anyone eating the grain would become insane. "But," said the minister, "there is no need for us to worry. I have set aside enough grain from last year's harvest for the both of us that will last until the harvest of the following year."

The king shook his head. "No," he said. "I will not allow myself any privileges other than those shared by my subjects.

"We shall eat of the same grain," the king continued, "and we shall both go insane together with the rest of the population. But here is what we shall do. You and I will mark our foreheads with an indelible imprint, so that when we go insane, I will look at you and you will look at me and we will know we are insane."

The path toward healing

Some time ago I encountered a woman. She was particularly kind and compassionate, but I noticed that she never smiled; a steady paleness and gloom seemed to settle across her face all the time.

When I asked her about it, she related to me that when she was three, her father became an alcoholic. He would come home every evening drunk and knock her head against the brick wall in the kitchen.

Her mother would stand nearby silently, covering her eyes with her hands. "When dad would conclude with the beating," the woman related to me, "Mom would tell him, 'Do you have to do it so hard?'"

Recovery is a miracle. In the face of severe physical or mental abuse, for a person to rehabilitate himself and reclaim his lost innocence and zest for life is nothing short of a miracle.

The ability for us to perform this miracle in our lives was sewn into the fabric of our existence as a result of the flood described in this week's Torah portion, which occurred, according to the Jewish tradition, in the year 1656 after creation (2105 BCE).

Why the flood?

"And G-d said to Noach: The end of all flesh has come before me, for the earth is filled with violence; behold, I shall destroy them (2)." Thereafter, a forty-day-long titanic shower descended from heaven and flooded the earth, putting an end to all of its inhabitants.

Growing up in Yeshiva and learning this story each year, I could never comprehend how G-d could actually wipe out an entire world because of its wrongdoings. Even G-d Himself apparently came to the same conclusion after the flood. The Torah relates how following the flood G-d vowed that "I will never again curse the earth because of man; neither will I again smite everything living, as I have done. All days of the earth, the seasons for seed time and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night, shall never cease (3)." What changed?

Also, why from all ways to destroy civilization, did G-d choose the flood?

The workings of addiction

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explained the tragic tale of the flood in this fashion (4):

The world ought to be a spiritual and G-dly place and man ought to be a spiritual, sacred creature. This is their ultimate purpose and destiny. But during the millennium preceding the flood, the human race defined itself exclusively as a beastly and criminal race. Man corrupted himself and his environment so severely that healing was no longer possible. The world turned into an unredeemable hell. Destruction was inevitable, a natural consequence of ten centuries flooded with abuse and evil.

Is this not the tragic consequence of all addiction? After decades of frying your brain day after day with alcohol, drugs or other destructive substances or behaviors, you finally manage to kill the last vestige of your soul and your rationality. At this point, healing is not possible anymore. Your mind loses its last ounce of control over your life and you just watch yourself wither away and die.

During the time of Noach, man and his world did not yet possess the potential for rehabilitation and self-renewal. Why? Because the spirituality and holiness accessible to the world during the pre-flood era was a gift from above and not intrinsic to the very chemistry of humanity. Like a student who grasps all of the profound teachings of his mentor, but lacks the ability to conceive of an original thought, man was a recipient of the light, but did not own the light. Therefore, as long as man was a loyal pupil of G-d, he remained connected to the source of life. Once man rejected G-d, his existence became valueless and purposeless.

The rains of the flood, described in Kabbalah as "a cosmic Mikvah," (5) did not only destroy an unsalvageable world; they also cleansed it and purified it, leaving in their wake a new world with a new nature. The mighty waters that were emitted from heaven impregnated the truths of spirituality and G-dliness into the very fabric of the earth (6). Like a pupil who had been trained by his mentor to think on his own, humanity in the post-flood era absorbed the goodness and harmony of its creator within its very structure. From now on, even if man would alienate himself entirely from his Divine source, he could always recreate himself through the light engraved in the depth of his being.

The flood granted our world the gift and the miracle of recovery. Even in the face of the most horrific abuse, we retain within ourselves a sacred space, an untouchable innocence, from which we can always experience the wonder of rebirth. Though insanity -- in all of its forms -- may pervade our lives, our souls preserve a memory of a sane world, a world filled with innocence, love, and inner security.

1) Rabbi Nachman (1772-1810), a great-grandson of the Baal Shem Tov and one of the most emotionally charged masters in the Chassidic world, would regularly convey his ideas through stories and parables. 2) Noach 6:13. 3) Ibid. 8:21-22. 4) Likkutei Sichos vol. 15 pp. 51-54. 5) Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi writes, that the 40 days of rains that flooded the earth corresponded to the 40 sa'ah of the spiritually cleansing waters of the mikvah (Torah Or Noach p. 8c.). - A Sa'ah is approximately 2.19 U.S. Gallons. Torah law mandates that a Mikvah contain a minimum of 40 sa'ah of water. 6) That's why G-d established the rainbow as a symbol of his covenant to never destroy the earth again (Ibid. 9:8-15). What is a rainbow? When the clear, crystal-like water droplets suspended in the atmosphere refract the light of the sun, they unleash the spectrum of colors contained in the sun's light and a rainbow appears. The pre-flood world lacked the rainbow, because the moisture that had risen from the earth to catch the light of the sun was too coarse a substance to refract the light of the sun. The rainbow attests to the world's new sense of refinement and spirituality in the post-flood era and hence its innate potential for recovery and rebirth (Likkutei Sichos Ibid. Week In Review vol. 10 No 5). My gratitude to Shmuel Levin, a writer and editor based in Pittsburgh, PA for his editorial assistance.

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  • CF

    Celeste Fiddes -2 years ago

    Relevant and inspiring as always. Baruch Hashem 

    Reply to this comment.Flag this comment.

Rabbi YY Jacobson
  • October 18, 2012
  • |
  • 2 Cheshvan 5773
  • |
  • 2066 views
  • Comment

Dedicated by David and Eda Schottenstein in loving memory of a young soul Alta Shula Swerdlov daughter of Rabbi Yossi and Hindel Swerdlov.
And in merit of Yetta Alta shula, "aliya," Schottenstein

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The Genesis Of Recovery - Did G-d Really Have To Destroy the World?

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