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Home » Noach

Noach: Heaven and Earth

Submitted by on October 2, 2005 – 12:36 amNo Comment | 2,841 views

Regret and Comfort

G-d created man and then placed him on earth. But when man rebelled against morality G-d had second thoughts and brought about the flood. In describing these second thoughts the Torah uses the word “Vayinachem”, a Hebrew word that has two meanings, (a) he regretted, (b) he was comforted.

Man in Heaven

Indeed, the Midrash suggests two interpretations. (a) G-d regretted having placed man on earth for had he placed him in heaven man would have never rebelled. (b) G-d was comforted that he had placed man on earth for had he placed man in heaven he would have incited the hosts of heaven to rebellion.

What are the theories behind these two positions and why would one assume that man would rebel against G-d even if he were in heaven?

Discipline versus Inspiration

There are two ways in which we can be figuratively placed in heaven. (a) We can be endowed with an esoteric consciousness so that ethereal concepts of the Divine become our reality. (b) G-d can release the evil impulse from within us and free us from the shackles of earthly urges and temptations.

A man drawn to temporal pleasures will remain shackled to earth even if he is endowed with an expanded consciousness. But if he frees himself from earthly temptations, through refining his spiritual character to the point that the material holds no attraction for him, he would soar to the heavens even without an expanded consciousness. In simple terms, complete devotion requires character refinement and emotive discipline; transcendental experiences and intellectual perception are simply not enough.

I would argue that in the first interpretation the Midrash speaks of placing man in heaven by releasing him from his evil impulse. Indeed, in this manner man would not have rebelled against G-d. In the second interpretation the Midrash speaks of placing man in heaven by endowing him with an expanded consciousness. It is once again correct to conclude that this, in and of itself, is not sufficient to ensure man's loyalty to G-d.

Point of Reflection

Interest in G-d is commensurate with disinterest in worldly delights. Love for the spiritual is measured by lack of love for the material. While it is possible to achieve a measure of balance one can never be completely devoted to both. We must learn to suspend our attraction to physical pleasures if we hope to feel truly fulfilled through spiritual ones.

Reb Levi Yitzchak of Bardichev was known to have made the following complaint to G-d: “You placed the world before our eyes and hid yourself in a book, and you expected us to find you? Had you reversed the order it would have been much easier!”

Indeed, it is up to us to reverse the order.