This D’var Torah is in Z’chus L’Ilui Nishmas my sister Kayla Rus Bas Bunim Tuvia A”H, my maternal grandfather Dovid Tzvi Ben Yosef Yochanan A”H, my paternal grandfather Moshe Ben Yosef A”H, uncle Reuven Nachum Ben Moshe & my great aunt Rivkah Sorah Bas Zev Yehuda HaKohein.
It should also be in Zechus L’Refuah Shileimah for:
-My father Bunim Tuvia Ben Channa Freidel
-My grandmothers Channah Freidel Bas Sarah, and Shulamis Bas Etta
-MY BROTHER: MENACHEM MENDEL SHLOMO BEN CHAYA ROCHEL
-HaRav Gedalia Dov Ben Perel
-Mordechai Shlomo Ben Sarah Tili
-Noam Shmuel Ben Simcha
-Chaya Rochel Ettel Bas Shulamis
-Nechama Hinda Bas Tzirel Leah
-And all of the Cholei Yisrael, especially those suffering from COVID-19.
-It should also be a Z’chus for an Aliyah of the holy Neshamos of Dovid Avraham Ben Chiya Kehas—R’ Dovid Winiarz ZT”L, Miriam Liba Bas Aharon—Rebbetzin Weiss A”H, as well as the Neshamos of those whose lives were taken in terror attacks (Hashem Yikom Damam), and a Z’chus for success for Tzaha”l as well as the rest of Am Yisrael, in Eretz Yisrael and in the Galus.
נֹחַ ● Noach
“Hashem’s Beautiful World”
Many of the Torah narratives are challenging to relate to for the plain reason that they revolve around a seemingly fantastical “character” and plot rules with which we do not identify. That character is G-d and the plot rules include supernatural miracles. One has to accept at least the concepts of G-d and open miracles to appreciate the Biblical narrative. This is mostly true for Sefer Bereishis and Sefer Shemos, and most notably in the narratives of the Flood and the Exodus.
Now, as Torah Jews, we don’t only “appreciate” the narrative. We absolutely believe in the divine authenticity of these stories, no less in the existence of the Divine Author Who transmitted them to us. We do not only accept, but we act and live based on the reality that G-d, once upon a time, communicated directly with mankind and performed supernatural wonders.
But, this unwavering faith and acceptance reasonably makes us wonder why we don’t see the G-d Who “appears” in these narratives, and why “our world” does not seem to be governed by the same rules by which the “Biblical world” is governed.
Galus & Hester Panim
One of the classical explanations for this challenge involves the concept of “Galus” or Exile, as well as the concept of “Yeridus HaDoros” or “Katnus HaDoros,” which refer to the spiritual descent of the generations and the lack of spiritual sophistication that we have as a result. G-d gave us fair warning [in Devarim 31-32] that our sins would result in a “Galus” marked by “Hester Panim,” literally, a hiding of the Divine Presence. Thus, despite all of the technological advances and scientific discoveries, every subsequent generation of exile experiences a spiritual numbing which only results in less faith, and in turn, less divine intervention.
Two Generations, Two Interventions
While the above may partially explain why G-d is eclipsed in “our world,” none of this could explain G-d’s incredible intervention in the Dor HaMabul (Generation of the Flood) and the Dor HaFlagah (Generation of the Dispersion) [Bereishis 6-11].
Indeed, the Dor HaMabul was perhaps the most spiritually debased generation in history. The entire culture was marked by rape and robbery. And yet, G-d spared no miracles to intervene, flooding the entire world and sparing at least two of each of the tens of thousands of creatures in the entire animal kingdom on a boat whose capacity couldn’t possibly accommodate them naturally.
And similarly, although the sin of the Dor HaFlagah is more obscure in nature, G-d saw it crucial to interrupt their efforts by creating a language barrier and spreading the entire human population abroad.
In these earlier, “Biblical” generations, G-d didn’t only intervene, but He spoke to mankind, from Adam to Noach, giving instructions and revealing His intentions. He even spoke to Kayin, the world’s first murderer. And although generation by generation, G-d would limit His communication with mankind by speaking only to prophets, at scattered points, the entire nation would witness miracles despite their own immersion in idolatry and immorality.
Clearly, the spiritual state of mankind is not the only factor that determines the degree to which G-d is willing to directly intervene in the affairs of mankind. Although our spiritual descent may have contributed to the Hester Panim we experience, it seems almost as if it, by design, open miracles and prophecy lessened. If true, why would G-d have designed it as such? What in fact is the design that determines the extent to which G-d expresses Himself outwardly in our world? Is there perhaps an ideal which sees less miracles and not more?
To answer this question, we have to understand why Hashem created miracles in the first place. Originally, Hashem created “Sidrei Bereishis” [Shabbos 53B] or natural order, presumably because He intended for there to be a certain sense of consistency, a set of rules. The void of His unadulterated Presence seems to have been built into the system. Miracles are exceptions to the Sidrei Bereishis.
Ensuring “Sidrei Bereishis” – G-d’s Seal
That doesn’t mean that there aren’t exceptional times which call for exceptional measures. Whenever G-d saw it necessary and appropriate, He performed a miracle. And whenever the miracle could be minimized, it would be. Ramban explains that it was precisely for this reason that Hashem instructed Noach to build a massive Ark despite the fact that it would never naturally fit all of the animals.
In is perhaps in this vein that, wherever it was necessary, He spoke to man to issue instructions and reveal His intentions. Without this exceptional mode of communication, Adam would have never known G-d’s will in Gan Eden. Noach could not have built a Teivah. Avraham would have never ventured toward Eretz Yisrael. Israel would have never emerged from Egyptian bondage. We would not have been able to accept the Torah and its precepts; we, as a nation, would have never known G-d’s will.
Clearly, there is a place for this “Divine communication,” and in the right context, it is a beautiful, cherished, seal on Creation, in support of the purest ideal. Of course, G-d didn’t intend that we should live in a completely G-d forsaken world.
But even so, G-d uses miracles sparingly. That is because, at the end of the day, G-d’s original design for the Creation was in accordance with Sidrei Bereishis. What we call “natural order,” is really just G-d’s world as He intended it. It is G-d’s brilliant masterpiece, filled with natural beauty, nuance, and with only a modest, hidden Presence if any. Any miracles are really just meant to ensure the needs of Creation. That is precisely what Ramban meant when he famously taught that Hashem performs open miracles, it is just to remind us that He is behind the “natural miracles” of Creation.
Disturbing “Sidrei Bereishis” – Desperate Measures
But, in that same vein, although G-d could have left man to his own schemes, He interrupted the affairs of the Dor HaMabul and the Dor HaFlagah, because He felt it necessary. The entire Creation had to be disturbed or even wholly undone. Miracles occurred, however they were not to man’s credit, but to his utter discredit. The world was just that bad. The need was that great. Under these circumstances, G-d is not happy to intervene, but He simply must do so. Under these circumstances, His intervention is not a fancy signature on Creation, but a desperate appearance in a corrupt and otherwise G-d forsaken world.
Hashem’s Beautiful World
In Parshas Bereishis, Hashem created a pristine world, but before we could even hit Parshas Noach, we can already hardly recognize the beauty of Hashem’s handiwork, the Sidrei Bereishis as Hashem originally designed it. For the sake of Creation, Creation needed to be undone. Intervention was necessary. And until man would get it together, recognize Hashem and His will, intervention would be in order. Little by little, for better or for seeming worse, sometimes for both, Hashem would fade into background.
Now, although we yearn for Hashem’s direct involvement and pine to feel His unadulterated Presence, and we should, do we ever stop to appreciate the natural beauty of Sidrei Bereishis, the world as He created it? Do we value the natural gifts Hashem has granted us in this world? Or do we only love Hashem for His miracles? Are we grateful for the hidden, modest, day-to-day tasks that Hashem does for us or are we only in this relationship for the “supernatural intimacy”? Hashem created a beautiful, natural world for us. In Parshas Noach, He fought for that world.
May we all be Zocheh to recognize and appreciate the beauty of all of Hashem’s wonders, natural and supernatural, and Hashem should perform both for us in the ultimate fashion with the coming of the Geulah in the times of Moshiach, Bimheirah BiYomeinu! Have a Great Shabbos!
-Yehoshua Shmuel Eisenberg 🙂