This week’s Torah reading relates how the Creator of the universe drowned the entire human, animal and bird population of the world (save a few that got into the ark) because they got Him angry.
Perhaps the strangest true story ever told!
But even stranger is the fact that it’s in the Jewish Bible although it contains no Jewish messages, no commandments and no Jews (The first Jew, Abraham, was born three hundred years after the flood) is very negative (why did G-d kill the animals and birds?) and very long!
Seemingly it would have sufficed to give a line or two about the flood at the end of the previous Torah portion that deals with pre-Jewish history. Why a complete section in such great detail?
On the face of things, all this is unnecessary.
But according to the mystical book called the Zohar (a basic work of Jewish Mysticism) and other ‘Midrashim’ this could be the most important story in the Bible! In its almost every detail there are secret references to Moshiach and the future redemption (The most important topic in Judaism); perhaps more than anywhere else in the Torah.
For instance: Noah’s name (which means comfort) being repeated twice in the first sentence hints at how it will be in the days of Moshiach.
The flood itself is reminiscent of how the Moshiach will flood the world with the awareness of G-d.
The peace between the animals in Noah’s Ark is a foretaste of the redemption when the wolf will lie with the lamb.
The Dove that Noah sent out, the rainbow that appeared after the flood, the new covenant G-d made not to destroy the world, the new world that Noah established…. all hint at the same thing; Moshiach.
But at first glance this is also not understood.
It is a basic principle of the Torah that the redemption depends solely on the Jewish people and the Moshiach himself must be Jewish. So why do all these hints at redemption appear in a Torah portion that is so non-Jewish?
Here is a story that might help us to understand.
Rabbi Benyamin Klein was one of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s personal secretaries and had many fascinating stories to tell. Here is one of them.
A well-known Jewish lecturer-professor (the person who told me the story did not remember his name) was very dedicated to the Lubavitcher Rebbe.
He had had several private audiences with the Rebbe over the course of several years and was accustomed to visit the Rebbe’s grave (called the ‘Ohel’) in the Montifiori Cemetery every time he was in New York.
He related that on one of his trips to New York to give a lecture to a group (It seems that he lived in Europe) they sent a driver to take him from and back to the airport. After the lecture he told the driver that on the way back to the airport he wanted to stop and wait at the ‘Ohel’ for just five or ten minutes to pray at the place of the Rebbe.
The driver became interested and began asking questions. As it turns out the driver was Jewish. He admitted that he didn’t really know what that meant; he had never in his life done anything Jewish, but nevertheless he was sure that both he and his wife were Jews and their parents before them were Jews and he wanted to go to the Ohel as well.
He parked the car, asked the Professor if he could get him a ticket to enter and when he heard that it was open 24 hours a day to everyone, for free, he asked the professor for a Yarmulke and together they entered the cemetery and then to the grave.
As soon as they were standing there the taxi-driver closed his eyes for a moment and then burst into uncontrollable weeping. His body was shaking as he held his face in his hands and cried aloud like a child.
The professor managed to ignore the sobbing and pray and when he finished, he tapped the driver on the shoulder and they both returned to the taxi.
The driver blew his nose, wiped his eyes and started the car. “What was that?” asked the professor. “What happened? What is wrong? Why were you weeping.”
“My dog!” He was barely able to say it. “Our dog, Freddy is having an operation!” his eyes were all red and puffy and he began crying again.
“Your what?” asked the professor incredulously. “Your DOG?! Are you kidding?!” he said, covering his mouth to hide his smile while staring at the driver to see if he was serious. “Are you serious? I don’t believe it!!”
‘Yes” he replied sadly as he started driving. “He’s all we have! My wife and I wanted children but the doctors said that it’s impossible, so we adopted a dog. Such a special, wonderful dog! He is everything to us.
But last week he had a stroke!” He was in tears again. “And the vet said that there’s no chance he will ever be well. Best he can do is try an operation, and he has doubts if even that will work. The operation is tomorrow and me and my wife are going crazy! That’s what I prayed for; that the operation would succeed.”
The professor was trying to empathize but he wasn’t doing a good job, especially when he said, “Listen my friend, you can always buy another dog” the driver began whimpering so heavily he had to pull over to the side of the road and stop.
When they arrived at the airport the professor gave the driver a nice tip together with his calling card and said. “Listen, please excuse me if I said anything wrong. I’m interested to know what happens to your dog. Here is my number. Call me collect after the operation” and wished him the best. The driver thanked him for everything and they parted.
But a month passed and then another without a call and the entire incident was forgotten – almost.
One year later the professor received a collect call from New York and not recognizing the caller’s name, didn’t accept. But after the same person called five times he decided to accept the charges.
It was the taxi driver.
“Hello professor. How are you?”
“Thank G-d, fine my friend. It’s been a long time. Sorry I didn’t accept charges, I forgot you completely. Tell me how was your dog’s operation?”
“Thank G-d, Thank G-d. It was a miracle!! A real miracle. In fact, our Freddy came out healthier than ever!! You should see him!! You have no idea how grateful we are to you and the Rebbe. Even the doctor said it was a miracle!!”
“Well, that is really good news. I’m so happy for you.” Said the professor. “But why did you wait so long to call me? Why didn’t you call and tell me immediately?”
“Well,” the driver answered. “I saw back then that you really didn’t understand about my dog so I didn’t want to waste your money or your time. I figured that I had bothered you enough.”
“Too bad” replied the professor. “I certainly would have liked to have heard the good news back then and I’m happy to hear it now” He hesitated a second and continued. “But, tell me, if you didn’t call back then ….. then why are you calling now? A year later?”
The driver answered. “Ahh, that’s the point.
“See, after Freddy got better my wife and I were so happy that we went back to the ‘Ohel’ to say thanks. We asked one of the young men there what to do to show our gratitude. He said that what the Rebbe wants is for every Jew to do commandments and he suggested that we take on at least one commandment for a start.
“So we all talked it over and finally we decided that I would put on Tefillin every day and my wife said she would keep family purity, you know, going to the Mikva and all that, and the young Chassid said he would arrange for people to come and teach us what to do.
“So that’s why I’m calling you. See, after we started doing all this, keeping the Tefilin and Mikveh and everything, well…. my wife got pregnant! And, well, you won’t believe it but we had a baby boy!!
And that is why I’m calling. Maybe you don’t understand dogs but I knew you would appreciate this! Today was the Bris of our son!! Thanks to you and the Rebbe!!!
Rabbi Klein finished the story by saying that the taxi-driver and his wife became completely observant Jews.
With this we can answer our questions about the importance of the flood and its connection to Moshiach and the future redemption.
As we see from our dog story, G-d loves all His Creations. That’s why He commanded Noach to save the animals by taking them into the ark despite the fact that the entire creation had been contaminated.
The world was created to demonstrate G-d’s goodness and love; He creates everything constantly for free!!! But when man perverted it for selfish pleasures (water symbolizes pleasure) the only way to purify it was with water…. A lot of water.
So, the flood waters were not a punishment but rather a purification; The Zohar says the 40 days of rain correspond to the 40 units (Sah) of the Mikveh.
So if G-d cares for the animals how much more so He loves all humanity.
That is what the Torah is teaching us; the world is in our hands. Because we are after the flood, we should inform everyone we can, especially non-Jews, about this love.
Indeed, the very fact that all non-Jews are called “Bnei Noah” literally the offspring of Noah shows they have the power to not only achieve the same level of righteousness as Noach but also to create a new world as he did.
And the Torah give them this power in the form of the Seven Commandments of Bnei Noah. (See addition at the end of this essay).
It is a commandment for the Jews to bring all the gentiles to observe these commandments (Rambam, Hil Melachim 8:10). But nevertheless, never in the history of the world has it yet occurred, even in the days of King Solomon,
Only the Moshiach will succeed in doing it (ibid 11:4)
That is why the Zohar finds so many connections between Noach and Moshiach. Because only Moshiach will cause ALL humanity to connect to the Creator who is creating them.
And now is the time!! Till now it was dangerous to teach a non-Jew these Noahide Commandments but now not only do they want to learn – they will be disappointed if we withhold this from them. (Lubavitcher Rebbe, Purim 5747).
That is the message of this week’s portion: we have the power to make a new, good, meaningful, blessed (Zephaniah 3:9) and not much is lacking. Today it could be that just one more good deed, word or even thought can tip the scales and bring….
Rabbi Tuvia Bolton Yeshiva Ohr Tmimim Kfar Chabad, Israel