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Parshat Noach: Four Heavenly Gifts

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Parshat Noach: Four Heavenly Gifts
Based on a shiur by Rabbi Herschel Reichman - October 8, 2010

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Rav Acha taught that Hashem desired to give the Dor Hamabul four gifts; Torah, yissurim, korbanot, and tefila. They rejected these gifts and they were destroyed. The Dor Hamabul did not even keep the seven Noachide laws. What did Hashem mean by wanting to give this generation the entire Torah?

The Shem Mishmuel explains that the original soul of Adam and Chava contained all the souls of the people who would ever live. This universal soul was meant to produce future generations pure of spirit just like Adam. However, after the sin of the eitz hadaat, a mixture of good and evil was introduced into the world. Hashem intended life to be pure, good, and simple. He did not want life to be rife with conflicting temptations, which it became after the sin. Our mission on this world is to return to the original state of Adam and Chava by purging, or at least subduing, the evil within our souls. This process of rectification is accomplished through the four gifts. Hashem placed great souls with a tremendous capacity for goodness in the generation of the Flood. They could have reached the level of Adam before the sin had they so chosen. However, since they declined the good, evil overwhelmed them to such an extent that Hashem needed to destroy them.

Hashem saved Noach and built mankind anew in another attempt to see if humanity would choose correctly. He gave the next generation, the Dor Haflaga, a powerful ability to build. The entire civilized world united in a major construction project. However, instead of using it for good, they utilized it for wickedness and Hashem dispersed them.

Avraham recognized Hashem, saved the world from another possible destruction, and started the Jewish nation. Hashem intended to experiment with this small group to see if it could purge itself of evil and choose good. Then it would become a light unto the other nations who would follow its example. Indeed, the avot attained greatness, but the strife between Yosef and the tribes aroused Hashem's wrath again. The merits of our Avot precluded our destruction and instead Hashem exiled the Jewish people to the smelting pot of Egypt so that the evil that had grown within them would be replaced by goodness. According to the Ari, the souls of the Dor Hamabul, the Dor Haflaga, and the Dor Mitzrayim were all the same souls. Each time, Hashem thought they would accept the Torah, but after failing to choose good their souls were recycled. The Dor Mitzrayim finally received the Torah at Sinai and the Jewish nation was born.

Chassidut teaches that the human soul consists of four levels, guf, the biological soul; nefesh, the emotional soul; sechel, the intellectual soul; and tzelem Elokim, the spiritual soul, which combines all four aspects. The four gifts correspond to these four levels. Torah is sechel, an intellectual entity, yissurim relate to the guf, korbanot, an emotional experience, refer to the nefesh, and tefila is tzelem Elokim.

Tefila comes from the root word Naftali, meaning connection. Prayer is a means of binding our spiritual selves with Hashem. It serves as a unifying process, by subduing our biological and emotional drives in service of Hashem. Every part of our being is involved in prayer. Our bodies sway, our souls sing in rapture, and our minds contemplate the greatness of the Almighty.

The Dor Hamabul rejected these four gifts. They sinned with their sechel by worshipping idols, they corrupted their nefesh with promiscuity, they destroyed their guf by spilling innocent blood, and they violated other people's tzelem Elokim with chamas. Hashem implanted tremendous potential for greatness within the Dor Hamabul. However, because they rejected the good, evil inevitably rushed in. There is no room for mediocrity in Judaism. When Hashem grants a person opportunity, he must choose good, otherwise evil will overwhelm him. Let us tap into our latent powers, rise and meet our challenges, and accomplish what we are meant to do on this world, so that we can eventually reach the pure state of Adam before the sin.

About the Author: Rabbi Herschel Reichman
A veteran student of Rabbi Yosef Dov Halevi Soloveitchik, Rabbi Hershel Reichman has been a Rosh Yeshiva at Yeshiva University for over thirty years. In addition to directing and inspiring hundreds of students in his Talmud class, he has also written five books, entitled Reshimos Shiurim, based on the notes of the Talmud classes of Rabbi Soloveitchik. Additionally, Rabbi Herschel Reichman is a teacher of Hasidism, and is particularly fond of the philosophy of the Shem Mishmuel. He is known for his love of Israel and political activism on its behalf.

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