Float on the flood

Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh, | updated: 20:11

Judaism Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
צילום: Gal Einai
Do you still remember the holidays? We’ve returned to our routine, inundated by the flood of daily worries – crises, waves, whirlpools – or just plain irritating drips. What does God want from us? How do we keep our heads above water?

A Torah portion in which we read about the Flood perfectly fits our occupation with the tribulations and difficulties of this world, which Chassidut compares to “gushing waters” or even “malicious waters”. Life’s routine demands overwhelm us from every side. They follow on each other’s heels, pressure us, irritate us and threaten to drown our peace of mind in an endless stream of tasks that make us forget what it is we are doing here on this earth in the first place. The urgent postpones the important, the demands of routine make us forget our fleeting spiritual ascents and our endless running from task to task obliterates any possible moment of mindfulness.

Why did God put us in a world like this?

The Flood was not only a punishment. It was also a cleansing action for the entire world. And so, with the right approach, we can sense the purifying dimension in the flood of life. The gushing waters force us to emerge from ourselves, our egocentric worldview and the illusion that the world runs according to our own plans.

In order to successfully emerge from the flood of tasks, to become purified and not, God forbid, to drown, we must enter the ark. In Hebrew, the word for ‘ark’ is ‘teivah’, which also means ‘word’. The Ba’al Shem Tov teaches that every person’s personal Noah’s ark is holy words – words of Torah and particularly, words of prayer. It is very valuable for a person to flee the worries and tribulations of this world and take refuge in words of holiness. The gushing waters elevate his ark/words. We pray with mindful intention and call out to G-d, imbuing our Torah learning with the added value of closeness to G-d and exulting in Him.

While the flood going on outside us adds a stormy dimension to our ark of words, the Noah aspect of our ark provides rest and nachat – two words derived from the sub-root Noah (נח). The Jewish life-order dictates times of rest from the worries of this world.

Shabbat is a day of rest, a day on which we can feel that “all of our work has already been done”. It is a day on which we can fully release our actions, words and even thoughts from all the troubles of our routine.

The rest that we feel on Shabbat does not stem only from the prohibition against doing work, which in and of itself provides us with a forced-yet-wonderful break. The fact that Shabbat “commemorates the act of Creation” – the memory that the Creator is running reality with His merciful Divine Providence – provides us with peace of mind, freeing us from the pressures of reality and our enslavement to time. (As such, Shabbat also commemorates the exodus from Egypt).

During the weekdays, as well, the time we take to pray and study Torah are like a mini-Shabbat, during which time we refresh our memories of God’s Divine Providence.

Everyone should have a place where he can go daily/weekly for some time alone to meditate and turn to God. To assess what is happening in his life, remember his important goals and to thank God for all the good that He bestows upon us. When we remember God, it is not only the ark/word that is the refuge and place of rest. The flood itself becomes the ‘waters of Noach’, the waters of rest and calm. The reality that flows in our direction is directed by God. We can curl up between its waves and rest in God’s good hands.

Every Shabbat, however, has a Saturday night, and the purpose of the rest is to ‘emerge from the ark’ and to return to the flood of life with renewed energies. Beyond the refreshment of body and soul, the rest/menucha is meant to strengthen our soul’s basic assumptions/hanachot (cognate to menucha). The main fear of drowning is what is called in Chassidut, ‘worldly assumptions’ – erroneous assumptions that create reality’s constraints and temptations. Just like a good advertisement, the world tries to sell us assumptions about what is ‘important’, ‘urgent’, ‘vital’, ‘fun’ etc. Most of our constraints, pressures and emotional upheavals stem from those imaginary needs or achievements.

The rest-time that we make for ourselves is meant to renew our true assumptions on our relationship with God, the importance of family, on our mission in life, our true needs and on the things that bring true happiness. True basic assumptions redeem the soul from the pressures and enslavement that life can bring upon us.

Instead of serving those erroneous assumptions, one can live life with truly free choice and devotion to fulfilling God’s will in the world.