Above and beyond Nature
Let’s see what the Holy Rizhiner says. By Noach it says ‘Es Ha’elokim Hishalech Noach’, Noach walked with G-d. Everybody knows that G-d has two names, Elokim which is gematriya ‘teva’, Elokim is the name of G-d which manifests in nature.
We also know that G-d is also the name Yud Key Vav Key, which is beyond nature, the one who created the world and is also beyond it. So in a nutshell, Avraham Avinu connected to Yud Key Vav Key. Avraham Avinu was on the level of ‘His'halech lefanay….’, Avraham Avinu was walking before nature. Can you imagine it, if nature is going a hundred miles an hour so Avraham Avinu was going a hundred and fifty miles an hour. Noach was always connecting to the way G-d wanted to be in nature. Can’t change nature, summer is summer and winter is winter.
Avraham was absolutely beyond nature, why was he beyond nature? Because he was serving G-d beyond nature… beyond his own nature. Noach was serving G-d in his nature. Obviously Noach did not open his house and tell the whole world to come and eat in his house because that is already beyond nature. If a person serves G-d on the level of his nature so listen, I have ten dollars on me, I’ll give you a quarter and later on, if I’m in a good mood, I’ll give you a dollar. But to give you the whole ten dollars? Am I crazy?
Imagine two friends who aren’t so close. One says to the other ‘I’m angry at you, I don’t want to see you anymore’, he will take it literally because they are not that close. Imagine if they are just one heart and one soul and one will tell the other ‘listen, I don’t want to see you anymore’, what are they going to do? They will call each other back right away, how could you not? On the contrary, if your real friend tells you that he doesn’t want to see you anymore, so you better pick up and go over there fast because they are obviously waiting for you to come.
So listen to what the Sfas Emes says. He says in a nutshell that Noach never went out of his nature. Don’t misunderstand, Noach was very holy. Noach never did anything wrong in his whole life. How did Avraham Avinu begin his career? King Nimrod says to him ‘you better bow down to an idol or else I’m going to throw you into a fire’. So Avraham said ‘okay, I’m ready to die.’ According to nature I am ready to serve G-d on a very high level, but to die for it? No, that’s too much because G-d wants me to live. Not Avraham Avinu.
What makes a person serve G-d beyond nature? He sees beyond everything in the world. I want you to know something very deep. The people from that time who were so bad and were wiped out… from my heart to your heart, do you think they came back to the world and fixed everything? Let me tell you one sweet thing. The truth is that those people did come back and they were the generation who were slaves in Egypt and worked so hard. They had to fix what they did wrong in the time of the flood. They came out of Egypt and they were the people who immediately received the Torah from heaven. They were absolutely the highest souls in the world, absolutely the highest souls but you had to be very deep and beyond everything to see that. Noach didn’t see that.
Now listen to this. The Sfas Emes says that Avraham Avinu is on the level of Torah, Torah begins with Avraham Avinu. What is the Torah? The Torah is that everything is beyond nature, everything is much deeper than it seems. Whatever the outside tells you is not usually the way it is. I’ll tell you the most way out thing in the world. Who do you think are the people from Sdom, who are absolutely the most wicked people in the world? What do you think happened to them? They also came back… they also came back to the world, they are also top souls. Avraham Avinu saw all this.
The downfall of the world began with Adam. Adam ate from the tree of knowledge. Knowledge means that one and one is two and nothing else will help, you can hang yourself. On the level of the tree of life one and one is one, one and ten is one. Sometimes one is not one, it might be two, what do you know? The first one who began to correct the forbidden fruit, the first one who began to fix the tree of knowledge was Avraham. Noach was very holy but he was still on the level of the tree of knowledge. On the level of the tree of knowledge, if people are bad wipe them out.
I want you to know something very deep. Adam was so to speak cursed that he will have trouble getting food from the earth because until he ate from the tree of knowledge it was very easy. Everything was growing so fast without pain… what’s really the connection there? The answer is very simple. Growing is life itself, the utmost connection to life is growing. Growing food, growing people, growing the earth. The moments when we are only connected to the tree of knowledge we are absolutely uprooted from life. The earth has trouble connected to you, it is only feeding you reluctantly. You know what happened during the time of the flood? The earth absolutely refused to help the people step up. I hate to say bad things, but even brother Noach didn’t help them. The holiness of Israel is that Israel is the place of the tree of life, Avraham Avinu is the tree of life… much deeper than knowledge.
You know friends, the holiness of the Torah is that it brings down to the world things which are beyond knowledge. The Torah comes from such a place which is not on the level of knowing, even knowing the Torah is not on the level of knowing.
I want you to know something very strong. When Adam was in paradise G-d told him to make the world better because paradise is not the utmost, it can be better. When he was driven out from paradise he became so small, all he was thinking was ‘I’m not going to make the world better, I would at least like to have something to eat to just keep alive’. Avraham Avinu came back to the world feeling that ‘I have to make the world better’. My knowledge is that the world is good and bad, my knowledge is that there is so much evil in the world. There is war, there is so much hatred, forget it… just try to keep alive. This is actually the whole world. Here comes the Torah , G-d’s word, and tells us ‘are you crazy? What if you change it?’. Davening, praying, people who believe that they can change, people who believe that the whole world can change also believe that I can ask G-d to change whatever it is I want to be changed because they are changing. And I want you to know the deepest depths. When you are standing before G-d it is not on the level of praying, it’s on the level of change because every word I study has to change me. Every time I pray… if I walk away from praying the same then it’s meaningless. You have got to become a different person. I want you to know something very strong. The Kotsker Rebbe… after he finished to daven it took him sometimes half an hour to recognize his own people, his wife and his children because everything had changed. It was as if he was a new Rebbe.
Can you imagine if I was angry at somebody and then I pray and after I pray I still remember that I am angry at this person? That means I didn’t pray much because after you pray you are connected to a different world. I want you to know something very deep. Those people who believe that they can change, that the world can change, they also believe that somebody else is changing, so why be angry? The Gemara says something strong, if you see a person doing something wrong and you still remember it the next day then there is something wrong with you, not with this person. Why didn’t you believe that they already regretted it overnight? How come you still remember someone doing something wrong yesterday? Because you are still hanging on to your own wrongs from yesterday, you’re still the same creep.
Anyway in a nutshell, Noach didn’t believe in change. He just believed that people either have to be wiped out or they stay. Avraham Avinu came with a new theory.
I want you to know just one more sweet and deep thing, do you know why people believe in change? Because they believe that deep deep inside we don’t need change, we are so good. I cannot walk up to an evil person and say ‘listen brother, you have got to change for the better’. The first thing is that I have got to believe that inside they are holy, the holy of holiest. The outside I can change but I have to be connected to the inside of the inside. The torah is all about being connected to the inside of the inside. I’ll tell you something very deep, if a girl hates me and she says ‘listen, don’t bother me, don’t call me up for another date’, then I am not bothering and wasting another dime. But if I know that on the inside she loves me and only on the outside she is angry at me, I can change it but I have to be connected to her inside. The same way when G-d says to Avraham that he wants to destroy Sdom Avraham Avinu knows that on the inside G-d doesn’t want to destroy Sdom, he just wants them to become better. So Avraham begins praying ‘maybe I can make them better, what can we do?.’ Noach was not an inside person, holy but not inside. Inside means change, the inside is always new and untouched. This inside holiness which is untouched makes you change all the time for the better.
Keep on Walking
It is so easy to do today what you did yesterday, and to do yesterday what you did the day before. You know friends, as far as I'm concerned, the saddest thing in the world is when you meet people today and you them ten years later and they haven't moved an inch. Basically, we are living in a society where people are standing still. People have two hundred PhD's hanging on the wall but they themselves haven't moved an inch. In fact when someone moves too fast, people think they are crazy because society expects certain things. It's as if you should maintain the same level of Jewishness, the same level of belief in God from after Bar Mitzvah until your dying day. Everything is the same, don't move.
You know what God says to Avraham? "Lech lecha." Avraham, you want to be a servant to God? Move, keep moving.
I heard from an old Bobover Chassid who said that he saw the old Bobover Rebbe every day, "But believe me, every morning I shivered; he was not the Rebbe from yesterday. "
The holly Reb Mendele Vorker became a Rebbe when he was a twenty-two. Sadly enough, he didn't live that long, but he was Rebbe for twenty years. Every afternoon exactly at one o'clock, he would go out from his room, go out on the street and go out on a wagon. He would go out with his horses, with the secrets of the world, and go out for a ride. Every day hundreds of people were standing there, just looking at him. They just saw him yesterday, but it wasn't the same person. He had moved hundreds, hundreds, hundreds, hundreds of miles.
A lot of people are moving; how do you know if they are moving in God's direction?
I'll tell you something. If you are moving in the direction of God, the more you move up, the closer you move to people. Don't tell me you moved so close to God and suddenly you are away from people.
I see it all the time. Sometimes I meet people and suddenly they became so religious and so holy, they don't talk to you anymore because they moved away. You know something? They moved backward.
So I want to bless you and me, all of us, we should move forward.
And you know friends, the acid test, is like this. If you are getting closer to God you are getting closer to people. Don't kid yourself.
The holy Vorker says this is the acid test. If you want to know if you love God more, go out on the street. Are you blowing your mind over every human being you see who is created in God's image? If so, then you are okay, you really love God more. But if you walk on the street, and every dirty human being you think is disgusting, and this is ridiculous, this one is obnoxious. When it comes to this one, I never understood why his parents got married... Then gevalt, are you walking backwards.
Now listen to this, Avraham Avinu is entering the covenant of God. How close can you get? Making a covenant with the One, with the only One; with the One who lives forever. What's he doing three days later? He sees three pagans and they look hungry., and he runs after them begging them, please, please come to my house. Are you crazy! Those are pagans! You just entered the covenant with God! I mean, really. But you see what it is, this was one of the tests of Avraham Avinu because the three angels came to tell him that he's going to have a son. The Zohar HaKadosh makes it very clear. If Avraham Avinu would not have run after them they would have not come to him, and Avraham would not have been privileged to have a son.
We all need so much to move closer to God, to move closer to people.
But above all, Lech lecha, keep on moving. Don't stop, don't ever, every stand still. Get closer to yourself, to the deepest depths of you and get closer to every human being in the world.