Taking the Initiative
For the imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth. (Bereishis
That from the Creator of man Himself, which pretty much dictates the
direction of history from that point onward. And, even as priceless as
teshuvah may be to God, as mentioned last week, still, once has to wonder
why God even bothered to start again with Noach’s family.
Because God wasn’t saying that the experiment failed, just that it changed.
It’s like someone who plans to run in a race and at the last minute slightly
injures his foot. It doesn’t mean that he can’t run, just that he can’t run
as well as he had planned, and that maybe he won’t be able to place as well
as previously thought.
Prior to the sin of eating from the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah, man was free of
an internal yetzer hara, which could only tempt him in the guise of the
snake. At that time, if the snake didn’t put evil ideas into the mind of
man, man didn’t think of them on his own. He was perfectly balanced between
good and evil, free to choose either direction:
When Adam was first formed, he was precisely in the state that we have
discussed until now, composed of two equal opposites, the body and the soul.
His environment contained both good and evil, and he was balanced between
the two to choose whichever he wished. (Derech Hashem 1:3:6)
The sin changed all of that, in a very profound way:
They stumbled in two ways, looking and eating. As a result, the world became
more physical, including Adam and Chava themselves. Everything was changed
from clothing of light of the Ohr HaGanuz, which is Kesones Ohr with an
Aleph (כתנת אור) to Kesones Ohr (כתנת עור), skin of the snake. (Drushei Olam
HaTohu, Drush Aitz HaDa’as, Siman 4)
As the Leshem explains, the first part of the sin was not the eating itself,
which could not have occurred on the level on which Adam HaRishon was first
created. Rather, first Adam looked at the Aitz HaDa’as Tov v’Rah, in order
to understand its potential for evil, in order to rectify it.
However, the Leshem further explains, this had been premature, and rather
than overcome and rectify the evil in the tree, the evil instead dragged him
down to its level. This caused a spiritual, and then a physical,
transformation of the entire world, including man himself, opening the door
for the snake to tempt Chava, and for the two of them to eat from the
It was to this physicalization of man that God referred when He said, “the
imagination of man’s heart is evil from his youth.” Kabbalistically, what He
was really saying was, “man’s heart is physical from the start, not to
mention the rest of his body and the entire world in which he lives. From
this point onward, he will eat, drink, and smell temptation everywhere he
goes. Not too much can be expected from him in terms of personal perfection.
Let’s just hope he can make it to the finish line.”
Hence, we are born into spiritual poverty, as the following explains, albeit
in Kabbalistic terms:
This means that it (i.e., the Ohr HaGanuz) did not continue to descend at
all from the [upper] worlds into the place of the 14 sefiros, comprised of
the bottom four of Yetzirah and the 10 of Asiyah. Rather, that was the place
left over for the reality of the Klipos (i.e., spiritual impurity).
Therefore, He told the worlds, “Dai—Enough!” (which has the gematria of 14),
so that it (i.e., the Ohr HaGanuz) should not emanate into these 14 levels
of the Klipos. However, as a result of the sin, all of the worlds descended
and entered the four levels of Yetzirah and lower, literally into the realm
of the Klipos. (Hakdamos u’Sha’arim, Sha’ar 6, Perek 10)
In other words, as a result of the first sin, the world of man,
spiritually-speaking, descended into the world of the Klipos. It was like
moving into a bad neighborhood, in which even the best of people can’t help
but be negatively influenced somewhat.
However, though it may be the only world we’re used to, it is not the only
world that exists, even after the sin. Man may have become injured, but he
is still in the race. He may not place at the finish line where it was
initially thought, but he can still compete. And since this competition
takes into account a person’s handicaps—
According to the effort is the reward. (Pirkei Avos 5:26)
—man may still be as much of a contender, relatively-speaking, as he was before.
Where does that leave us?
He waited another seven days and again sent the dove from the ark.
The Midrash often reveals clues to important messages about life in places
that we might never think to look, and this is one such example, based upon
the verse just quoted. For, apparently the dove that Noach sent to check for
dry land alludes to the future Jewish people, whom God sent ...
Into the exile of the Greeks, who blackened the faces of the Jews. (Tikunei
For, as the Talmud states, the Jewish people are compared to the dove
(Brochos 53b), and therefore, when the Torah states:
The dove came to him in the evening and behold, there was an olive leaf torn
off in her mouth. (Bereishis 8:11)
the Zohar interprets:
Had God not enlightened the wise to light the candles with the oil of the
olive, the survivors of Yehudah would have been lost forever ... From the
moment the leaf was torn off in her mouth, 25 was made to dwell upon the
Jewish people—the 25th of Kislev. (Tikunei Zohar 13)
It is not clear why at this point, according to the Midrash, the story and
miracle of Chanukah destined to occur in the 36th century from Creation is
embedded in the story of Noach and the Flood, which occurred in the 17th
century. Hence, the Midrash adds:
How are the Jewish people like the dove? When Noach was in the ark, the dove
came to him with an olive leaf. God said, “Just as the dove brought light to
the world, so too will you (i.e., the future Jewish nation) bring olive oil
and light it before Me.” (Tanchuma, Tetzaveh 5)
Of all the holidays to speak of at such a crucial juncture in world history,
Chanukah, a rabbinic holiday, seems the least likely. Then again, what
reason did the Torah give for Noach’s survival?
Noach found chayn in the eyes of God. (Bereishis 6:8)
—chayn being the root of the word chanukah, and the mirror image of the name
That is an important clue and link, for regarding chayn, the Talmud states:
Whoever has chayn has fear of God. (Succah 49b)
And, regarding fear of God, Moshe Rabbeinu said:
Now, Israel, what does God, your God, want from you, except to fear God,
your God ... (Devarim 10:12)
This is particularly interesting because when Moshe Rabbeinu explains to the
Jewish people why Amalek, their nemesis, must be completely eradicated, he says:
He confronted you on your way, and attacked the feeble stragglers who
trailed behind you, while you were tired and exhausted. He did not fear God.
Therefore, we can assume, Amalek completely lacked chayn, and that if Noach
had chayn, he certainly feared God, which entitled him to survive the
destruction of mankind. The only question is, what does any of this have to
do with the holiday of Chanukah?
It was for Adam HaRishon to rectify and to elevate them to Atzilus as well,
and to draw down the main Ohr HaGanuz to below. However, not only did he not
rectify them but he instead destroyed and lowered all the world. (Hakdamos
u’Sha’arim, Sha’ar 6, Perek 10)
The Kabbalah behind this is complicated, by the idea is not. Simply, when
God made Creation He created five main spiritual realms, each consisting of
10 sefiros, or levels, of their own. Their names, from the top down, are:
Adam Kadmon, Atzilus, Beriyah, Yetzirah, and Asiyah.
For the sake of free-will, God left a place for evil to exist, 14 levels
from the bottom. This means, as the Leshem explained above, that the light
traveled downward until it reached dai—14—levels from the bottom, a total of
36 levels altogether (five worlds x 10 levels = 50 - 14 levels = 36 levels).
It was, and remains to be, man’s role to finish what God started. This means
we are responsible for drawing the Ohr HaGanuz, the Primordial Light with
which God made Creation, and then hid on the first day (Rashi, Bereishis
1:4), further down into Creation, the final 14 levels. Everything in
Creation, from the largest to the smallest, and every aspect of history,
from the most dynamic to the most trivial, has been about drawing the light
of 36 levels down into the last 14 levels, perfecting Creation
Hence, when Adam HaRishon failed to do so, God asked him but one question:
“Ayekah?” (Bereishis 3:9)
It has a gematria of 36, and therefore, God wasn’t so much asking Adam
HaRishon when he was, but where the light of 36 was, having failed his mission.
What is the best way to draw the light down? The answer to that question is
the underlying basis of the connection to Chanukah in this week’s parshah.
Effectively, when we light the 36 candles of Chanukah each year so close to
the ground (ideally the flame should be no higher than about 35.5 inches
from the ground), we indicate our commitment to draw the light of 36 down to
the bottom of Creation.
Why Chanukah? If the message of the Menorah is a daily one, why is it
associated with the holiday of Chanukah specifically? In a sense, this is
what the Talmud itself asks with the words, Mai Chanukah. The Talmud answers:
What is Chanukah? Our rabbis taught: On the 25th of Kislev begin the days of
Chanukah, which are eight on which a eulogy for the dead and fasting are
forbidden. For when the Greeks entered the Temple, they defiled all of the
oil, but once the Chashmonaim prevailed and defeated them, they searched and
found only one jar of oil with the seal of the Kohen Gadol, but which
contained only enough for one day. Yet, a miracle occurred and they lit with
it for eight days. The following year these [days] were made a holiday with
Hallel and thanksgiving. (Shabbos 21b)
This story is reminiscent of a midrash that keeps popping up, but whose
significance can really be seen here in terms of fear of God and chayn:
Open for Me an entrance as tiny as a needlepoint and I, in turn, shall open
for you an entrance as the entrance of a hall. (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 5:3)
After defeating the Greeks, the Chashmonaim ran and searched and found a
single jar of undefiled oil. They did the only thing they could do, they lit
it—an entrance as tiny as a needlepoint. However, as a result, God made it
burn for an additional seven days—an entrance the size of a hall.
Hence, the rabbis also teach:
It is not upon you to complete the task, but you are not free to idle from
it. (Pirkei Avos 2:21)
But how must I do?
As much as you can.
But what if that does not amount to very much?
If it’s the best you can do; if you have taken the initiative to do that
which draws down the light of God into the world, and have done all you can
to share it with others, then it amounts to as much as it has to, as far as
God is concerned. He cherishes that initiative because it reveals a person’s
yireh Shamayim, his seeing of God, and therefore, his chayn.
This is true everyday, but it was especially revealed through the story of
Chanukah, and the story of Noach. For the Torah states:
These are the generations of Noach. Noach was a perfect and righteous man in
his generation. (Bereishis 3:9)
This verse prompts an argument in the Talmud regarding the level of Noach’s
righteousness, as Rashi explains. Why did the Torah add the words, in his
generation, if not to point out how righteous he was in spite of his
generation? Not so, says the other opinion. Rather, the inclusion of this
phrase indicates only in his generation, that is, had he lived in Avraham’s
time, his level of righteousness would not have been special.
Perhaps, but nevertheless, the Torah says that he found chayn in God’s eyes,
and he did survive the Flood. For that is exactly the point: Noach did the
best he could given his generation after which God did the rest. True, had
he lived in Avraham’s time, post-Flood, then the expectations would have
been greater. But he hadn’t, and God took that into account, and therefore
not only saved him, He praised him.
It’s all about initiative to make the world a better place, a more Godly
place. Take it, as best you can, and God will do the rest, and best of all,
He’ll sing your praises.
Text Copyright © 2011 by Rabbi Pinchas Winston and Torah.org.