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Parshat Noach

by Rabbi Yitzchak Luria

Apples from the Orchard


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Parashat Noach

Toward the end of parashat Noach, the Torah relates the story of the Tower of Babel.1 According to the oral Torah, the king who masterminded and led this revolt against G-d was Nimrod, who was mentioned in the preceding chapter.

Know that the incident of the tower and Nimrod transmigrated into [the person and career of] Nebuchadnezzar. This is why he erected the statue in the Dura valley.

“King Nebuchadnezzar made a gold statue sixty cubits high and six cubits wide, and erected it in the plain of Dura in the country of Babylonia.”3 A cubit is about a foot and a half, so this statue was around 90 feet high and 9 feet wide. Nebuchadnezzar was thus a reincarnation of the Nimrod, and the statue was a “reincarnation” of the Tower of Babel.

Just as in the time of Nimrod, everyone spoke the same language and he ruled the whole world, Nebuchadnezzar also ruled the whole world. Thus, it is written, “I will ascend above the clouds; I will be like the Most High,”4 [the numerical value of the word for “clouds”] alluding to the seventy-two nations.

The verse quoted was spoken by (or reflects the sentiments of) Nebuchadnezzar. The numerical value of the word for “cloud” (Av, ayin-beit = 70 + 2) is 72. Normally, the Torah speaks of seventy nations; it is not clear what the additional 2 refers to.

[Nebuchadnezzar] wanted the Jewish people to bow down to [this statue] along with [everyone else],5 and indeed, had Chananiah, Misha’el, and Azariah (G-d forbid) bowed down to it, Israel would not have been able to arise [out of its exile].

Nebuchadnezzar had dreamt that he saw a statue whose head was gold, whose chest and arms were silver, whose stomach and thighs were copper, whose legs were iron, and whose feet were iron and clay. Daniel told him that the components of this statue were the kingdom of Babylonia (the gold head) and the empires that would succeed it in ruling over the Jews. By making a similar statue entirely of gold, Nebuchadnezzar sought to subvert the prophecy and perpetuate the kingdom of Babylonia.

Chananiah, Misha’el, and Azariah (whose Babylonian names were Shadrach, Meisach, and Abednego) were Daniel’s Jewish companions, who refused to bow down to this statue. Nebuchadnezzar punished them by having them thrown into a fiery furnace, but they emerged unscathed.

He also intended to build a tower and a city, as it is written, “Is this not the great [city of] Babylon that I built up [into a royal house with my powerful strength, to glorify my splendor]!?”6

The people who built the Tower of Babel had said, “Let us build ourselves a city and a tower whose top reaches the heavens, and we will [thereby] achieve glory.”7

He built the statue in place of the tower. He wanted to receive the Divine beneficence via the seventy [celestial] princes, hoping that perhaps in this way Israel would be unable to arise [from its exile] and G-d’s beneficence would be directed toward the forces of evil.

G-d set up the workings of the world such that ideally, His beneficence flows primarily and directly to the forces of holiness and goodness, in order that they have what they need to carry out His purpose. Only a residual flow of beneficence reaches the forces of evil—enough to keep them in existence so that they can fulfill their role in the scheme of things. Evil also does not receive its life-force directly from G-d; rather, each nation receives its Divine flow via its celestial, spiritual archetypal angel (or “prince”). This is why non-Jews are allowed to believe in
a certain degree of idolatry, i.e., that G-d shares or distributes His power to other celestial beings.

However, when those who should be acting righteously sin, they forfeit their preeminence and increase the power of evil, allowing it to receive the Divine flow first. The forces of good then have to receive their beneficence via the forces of evil. This is the condition of exile.

He was the keter of evil. This is why he was known as the king of Sheshach,8 for the numerical value of Sheshach is the same as that of keter.


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Torah » The Bible
Shabbat » Reading of the Torah » Torah Reading

Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
First Jew, and first of our three Patriarchs. Born into a pagan society in Mesepotamia in 1812 BCE, he discovered monethieism on his own. He was told by G-d to journey to the Land of Canaan where he and his wife Sarah would give birth to the Jewish People.
The fifth month of the Jewish calendar, normally corresponding to July-August. The saddest month of the year due to the destruction of the Temples, and the many other tragedies which befell the Jews in this month.
Established by King David to be the eternal capital of Israel. Both Temples were built there, and the third Temple will be situated there when the Messiah comes.
1. A Jerusalemite exiled in Babylon after the destruction of the 1st Temple. He interprets dreams, gives accounts of apocalyptic visions, and is divinely delivered from a den of lions. 2. One of the 24 Books of the Bible, which describes the events of Daniel's life.
(fem. Tzidkanit; pl. Tzadikim). A saint, or righteous person.
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.