Political Science

Mashiach and Jewish Leadership: Part 16 – The Secret of the Soul of Noach

The verse in Isaiah, "The spirit of G-d shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and insight, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and fear of G-d," refers to the origin of inspiration of the Mashiach, and by inference, to the point of Mashiach in every Jew. The "spirit of G-d" is a singular spirit, while the next three levels come in "pairs": wisdom and understanding, council and might, knowledge and fear (awe). This reflects the essential and absolute oneness of G-d in contrast to the apparent duality of Creation and man. The pairs allude to a process termed "mating," the ongoing spiritual service of balancing and unifying all the various forces and influences within the soul. To truly accomplish this requires G-d's assistance, compassion, and inspiration.

This exemplary verse of inspiration is replete with many allusions contained in the Hebrew words, especially as they relate to the Biblical figure of Noach. In fact, in the story of Noach we can identify all the different levels of inspiration mentioned in our verse, albeit in a state needing rectification.

The opening word of our verse describes how the spirit of G-d "shall rest" (v'nacha) upon Mashiach. The root of the word "to rest" (noach) also means "to descend," "to encompass," and in our context "to inspire." In addition, it is identical in spelling to Noach. The word for "spirit" (ruach) is very close to the word for "smell," (rayach) both having the same two-letter root (rach). The root words for "smell" and "rest" are joined together in two important phrases or idioms relating to sacrifices in the Tabernacle and later in the Temple in Jerusalem, where the sacrifices are called a "pleasing aroma" (rayach nichoach) to G-d. Rashi explains: "It is pleasing to me that I have spoken [commanded the sacrifices] and they have done my will."

The first time the phrase "pleasing aroma" appears in the Torah is after the flood subsided and Noach left the ark: "Then Noach built an alter to G-d and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird and offered burnt offerings on the alter. G-d smelled the pleasing aroma and G-d said in his heart: 'I will not curse the ground again because of man.?" The first time a word or phrase appears in the Torah is vital to understanding its significance. The name Noach means "to rest": "Lemech lived one hundred and eighty-two years and had a son. And he called his name Noach saying, 'This one will bring us rest from our work and the toil of our hands, from the ground which G-d had cursed." The rest that Noach brought was two-fold. The invention of farming tools, in particular the plow, is attributed to Noach. As a consequence of Adam's sin the ground had been "cursed," bringing only thorns and weeds when man planted seeds. According to a tradition handed down, the severity of the curse would only last through the lifetime of Adam. Noach was born immediately after Adam's death and was instrumental in causing the curse to abate, thereby giving rest to man. The second "rest" that Noach brought was the promise by G-d not to curse the ground anew or destroy the earth again through a flood.

The "spirit of G-d" initially manifests itself as inspiration. Thereafter it descends and encompasses the other three levels of "spirit." Ultimately, the inspiration is fully integrated, coming to a state of rest "as waters cover the sea." The revelation of inspiration and its eventual state of rest is alluded to in the name Noach appearing twice together in the first verse of the Torah portion named for him: "These are the generations of Noach–Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; Noach walked with G-d." The secret of the soul of Noach relates to the ultimate purpose of all Creation–to come to a state of perfect rest and inspired consciousness, as we say in the blessing after a Shabbat meal: "The compassionate One–May He cause us to inherit the day which will be completely a Shabbat and rest day for eternal life."

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