Connecting Heaven and Earth by Rabbi Darren Blackstein


            "The movement of objects by scientifically unknown or inexplicable means, as by the exercise of mystical powers."  This is the definition of Telekinesis according to the American Heritage Dictionary.  As alluded to by this definition, this concept is normally relegated to the mystical or supernatural.  It is understandable that this is so, for after all, how can physical objects be affected by non-physical means.  Despite this, we would like to explore the idea that the physical and spiritual worlds can impact on each other.

            The Torah in Parshat Noach says ותמלא הארץ חמס, "and the land was filled with greed," פרק ו פסוק( יא), or, as Rashi defines it, that the land was filled with "stealing."  We know that the Torah does not engage in mere poetry.  Consequently, this verse must indicate that the acts of חמס performed by the populace at that time not only infected and appeared throughout the entire rank and file of בני אדם, but also permeated the very land which they inhabited.  Indeed this seems to be an example of an object being affected by acts having no direct relation to the object.  Acts of thievery are adversely affecting the land.

            This equation or relation of people to land is not strange to us either.  After all, the first Rashi in the Torah talks of the relationship between His people and the land בני ישראל will recieve as an inheritance )א:א(.  Hashem's people belong  in a certain place doing certain deeds.  There's a natural and spiritual connection between the person and the place.  Spiritually, בני ישראל out of ארץ ישראל is like a fish out of water.  Conversely, occupying the chosen land while performing acts of abomination is equally inappropriate.  This is attested to by the verse in VaYikrah (כ:כב) where the Torah tells us that acts of abomination, תועבה, cause us to be regurgitated from the land.  The land seemed to be viewed in this verse, as a host personality who can no longer tolerate the guest's presence.

            As we read in our Parsha, these perversions of character lead Hashem to the conclusion that He must wipe the slate clean and start again.  Hashem says to Noach והנני משחיתם את הארץ, "and behold I will destroy them "את" the earth" (ו:יג).  Commentaries struggle to define the word את in this context.  It doesn't seem to fit smoothly.  Rashi (שם) quotes examples that את can mean from.  In our verse it would mean that Hashem will destroy them from the earth.  Rashi brings an additional explanation saying that את may also mean with.  This would mean that Hashem will destroy them with the land.  Rashi explains (from בראשית רבה לא:ז) that the destruction went as deep as three Tefachim into the land.

            The Ramban on this Posuk quotes Rashi, Ibn Ezra, and adds another explanation.  The Ramban explains that our verse is like the first Posuk in Bereishit where the Torah says את השמים ואת הארץ, meaning that the earth will be destroyed and with this destruction they too will be destroyed and removed from the world to come.  How do these two Pesukim relate?  It seems that the word את relates to some unity or completeness.  Perhaps this explains what the Torah is telling us in פרק א פסוק א.  The unity of Hashem and the unity of Earth were created, both connected and integrated.  What affects one, affects the other.  This notion is supported in Gesenius' Hebrew Grammar.  In section 711a note 4 he says about the word את, "It was no doubt originally a substantive, meaning essence, substance, self...  In common use, however, it has so little force that it merely serves to introduce a determinate object."

            This explanation can also shed light on Rashi's secondary meaning, namely with.  The people being destroyed with the land shows a unity in the treatment of both land and inhabitant.  This is what the Ramban may be referring to in his explanation.  He describes it like a chain reaction; the people sin, the land is corrupted and the heavens feel the repercussions.

            Every individual represents a storehouse of actions.  Whether we like it or not, our actions affect those around us.  These actions also impact the land on which we tread.  As we emerge from the recent Yomim Tovim we realize that only by carefully scrutinizing our deeds and conduct can we reach the spiritual heights for which we are meant.  May it be Hashem's will that we merit to perform the Mitzvot the way the Maharal describes them in chapter six of Tiferet Yisrael, as eternal acts that reach the heavens.

Peace - The Torah Ideal by Daniel Deutsch

Looking into the Sukkah by David Pietruszka