"And Hashem said: My spirit shall not always strive on
account of man, for that he also is flesh, and his days shall
be a hundred and twenty years."
In the portions of sefer Bereishis which deal with the
genesis of the world, what is concealed far surpasses what is
revealed and understood. Chazal, before whom these esoteric
mysteries were revealed, who fathomed the workings of the
world and the secrets of Creation, cloaked their teachings
with thick veils that obscured the primeval hidden light of
Creation from those who are unfit to feast their eyes upon
it. Whoever peruses the Midroshim of these portions
senses that they shroud and shield the enigmas of "white fire
upon black fire," matters which are beyond our puny
Here and there, Chazal allow the light to shine through; they
opened apertures to the heavens so that we could glimpse a
minuscule fraction of the depths of Hashem's mind. A blink, a
mere dazzling flash.
Similarly inscrutable is the topic of the generation of the
great flood. We are all familiar with the simple text to
which we are exposed from early childhood on, that all living
beings corrupted their ways and became thoroughly perverted.
People were very evil, were punished and were effaced from
Chazal open up a crack the size of a needle's eye into a
hidden world when they say, in Chulin 139: "What is
the origin of Moshe in the Torah? `Beshagom hu bosor --
for that he is also flesh.'
Rashi comments: Beshagom is equivalent to the
numerical value of `Moshe.' Here it is written, `And his
[man's] days shall number one hundred and twenty years' and
this was the precise life span of Moshe."
Wonder of wonders! Whatever is the connection between Moshe
and the generation of the flood? The Zohar repeats
this same idea in other words, and widens the crack to give
us a slightly more expanded view.
"Moshe was destined to receive the Torah in the generation of
the flood, but because it was so evil, he did not receive it
then. This is why it is written: `For that he is also
flesh.' Beshagom is Moshe."
R' Tzodok Hakohen expands on this in his two works,
Tzidkas Hatzaddik and Resisei Laylo: "Water
always alludes to Torah, and Torah is the ultimate purpose
and means for the continued existence of the world, which was
created only for the sake of the Torah. `Were it not for My
covenant day and night, I would not have established the
natural laws of heaven and earth.' That time in history was
propitious and designated [for the giving of the Torah] --
and mankind could have utilized it and benefited. The waters
of the Torah could/would have descended to revive and uphold
the world. But mankind corrupted its ways and transformed the
beneficial waters to treacherous ones."
This is the reason why we find in Zevochim 116 that at
the time of mattan Torah, all the nations converged
upon Bilaam and asked: Could it be that Hashem is about to
bring another flood upon the world? They sensed that a
cataclysmic event was in the offing. Either it would bring
devastation upon the world, or salvation to it. They thought
that the plenitude of waters that existed then represented
another upcoming flood.
R' Tzodok also exposes the reason for this. We find that the
Torah refers to two particular epochs as an era of youth,
ne'urim. The first is: "For the proclivity of man is
evil from his youth." The time of fruition and growth is a
We find this word again in Yirmiyohu, "Thus says Hashem: I
remember [to your credit] the kindness of your youth, your
following Me in the desert, in a barren land." Here, the
Jewish people were in their genesis, at the beginning of
their development into a nation. Their exodus from Egypt and
sojourn in the desert before the giving of the Torah was a
time of emergence, adolescence, coming of age. It was their
youth, a prime time accompanied by enthusiasm, vigor and zest
that characterize every beginning. At this time, whatever is
done, is done with all of one's heart and soul, for better or
The giving of the Torah had to take place when the nation was
still vital and fired with the vigor of youth, in a
generation filled with energy and love channeled to Torah and
the Giver of the Torah. But the generation of the flood
corrupted its ways and instead of exploiting their vim for
spiritual goals, they diverted the energy to evil channels.
They used the resource of youth counterproductively. "For the
proclivity of man is evil from his youth."
And thus, accordingly, the waters that were unleashed at this
crucial time were devastating instead of beneficial. So
powerful that they destroyed the world -- and postponed the
giving of the Torah to another propitious time. To another
generation of genesis and youth, to the generation of "the
grace of your youth," the generation where ardor for Hashem
rang strong, a nuptial ardor of those who were following
their Creator even into the desert, in a barren land.
R' Tzodok later concludes with an insight that illuminates
the complexity and confusing times of the present, the
generation of Moshiach. Here, too, we find mention of youth.
"Your youth will be rejuvenated like the eagle [phoenix]."
Youth will have its comeback, with a second chance to utilize
a renewed vigor. For the good. The opportunity presented by
this burst of energy will again be ambivalent, incorporating
both the "sin of youth" and the "favor of youth," until, in
the end, the good will prevail over the evil and convert it
for its purposes.
Incisive words. A combination of the situation of the
generation of the flood together with the conditions of the
generation of the giving of the Torah! As the Chofetz Chaim
said: [In that generation,] whoever is guilty, will be
altogether so, and whoever is righteous, will be altogether
righteous. And in the very same area. With the same
proclivities, the fervor of youth, the ardor of total
immersion and dedication. The righteous will invest their
energies for the sake of eternal values, while the others
will rush headlong into the abyss with youthful abandon and
vigor to satisfy their evil inclinations.
The author of Tzidkas Hatzaddik also derives a potent
personal lesson from this portion: when a person fails in any
area, he should realize that at that very time, by the very
means of that downfall, he is being presented with a double-
edged opportunity. He can seize that occasion and turn it to
his advantage, and thereby rise to greater heights by very
virtue of this chance. For as great as the downfall is, so is
its chance to catapult the sinner to a leap to the good. The
very energy that caused him to fall can be exploited to make
him rise all the higher with its momentum, velocity and