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Weekly Story: A Submarine

Rabbi Sholom DovBer Avtzon

I take the opportunity to thank the many people who contacted me about last week’s post on Avodas HaTefilla, it was beneficial and many of the points were incorporated in the chapter Avodas HaTefilla which is in the Rebbe Rashab’s biography. I am pleased to inform everyone that it is 648 pages and bezras Hashem, is going to print this coming week

In continuation of that theme, I decided to post the following parable of a submarine which I heard at a farbrengen from Reb Sholom Morosow over thirty-five years ago. Obviously I might not be saying his exact words, however, the thought remained. Additionally the second half about a boat he just alluded to (noting that it is mentioned in Torah Ohr), and I expanded on that.

As always your feedback is most welcome and greatly appreciated.

Water is essential, without it there would be droughts, famine, and hunger. In the olden days the rivers, lakes, seas, and Oceans were used for commerce. Many springs have therapeutic benefits. Additionally, people use it for relaxation, such as swimming and water sport. It is one of Hashem’s blessings to mankind.

Yet, water in abundance can be catastrophic, a monsoon, tsunami or hurricane often brings devastation. A sailor prays for a good wind, however, a powerful wind can capsize a boat or ship and the sailors will do whatever they can to avoid going through a storm. Yes, these elements have to be reckoned with and respected. As a general rule, one cannot withstand its onslaught.

But that is if you are on a regular boat. However, if you are entering a submarine, then you are not concerned and you intentionally go into the storms etc. The submarine surrounds and shelters you from all sides and does not allow any water to enter. You are safe. You can go into the depths of the ocean, where a man cannot swim on his own, (for lack of oxygen), and not only survive but thrive.

This is what the Baal Shem Tov taught us on the words of Bo Ehl HaTeva – Enter the Ark. The Torah is informing us we too are on a turbulent sea – the sea of earning a livelihood. The challenges of earning an honest living sometimes are daunting. Thoughts constantly come to our mind; maybe I should try this or that. The allure of making it “big” is tantalizing, but it may entail giving up on davening with a minyan, or keeping a set time to study Torah thoughts, or initially just relax on a few hiddurim.

But a submarine teaches us, the way to ride out a storm, even a ferocious one, is by entering the submarine completely. Thus the Baal Shem Tov says, these words, as everything in the Torah is eternal, were not just said to Noach for his time and situation. They are informing us throughout the generations, earning a living is compared to the turbulent waters of a raging sea. But you can protect yourself from it, and that is by entering the Teva. While the simple meaning of Teva means ark, it also has the meaning of words, and the Torah is guiding us, enter the words of Torah and Tefillah and you will be protected.

However, this can give a person the thought that Torah looks at earning a livelihood as something dangerous and something which a person should try to insulate himself from as much as possible, or consider it a necessary evil. However, the Alter Rebbe writes in Torah Ohr, that not only is this not so, it is the polar opposite, it is a catalyst for growth. One who is in business can attain heights that one who studies an entire day might not accomplish.
He explains, lets us study the pesukim. First, it says that the rain came down on the ark. Then it says the ark was lifted by the water and was elevated above the mountains. This tells us the Alter Rebbe states, that when one thinks about his day; how his thoughts are preoccupied with worldly matters, although those worldly items were created by a low level of Hashem’s greatness. So if that is important to me, how much more important should His essence and greatness be on its own?! So the immersion in these turbulent waters can be the catalyst to create a stronger bond to Hashem that I had until then, and then my davening and learning is on a higher level.

Or in other words, the only way to achieve this greater bond to Hashem is by traversing the turbulent waters. Therefore the floodwaters are referred to the waters of Noach. Simply, people translate that to mean that it happened in Noach’s time. However, Chassidus explains that the flood came to bring contentment to the Creator, (as Noach is similar to the word Neicha (nachas)).

This is akin to what Chassidus explains that the reason we were enslaved in Mitzrayim was in order to enable us to receive the Torah. Without that servitude, we might not have been able to accept it. As you cannot say it was a punishment, as we have not yet received the Torah, so what are we being punished for?

In general, this follows a well-known theme in Chassidus that a descent is done to accomplish something even greater than before, yeridah tzoireich Aliya. Therefore Hashem sent down our souls which were standing in awe of His greatness into this physical world, so that the soul can attain a level much higher than it was originally before its descent.

This week’s post is l’zechus the speedy and complete recovery of my sister Chaya Rivkah bas Cheyena, and all those in need of a brocha.

Rabbi Avtzon is a veteran mechanech and the author of numerous books on the Rebbeim and their chassidim. He can be contacted at avtzonbooks@gmail.com