A Different Definition of Noble
On the right-hand side of the Periodic Table is a set of elements known as the noble gases. “Noble” is an archaic, funny-sounding word, less chemistry than ethics or philosophy. And indeed, the term “noble gases” goes back to ancient Greece. There, in “The Symposium,” Plato claimed that every being longs to find its complement, its missing half. Abstract and unchanging things, he wrote, are intrinsically more noble than things that grub around and interact with gross matter. All objects are shadows of one imperfect type. All trees, for instance, are imperfect copies of an ideal tree, whose perfect “tree-ness” they aspire to. The same with fish and “fish-ness,” or even cups and “cup-ness.”
Most would say that Adam before the Sin, was the “ideal,” perfect human being. Yet, even Adam, was looking for his complement; “But as for man, he did not find a helper corresponding to him.” (Genesis 2:20) Our ideal human being is not “Noble,” according to Plato. The Wisest of all Men taught: “For there is no man so wholly righteous on earth that he always does good and never sins.” (Ecclesiastes 7:20) We have a different definition of Noble:
We leave the, shall we say Noble, heights of Yom Kippur for the imperfect structure known as a Succah. The roof certainly does not define “roof-ness,” the walls are not ideal walls that represent “wall-ness.” And yet, that is where we, who achieved our highest Nobility on Yom Kippur head as we strive to rise even higher!
Our definition of Noble is an ideal: An imperfect human being who acknowledges his imperfections and constantly elevates himself by improving in those areas. Our imperfect structures, flimsy if assembled by me, are Holy Places, Noble, if you would, a place where we can find and connect with the Divine Presence.
Succot takes us even higher than Yom Kippur, because it teaches us that our Nobility is found in our imperfect state.
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