Noam Elimelech: Making the Words of our Prayers Shine
Parshas Noach: (7th piece): “Make a Tzohar an opening or window for the Teyva ark.” The famous commentator Rashi explains that the word Tzohar is a precious stone. We can also suggest that the Hebrew word for ark -Teyva can also mean “a word”.
Therefore the verse can be read “Make your words into a precious stone.” This teaches us that we should cause all the words we speak to shine with brilliance similar to the luster of a precious stone. * And to a cubit finish it above – this alludes to true unity, since a Tzadik must walk in unity in the higher worlds. *
On a slighty different note the verse teaches us that we should “Make a Tzohar a light for the Teyva words” Make your words shine. Through the words of Torah that the Tzadikim learn they can transform Tzara into Tzohar1, calamity and disaster can be altered to spell radiance and light. 2
Tzara and Tzohar are both spelled with the same three letters Tzadi, Hei and Reish depending upon their order. The word Teyva again means word as well as ark. Therefore the Rebbe is saying that the Torah says Make your words shine forth. Transform the words of pain and darkness from evil into good. Transform the words from darkness into light.
The Tzadik Must act to rectify all 3 levels of humanity (8th piece)
“Make the ark with a lower, middle and upper deck.” This can imply the three levels of mankind: the completely pious righteous ones, the average man, and the wicked evil ones. The lower level hints to the wicked as Rashi explains for waste, since the wicked are constantly involved in waste and disgusting loathsome actions like sin. The middle level is explained by Rashi to be used for dwelling. The average man lives and dwells in the pleasures of the physical world even though he is free of sin. The upper level is for Men called Adam. These are the completely righteous Tzadikim who dwell in the upper worlds. The Tzadikim must rectify all of these levels with their holy deeds. The verb of action Taaseh meaning make or do, is written in the verse next to the third upper deck or level. (In the original Hebrew “With lower, second and third levels make it [the ark].”) This teaches that the Tzadik must take action, actively doing all he can to repair and rectify all the levels of humanity.
This can also be seen as a parable to man himself. In his youth man pursues lowly and loathsome things. In his middle years he is active in the matters of this world. By his final days he should seek to rectify it all rather than sin though which he would be defiling his soul.
The Tzadik works together with Hashem abolishing harsh decrees (9th piece)
There is another way to understand the verse “and finish it above to a cubit.” To understand this we will first introduce the Gemara in tractate Shabbos “He who prays reciting the verse “VaYechulu” about the completion of the world’s creation with the Shabbos, becomes a partner with Hashem in the actual act of creation. As it says “And Heaven and Earth were finished or completed” do not read Vayechulu- finished or completed rather read it as VayeChlu were combined or merged. This can mean that we are included together with Hashem in the process of creation. The Tzadik nullifies harsh decrees and Judgments by elevating them back to their source thereby sweetening them.3
All those who pray reciting the verses “VaYechulu” refers to the Tzadik who prays to end and nullify the harsh decrees and judgments. (In Hebrew the word LeKalot to end is also spelled with the letters of the word “VaYechulu”). He partners up together with Hashem. G-d decrees and the Tzadik abolishes it. As it says “do not read Vayechulu- finished or completed rather read it as Vayikalu they ended or were nullified.” The harsh decrees and judgments are nullified by the Tzadik who elevates them to the heavens up back to their source in holiness.
This is the meaning of the verses Make a Tzohar for the Teyva, cause the words of your prayers4 to sparkle with brilliance like the luster of a precious stone in order to abolish the verdicts and decrees that have been pronounced against the Jewish people. How can these judgments be eliminated? The verse teaches “ el amah ” amah here means Em or mother. Divine mercy is called the merciful mother bird hovering above the young protecting them from all harm. Therefore through divine mercy Techalanah end the decrees by the mercy of the divine mother, through elevating them back to their source above. * 5
We therefore read the verse “v’el Ama Techalenah MiLmaalah” as “through the divine mercy of the mother, we end and abolish [the decrees] by elevating them to their source in holiness.”
The Teshuva of the Tzadik (10th piece)
“Put the entrance to the ark on its side”: This hints at the teaching that a Tzadik must constantly be involved in repentance and returning to Hashem. As the Gemara teaches: “Why does the bottom leg of the letter Heh hang unattached? teaching that whoever whishes to enter returning to Hashem should enter through there.” This is what the verse means put the entrance on the side- Enter through the opening on the side of the letter Heh that corresponds to the path for the penitent ba’al teshuvah. 6
1.See the Degel Machaneh Efraim on Parshas Emor quoting his grandfather the Baal Shem Tov that the Tzadik has the power to change the letters from bad decrees and transform one word into another making Mes into Tam and Nega into Oneg, from Death into Perfection and Afflication into Delight.
This is also taught by the Ramban.
2. This is also taught in the name of the Baal Shem Tov in The Komarna Rebbe’s Nesiv Mitzvosecha (Nesiv Emunah Shvil 3:15) “The principle application of prayer is for others. Eicha 3:38 “From on high no evil comes forth.” Only letter combinations come from on high. He (the Ba’al Shem Tov) explained based on what his Rebbe Achaya Hashiloni taught, that so long as the embryo is still in the womb it can still change from a male aspect (alluding to the active elements) to a female aspect (denoting the passive elements). It can change from Cherem to Rechem, from Tzara to Tzohar, from Tzar to Ratz, from Raash to Osher, from Mes to Tam, and from Maves to V’emes. (all these decrees share the same letters and go from negative to positive; from a ban or excommunication to mercy, from tragedy and calamity to light, from pain and suffering to run [away from it], from noise to wealth, from dead to perfection, from death to truth). All this can be done with those of great sincere faith who attach and cling to the Tzadik.”
Also see Noam Elimelech on Parshas Vayishlach that teaches how this is accomplished through the prayers of the Tzadik.
3.The source of everything is ultimately Hashem and his divine attributes, since Hashem is ultimately absolute good and mercy so all decrees, judgments even evil are rooted in sources of holiness and good. “Lekol Mar Elyon Shorsho Matok”- all bitter things have sweet roots. (Tomer Devora by the Ramak Chapter 4) So for example love of money and lust for women has an original source in love of good, and love of the Divine. When a person overcomes his urges and desires and uses them for a higher purpose like diverting the lust for desires from women to love of Torah and Hashem he is elevating these attributes and returning them to their source. A decree is also sweetened in this way. See above notes 1 for other sources and 2 where Tzara a decree of calamity is transformed by interchanging the letters into Tzohar a shining light.
4. This is taught also in the name of the Baal Shem Tov – Make all the words of your prayer and Torah study shine. See Baal Shem Tov on the Torah parshas Noach, Amud HaTefilah numbers 15 (quoted from Tzvaaot Harivash) and 17 (quoted from Degel Macheneh Efraim) on this verse in parshas Noach.
5. Also see Noam Elimelech on parshas Lech lecha note 1 for a further discussion on how to bring negative character traits back to holiness.
6. See Tomer Devorah Chapter 1 Attribute seven he will show us compassion once more, where the Ramak teaches that repentance – Teshuva is a composite of the words Tashuv Hei return the letter Hei to its source or alternately return through the opening in the Hei. Hei has a gap in the top left corner, which symbolizes repentance. See the Talmud tractate Menachot 29b.