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Noah's Ark and the Gift of Cosmic Speech
by Rabbi Yitzchak Ginsburgh
The gift of speech is much more than a means of communication. It is our God-given talent to reach out to our surroundings -- and ultimately to all of creation -- to incorporate it into our consciousness and create something new. In this audio lecture, Rabbi Ginsburgh explains how Noah's microcosmic ark parallels the macrocosmic spoken word, outlining how we can use our spoken words to connect with all the cosmos and create new reality.

Noah's ark, called teivah in Hebrew, contained a microcosm of all creation. Besides meaning "ark," teivah also means "word." In one of the most all-inclusive teachings of the Ba'al Shem Tov, he explains that God's directive to Noah to "enter the ark" is also a directive to all mankind to enter the "word." Every word that we think and speak should be holy -- whether they are words of Torah, prayer, or even seemingly mundane words spoken to create union with another soul. The universal consciousness of all of creation -- mankind and the entire animal kingdom -- should permeate every word that we speak.

 

How do we Speak Cosmic Consciousness?

Every creature sings its own special song to God, as detailed by the Midrash called Perek Shirah. All of creation has a source in the soul of the Jewish People. When we sing the song of every creature on earth, we include all of this cosmic consciousness in our speech.

The Dimensions of the Ark

For a more in-depth understanding of how to enter our words, we will analyze the dimensions of Noah's ark. The Torah describes the ark as being 300 cubits long, 50 cubits wide and 30 cubits high. In Kabbalah and other traditional texts we learn that each of these dimensions can be analyzed according to its corresponding Hebrew letter.

  • The length of the ark, 300 cubits, corresponds to the letter shin.

  • The width of the ark, 50 cubits, corresponds to the letter nun.

  • The height of the ark, 30 cubits, corresponds to the letter lamed.

The first obvious connection between these dimensions and the spoken word is that the letters shin, nun and lamed form the root of the word lashon, which means, "tongue" or "language." The secret of Noah's ark is the secret of rectified language.

 

The Passionate Shin

We will now analyze each component of the dimensions of the ark, so that we can more fully understand the process by which we can enter our words.

The first classic text of Kabbalah, Sefer Yetizrah explains that every Hebrew letter has both physical and spiritual depth. The shin, which is one of the three "mother letters" represents the element of fire. Spiritually, fire is passion. We may choose to speak for varied reasons: a desire to express ourselves, for gain or to speak good words of Torah. All of these rationales to speak must be motivated by passion.

In Psalms 39:4 King David writes:

My heart is hot inside me,
as I meditate my inner fire begins to burn,
then I speak with my tongue

This verse succinctly expresses the process by which passion motivates speech. First the heart becomes inflamed with passion, the words of thought create an inner fire (the Chassidim of the Talmudic era used to meditate a full hour before uttering the words of prayer) and finally the tongue speaks impassioned words.

Passion, the ability to burn straight to the point, is the length principle of the word.

 

The Sensitive Nun

Words on fire can sometimes have a destructive effect. Thus, the next dimension of Noah's ark and rectified speech is 50, the letter nun. Sefer Yetzirah explains that the nun is one of the "Elemental letters." It corresponds to the month of Cheshvan, the tribe of Menashe and the sense of smell. Spiritually, the sense of smell is sensitivity to others. This is the sense of Mashiach -- sensitivity that delves even into the unconscious of another soul and ultimately unites with it.

In speech, the sensitivity of the nun has a moderating affect on the passion of the shin, directing the flame of passion to sensitive compassion. It is our ability to sense the needs of others and to speak words of prayer for them. This also applies to the prayers that a person prays for himself. The sensitivity of nun should make him aware that his personal plight is just a reflection of the plight of all Israel and ultimately of God, whose Divine Presence is in exile along with Israel.

If sensitive enough, a person can affect reality not only through prayer but also through the words of Torah that he speaks, as exemplified by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai, who would bring rain through his words of Torah.

Sensitivity, the ability to encompass the consciousness of others, is the width principle of the word.

 

The Unifying Lamed

Delving into the consciousness of another with passion can be invasive if not tempered with the lamed. Sefer Yetzirah teaches that the lamed, also an "Elemental letter", corresponds to the month of Tishrei, the tribe of Efraim and the sense of touch or procreation. The sense of touch is the ability to touch a given reality, unite with it and to create something new, ex nihilo, from that union.

Lamed is the dimension of height of Noah's ark and the word. When turned around, the dimension of height becomes the dimension of depth. The height, or climax of the experience of entering fully into the word is also its depth. It is the experience of our impassioned word connecting to the entire cosmos and unifying with it with the knowledge that this union will create a new soul or reality.

When we speak with the consciousness that our every word can create new reality, our combined words will indeed create the new, Messianic reality.

 

The Dimensions of the Ark and of the Word

Letter

Dimension

Element or Sense

Spiritual Expression

Expression in Reality

Shin = 300

Length

Fire

Passion

Ability to express thoughts/emotions in impassioned words

Nun = 50

Width

Smell

Sensitivity

Ability to connect to others

Lamed = 30

Height/depth

Touch

Unification

Ability to create new reality

 

 


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