Rabbi Miller teaches us a beautiful mussar lesson in the the story of Noah.
When bad things happen, we automatically translate it and feel that Hashem doesn't love us. We start to pull away, we become distant and we say we don't believe anymore. However, when we look closer at the story of Noah, we see that he was able to see that Hashem's love was constant. Through the flood, which was certainly one of the worst times, when it was truly a challenge to see Hashem, Noah was able to see that Hashem didn't stopped caring. It appeared as if Hashem didn't care anymore. If we just look at the superficial and see the events that were happening, it certainly appears that Hashem is not near. Yet, if we look a little deeper, we are able to see what Noah saw. Hashem was there and he cared.
This is obvious when Hashem asked Noah to preserve all the species. Even though, He was destroying the world, He wanted life to continue. Noah was able to recognize that Hashem was merciful. Noah was able to view the destruction around him as a tikkun (a repair for the world). Something that needed to occur, something that was beyond his understanding. But, through it all, Noah was able to see the kindness of Hashem. Noah saw that His kindness was not eclipsed by His judgment. Even though, there was a harsh judgment taking place, Noah saw Hashem's kindness.
When bad things happen, our focus is usually on the bad thing that happens. The lesson teaches us that our focus has to be not on the bad, but to look for the kindness of Hashem. We should never translate the difficulties in life and think that Hashem doesn't love us. Noah was able to see this. He didn't get depressed or overwhelmed by the huge task he had to manage. In fact, just the opposite occurred. Noah was moved, he became inspired. So much so, that he did not sleep for 12 months. All he did was notice and feel the kindness of Hashem. Noah became so inspired and so involved that he gave all of his life to emulating the kindness of Hashem. He realized he had a precious opportunity in his hands, the chance to do chesed (acts of kindness). And he became inspired to do so, because doing chesed gives people life.
When Noah realized this, he was able to act accordingly and emulate Hashem. Noah was joyous that he had the privilege to act G-dly. Like a mother caring for her children, Noah was nursing Creation. Nurturing creation, nurtures the soul. This excited Noah, he was inspired, involved and unable to sleep. All because kindness is our essence. Kindness is life. If we don't act with kindness, we become like an atrophied muscle that just withers away and cannot function. We miss our essence. If we miss our essence, we are not living according to what we truly are. What we are, the essence of who we are and what we were created to live according to... is kindness.
Noah saw the dimensions of Hashem's Infinite Love, even through the darkness. When Noah saw the kindness of Hashem in the darkest of times, his soul was touched. He lived with this kindness and showed it by caring for the animals. Noah knew that every species was perfectly sculpted to perform a specific function in the universe. He knew that every species was needed for the continuity of life. He felt inspired and passionate as he became filled with compassion to perform the tremendous task that was in front of him, with super-human abilities. As Noah cared for the animals with intense compassion and devotion, he knew he was emulating Hashem. Instead of seeing the darkness around him, He saw the kindness of Hashem because Hashem asked Noah to care for his animals. Hashem wanted Noah to care for the animals. He wanted life to continue and to be preserved. The compassion of Hashem became the compassion of Noah. Hashem's love and kindness for wanting animal life to be preserved and cared for, caused Noah to feel loving kindness and care for the animals and do so, with his deepest devotion and love.
The way we bring this lesson into our daily life and learn how we can improve our character traits and benefit from it- is by practicing acts of chesed daily. Each day we have a list to things to do, all our responsibilities and chores. Most probably, an act of kindness is not at the top of that list. In order to practice seeing the kindness of Hashem and emulating His ways, we must put the acts of kindness each day at the top of the list.
Our pre-mussar understanding of chesed, acts of kindness, was that we had to do this for someone else (the person receiving the kindness). That phone call to an elderly relative, a hospital visit or even giving tzedaka to the homeless man on the corner, all of it... seemed like it was for their benefit. They were the ones in need. We had to give to them, to make them feel better. It was only for their benefit. Maybe, it felt good after we did it. But, it was always an effort or there was doubt about it. Our new understanding has enlightened us and made us realize that in order to draw close to Hashem and feel His Presence with us always, our task is to emulate His ways. It is now crystal clear, His ways are only of loving kindness and compassion. Those ways (loving kindness and compassion) have to become our ways.
Certainly, acts of chesed do benefit the ones who receive the kindness, but we are actually the ones who benefit the most. We elevate ourselves spiritually, we improve our character traits and most of all, we become closer to Hashem. Simply, by emulating His ways. He bestows kindness on us, we bestow kindness on others.
Our mussar task is to see that, at all times, no matter how light or how dark times can become; the kindness, compassion and love of Hashem is always there.
If we practice acts of loving kindness daily, we can draw close to Hashem,
all we have to do, is emulate His ways.
If we become loving, kind, compassionate and good....
we can see Hashem and feel Him close to us.
May mussar learning be the tikkun and .....
may we all heal the world with acts of loving kindness!