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PARASHAT NOACH 5758
The water rose 15 Amos (cubits) above the highest of mountains.... The water covered the earth for 150 days. (Bereishit 7:20,24)
The careful reader of the Torah's account of the Great Flood is immediately struck by the recurrence of decimal factors of 15 in the account. The waters of the Flood rose *15* Amos above the ground, and they remained there for *150* days. With regard to Noach's Ark, we are told that it measured 300 Amos in length and 50 in width (ibid. 6:15). That would make its floor space *15*,000 square Amos. And since the 30 Amos height of the Ark was divided into three equal compartments, each compartment measured *150*,000 cubic Amos in volume.
Kli Yakar (Bereishit 6:15), noting this interesting recurrence, explains that the number 15 indeed has in it a symbolism that is related to the events surrounding the Great Flood.
The Gemara in Sotah tells us the following:
Explained Rebbi Akiva: When a man and woman are true to each other, Hashem rests His Divine Presence between them. (This is attested to by the fact that the word for man [Ish] and the word for woman, [Isha] are identical except for the letter "Yud" of Ish and the letter "Heh" of Isha. Together, these two letters spell out one of the Holy Names of Hashem -Rashi.) If, however, they are not true to each other, a fire will devour them (since Hashem will remove His Holy Name from between them, making the words Ish and Isha each into "Esh," or fire -Rashi). (Gemara Sotah 17a)
Hashem brought the Great Flood upon the world because all of mankind was sinning adulterously (Rashi Bereishit 6:2,11,13; 7:11). Even the beasts of the land were following man's example and were not remaining faithful to their mates (Rashi Bereishit 6:12). Hashem removed His Holy Name from between them, and they were punished with raging, fiery waters (Rosh Hashanah 12a). To show that their sin had caused the Yud and Heh of Hashem's Holy Name to be removed from amongst them, Hashem brought about their punishment, and the salvation of Noach, in multiples of 15 -- the combined numerical value of Yud and Heh!
The Kli Yakar adds that the number 15, and the Holy Name produced by Yud and Heh, often are used to represent the bond between man and wife. For example, in the Temple a staircase separated between the Women's Court and the Men's Court. This staircase consisted of *15* steps, upon which the Levite musicians stood and played their musical instruments durings the Sukkot celebrations. According to some, the *15* "Songs of Elevations" (Shir ha'Ma'alot) of Tehilim (Pss. 120-134) were so called because they were sung on these steps (Tiferes Yisrael, Midos).
This insight sheds light on a cryptic Midrash:
Only the living call Hashem by the name of Yud, Heh; the dead are not allowed to do so, as the verse says, "The dead do not praise Yud, Heh" (Tehillim 115:17). It is a rule that the dead never mention Hashem's two-letter name. (Rashi, Yeshayah 38:11)
The dead, too, praise Hashem. But they know Him only by His other Holy Names -- not by the two-letter name of Yud, Heh. What is special about that name that limits it to the domain of the living? The answer to this lies in the words of Rashi at the end of Parshat Beshalach.
The tetragrammatton is the holiest of Hashem's Names. Its first two letters are Yud and Heh. Rashi explains in Shemot 17:16 that these two letters do not actually comprise a distinct Holy Name (as we have assumed until now); rather, they are a truncated form of the tetragrammatton. "Hashem lifted His Hand in oath to say that His Holy Name is not complete -- it contains only two letters, and not the full four -- until the seed of Amalek is eradicated." (See also Vilna Gaon, YD 276:19.)
The Name of Yud, Heh represents our sometimes hazy view of Hashem in this world. One who takes careful note of the thousands of natural, worldly processes upon which our lives are dependent cannot help but be overcome with a sense of awe for Hashem's intricate creation. Nevertheless, at times one may forget that the guiding Hand of Hashem is behind all those natural processes. The forces of Amalek, jump eagerly at any opportunity to make the world forget its Creator. This lack of clarity of Hashem's Presence in this world is represented by the truncated version of the tetragrammatton, or Yud and Heh.
In the Afterlife, there will be no mistaking the Creator of All. His Presence will be clear and indisputable. The dead cannot praise Hashem with His two-letter Name -- that is, by recognizing Him despite the obscuring veil of nature. That is a privilege that only we, the living, can take advantage of.
The name of Yud, Heh represents Hashem as He appears to us in this world, through the veil of nature. This is the Yud of the man and the Heh of the woman. Since all creatures eventually expire, the continued existence of the world is possible only through reproduction. The bond of man and woman in order to reproduce through marriage is symbolic of Nature in general. It is through such a bond, and the natural processes that it represents, that Hashem's Presence becomes known in this world. As the Gemara said, the Divine Presence of Yud, Heh rests upon a man and wife who are faithful to each other.
The Gemara in Nidah (31a) tells us that there are three partners in the birth of a child: its father, its mother, and Hashem. According to the Gemara's accounting, Hashem dispenses twice as much to the newborn child than do each of its parents. (Each of the parents grants the child 5 traits while Hashem grants it 10 -- Gemara ibid., see Tosfos Bava Kama 25a s.v. Kal va'Chomer).
Perhaps this "triumvirate" is represented in the tetragrammatton. The first two letters, as we have suggested above, represent the father and mother. The last two represent the double portion of Hashem. By analogy, the first two letters thus represent Nature, while the last two represent supernatural occurrences, through which the domain of Hashem becomes clearly visible to all. As long as Amalek and his cronies are around to deny anything and everything supernatural, the tetragrammatton is truncated to Yud, Heh. However, when Hashem will reveal Himself to all during the Final Redemption through our miraculous salvation, He will once again become known by the full tetragrammatton -- may it be so, speedily in our days!
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