A teaching from Levi Yitzhak of Berditchev, from Kedushas Levi, Parshat Noah.
These are the offspring of Noah: Noah… אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ
The joy that the righteous feel when they do the Creator’s command comes from knowing that the Creator feels joy in their doing it. This is the meaning of These are the offspring of Noah: Noah, for noah means comfort, and when the righteous do a mitzvah it brings them comfort in knowing that they bring joy to their Creator. This is the essential joy of a mitzvah. Understand this.
Noah walked with God. אֶת הָאֱ־לֹהִים הִתְהַלֶּךְ נֹחַ
[Jeff’s note: The word translated here as “with,” et, does not usually mean “with,” but rather connects a verb and a direct object. Also, the form of “walk,” hithalech, is a strange form of the verb, connoting a walker and someone “being walked.”]
Et ha-elohim hithalech noah means Noah caused God to become manifest in the world. How did he do it? Through et, for et, spelled alef-tav, the first and last letters of the alef-bet, stands for all the letters of the alef-bet. That is to say, through the letters Noah made God manifest.
Make yourself an ark…with compartments. עֲשֵׂה לְךָ תֵּבַת עֲצֵי גֹפֶר קִנִּים
The word for ark, tevah, also means “word,” and the word for chambers, kinim, can also mean “nests,” that is, a dwelling place. So we can read the verse, “Make of your words a dwelling place.” For who? For God.
We’ve learned elsewhere about God turning the divine self into words of Torah so that we can begin to understand Him, and our turning ourselves into words of prayer so that we can follow them back to God. Something different is happening here. Instead of telling us to reach for God in the upper worlds of prayer, the Kedushas Levi enjoins us to use our words — whether they be words of prayer and Torah or simply kind and honest speech — to make a home for God down here. In this way we turn our lives into Torah, just as Noah’s life was turned into Torah. This brings infinite joy to our Creator, for in this way we fulfill the whole mission of Creation, which is to make a place for God to dwell in the world below (Tanhuma, Naso 16).