The Midrash states:1 “At the very beginning of the world’s creation, G‑d’s praise came solely from the waters…. When the generation of the Flood arose and rebelled against Him… G‑d said: ‘Let these [rebels] be removed and the former [i.e., the waters] arise and come [in their stead].’ Hence it is written: ‘And the rain was upon the earth 40 days and 40 nights.’ ”

Accordingly, it is to be understood that the world’s status at the time of the Flood was similar to the exalted state it enjoyed at the very beginning of creation, when it was “one mass of water,”2 entirely involved in praising G‑d.

How can this Midrash be reconciled with the fact that the waters of the Flood were clearly meant to “destroy all flesh3 “ — just the opposite of praising G‑d?

It has been noted by our Sages4 that “Torah preceded the world,” i.e., although Torah as studied in this physical world is to be understood in its plain context,5 it preceded the world. For every letter of Torah also possesses inner and esoteric meaning. Such meaning emanates from the study of Torah in the higher spiritual realms — worlds that transcend physicality.

Understandably, this applies not only to the Torah’s commandments, but to its stories; although all the stories recounted actually transpired in all their detail, still, since Torah preceded the world, we must perforce say that these tales also contain meanings found in the higher, spiritual worlds.6

This gives rise to the following inescapable conclusion: Since “No evil sojourns with You,”7 we must say that even though the Torah contains things that in their simple context seem undesirable — such as misdeeds, punishments, and the like — in the world above, where it is impossible for evil to reside, these selfsame events are understood as being entirely desirable, holy and good.8

This principle will help us understand a seemingly inexplicable phenomenon associated with the reading of the Passage of Admonition (in the portion of Savo) by the Alter Rebbe , Rabbi Shneur Zalman of Liadi:

The Alter Rebbe used to serve as a Torah reader. It once happened that he was not in town during the Shabbos of Savo , so his son, the Mitteler Rebbe , heard the Torah read by another. His anguish upon hearing the maledictions in the Passage of Admonition was so great that it profoundly affected his health.

When the Mitteler Rebbe was asked: “But don’t you hear this reading every year?” he responded: “When father reads, one does not hear any maledictions.”

Surely, when the Alter Rebbe read the Torah the plain text was heard. What, then, did the Mitteler Rebbe mean when he said “one does not hear any maledictions”? How could he have failed to discern the simple meaning of the verses?

In light of the above, the matter is readily understandable: Maledictions exist in the Torah only as it is studied in this corporeal world. In a completely holy world, utterly divorced from evil (and thus also from the punishment that stems from evil behavior), even such things as maledictions are entirely holy and represent blessings.

Thus, when the Alter Rebbe would read the Torah, his level of inflection was such that his son could perceive even the Section of Admonition as it existed Above — in complete goodness and blessing.

The same is true with regard to the comment of the Midrash concerning the Flood: That the floodwaters came in order to punish the people of that generation was only so in this world. Since the incident of the Flood is related in the Torah , it follows that the event also transpired “above,” in the spiritual world that is wholly good and utterly removed from any vestige of evil, sin, and punishment.

The Midrash thus informs us that the Flood was (also) entirely good and holy, similar to the “very beginning of the world’s creation,” when the entire world was but “one mass of water” and “G‑d’s praise came solely from the waters.”

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Noach 5747.