The Midrash1 relates: “At the beginning of Creation, G‑d’s praise emanated solely from the waters. When the Generation of the Flood rebelled against Him… G‑d said: ‘Let them be cast aside, and [in their place] shall come those who originally dwelled there.’ Thus the verse states:2 ‘The rain was upon the earth for 40 days and 40 nights.’ ”

According to the Midrash, the state of the world at the time of the Flood resembled the beginning of creation, when the world was “entirely composed of water.”3 This was truly an exalted state, a condition in which the entire world praised G‑d, as His praises emanated “solely from the waters.”

How does the explanation of the Midrash dovetail with the simple text, which states that the purpose of the Flood was “to destroy all flesh”?4

The Alter Rebbe explains5 that the inundation served not only to punish the Generation of the Flood, but also to “purify the world,” similar to the purifying waters of a mikveh. Thus the Flood served a positive purpose as well.

Even according to this explanation, the purifying effect of the Flood was related to the sins of that generation — sins that brought impurity into the world. According to the Midrash, however, the effect of the Flood was to bring about a state of pristine holiness and goodness, bearing absolutely no relation to iniquity.

Our Sages relate6 that the Torah preceded the world. Thus, although Torah is always to be understood in its simple context7 as it is studied in this physical world, we should not forget that each letter also contains a deeper spiritual context, as it is studied and understood in the higher spiritual realms — realms that are far removed from physicality.

Understandably, this applies not only to Torah directives but to Torah tales as well. Although all the Biblical narratives occurred exactly as detailed, since Torah preceded the world, these stories must perforce embrace a spiritual element consonant with the higher realms.8

Moreover, since “evil does not dwell with Him,”9 we must conclude that even those aspects of Torah which in the simple sense seem untoward (misdeeds, punishments, etc.), are understood in the higher realms — where evil does not exist — as manifestations of complete goodness and holiness.10

In light of the above, we can understand the following Chassidic tale:

The Alter Rebbe used to serve as Torah Reader. It happened that he was once out of town for the portion of Savo , which contains severe admonitions and maledictions. So that week his son, the Mitteler Rebbe , heard the Torah reading from another.

The Mitteler Rebbe’ s anguish on hearing the maledictions was so great that it was doubtful if he could fast on Yom Kippur. When asked: “But you hear this same Torah portion every year?” he responded: “When father reads, one does not hear maledictions.”

Now, when the Alter Rebbe would read the Torah, the simple content of the reading was surely heard. What did the Mitteler Rebbe mean by stating: “When father reads, one does not hear maledictions”?

In light of the above, his meaning is clear: Maledictions exist only as they are understood within the physical world. As Torah also relates to realms of complete holiness and goodness, where evil does not exist (and hence where there is no punishment for evil behavior), the maledictions themselves are wholly good.

The Mitteler Rebbe would hear his father’s reading of the maledictions as they existed above, where they are entirely matters of blessing.

The same holds true with regard to the Flood. It was merely in this world — in its simple context — that the Flood served as a punishment and a purification of sins. Since the Flood is related in the Torah , we must understand that it also exists in spheres where evil and sin simply do not exist.

The Midrash thus informs us that in those worlds, the Flood was an entirely good event; the earth reverted to a time when the entire planet sang G‑d’s praises.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. XXX, pp. 16-19.