Sunday, October 14, 2012


Ships Ahoy! (7:1)

We too must enter into the ark to discover a sanctuary from the flood of moral disarray.


Ships Ahoy! (7:1)

Outside the ark, the violent floodwaters raged, cleansing a world that had sunk into the abyss. Within, Noach presided over a floating, miniature universe which included humans, animals and foodstuff in order “to keep seed alive.”

When the waters finally calmed down and receded, Noach dispatched a raven followed by three doves to see if the waters had completely subsided. Obviously, Noach was eager to rebuild, but could he act on his own? He had first entered the ark by G-d’s explicit command. It would therefore seem that as long as he did not receive instructions to the contrary, the divine injunction, “Come into the ark” remained in force.

Hence the question: For what purpose did Noach dispatch his winged emissaries?

The Baal Shem Tov, founder of Chassidim in the 1700’s, explains the relevance of, “Come into the ark,” to our daily lives. The Hebrew word for ark, tievah, means “word”, while the term mabul, translated here as flood, also connotes “disorders and confusion.”

 “Come into the ark” thus becomes, “Enter the words” of Torah and prayer. Within them you will find a sanctuary from the flood of moral disarray. But like Noach of old, we not only create islands of tranquility for ourselves, we bring in “specimens” from the outside world into the sanctity of our “ark.”

Through our observance of mitzvot, we employ a great variety of elements to fulfill G-d’s will: the animal hide that is made into a mezuzah, the food that graces our Shabbat table, the money given to charity. They are all brought into the teivah and made part of the safe haven.

Our ‘arks’ however, are not ends onto themselves. They serve as the seeds from which a new world, one dedicated to G-dliness will grow. Thus the directive, Come into the ark” is but a prelude to heaven's marching order of, "Go forth from the ark," when the revelation of holiness will extend to all of creation.

As Noach did, we await the word. We cannot decide the era of Moshiach has begun but neither can we sit passive. We send out messengers to test the waters thus hoping to hasten the process of redemption.

The story of Noach is then more than a recollection of ancient history. It is this week’s Biblical challenge to each and every one of us not to insulate ourselves and hide the glory of Judaism. We must open wide the windows and extend our islands of holiness to encompass all.

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