This Tuesday we resumed our weekly Torah class after taking a break for several weeks during the High Holidays, Sukkot and Simchat Torah season. Most of this week's Torah portion speaks about Noah and the great flood. But nothing in the Torah is just a story from thousands of years ago, it is all an important and very practical lesson for our lives today.
Like Noah, we too can face a flood. Each one of us can be flooded by the daily hassles of life, be it emotional, mental, and especially the mundanities of earning a living. Any or all of these things can completely drown us, upending our ability to live a life of harmony and fulfillment.
To protect ourselves from these waters, like Noah, we too must "enter the ark," that is a space of holiness and spirituality. “Entering the ark” essentially means choosing a time in the day, a day in the week, or even a year in your life, where we surround ourselves exclusively in an environment of Torah and mitzvahs. Only then we can be certain that the hassles of life will leave us unscathed.
This idea of "entering the ark" also comes with communal responsibility, and our obligation to care for the physical and spiritual needs of others. It would be inappropriate for any of us to think "I am taken care of, I am living a good quality life in my comfort zone and what happens outside is not my issue." Here too we must look at the verse, in which G-d tells Noah that in addition to himself, he must bring others into the ark with him as well; his wife and sons, their wives, as well as animal life. We are responsible not only for ourselves but also for the material and spiritual well-being of those around us.
And just like Noah was commanded to enter the ark, G-d also commanded Noah to exit the ark. You might wonder that it's obvious that he eventually needed to leave the ark, for what reason did Noah need to be told to do so?
This is because at times we can get too comfortable in our own little ark of holiness. Sometimes we may forget that our ultimate purpose is to engage with the world completely, and transform it for the better. To do that we must leave the ark, but to leave, we must first enter.
Only by entering and giving ourselves a strong foundation of Torah and mitzvahs can we ultimately succeed in living a life of purpose and meaning, with peace, love and true harmony.
Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz Blog
Serving the spiritual needs of the South Dakota Jewish community. Based in Sioux Falls and travels the state.