Parshat Noach (5771)

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As the rain clouds gathered to begin the Great Flood, G-d saw Noach sitting in his front yard weeping. “Noach,” He shouted, “Where is the Ark?”
 
Please forgive me!” cried Noach. “I did my best … but there were big problems. First, I had to get a permit for construction and your plans did not comply with the codes so I had to hire an engineering firm and an architect. Then there were problems with sprinkler systems, alarms and flotation devices, problems with planning permissions and zoning regs, and with the Forestry commission for felling too many trees. The ISPCA objected to the living conditions and the Animal Rights movement blocked us collecting any rare breeds. The Carpenter’s Union went on strike and the Revenue Commissioners thought I was skipping town and froze all my assets. The Coast Guard wanted proof that the craft was registered seaworthy and the Gardai wanted to check the seatbelts. I really don’t think I can finish the Ark for another 5 or 6 years!” Noach wailed.
 
The sky began to clear, the sun began to shine and the seas began to calm. A rainbow arched across the sky. Noach looked up hopefully. “You mean you are not going to destroy the Earth?
 
No,” said the L-rd sadly, “The government already has!”
 
 As we restart the Torah from the beginning we read this week the famous biblical account of Noach (Noah) and the Great Flood. In this parsha G-d sees how His creations have rapidly degenerated into a corrupt and licentious society, and decides to start afresh. The world will be flooded with turbulent waters and only a few humans will be spared to repopulate the planet. One pair of each impure animal and seven pairs of each pure animal were also to be spared, gathered into a huge wooden vessel and tended to by Noach & co. for the full year they would eventually be sealed inside their vessel.
 
And so it comes to fruition. Noach and his family, having loaded all the creatures eventually seal the craft closed and the waters begin to rise. Battered and buffeted by the swirling waters which are cascading from the heavens and bursting from the depths of the earth, the ark enters a lonely voyage. All other life forms are annihilated as the stormy waters rage for 40 consecutive days and nights – yet those in the ark are protected, dry and nourished.
 
The Sages tell us that the stories in the Torah carry relevant messages for all generations. In this particular story they focus on three specific words in the Parsha. G-d tells Noach and his family “Bo … el ha’Teiva – enter into the Ark,” this will be your salvation and your protection from the dangers which lie ahead.
 
The Hebrew word “Teivah” not only means “Ark” but it also means “Word.” This, say our Sages, is one of the keys to our survival:
 
Time and again in our lives we will be confronted with troubles and stress, the “raging waters” which threaten to engulf us. Time and again we may feel like we are drowning under the pressures of earning a living, of coping with ill health of ourselves or of those we love, of battling friction and controversy or just generally coping with what life throws at us. These are the waves we must ride and the storms we must survive.
 
How do we cope with these difficulties? What strategy does G-d recommend?
 
Parshat Noach reveals the answer: “Bo … el ha’ Teiva” can also mean “Enter into the Word” – delve into the words of prayer and study. The protective ark which shelters and nourishes in a spiritual sense is the Ark of Words. Before we run for advice from psychologists and life coaches let us first try the advice of G-d: The first port of call when storm clouds appear on the horizon is in the books we have at home or in the synagogue. Crafted with Divine inspiration the words of the prayers and the Psalms can have a magical effect on the way we perceive the world around us, and also on actually changing the reality we live in.
 
So next time something bad is about to happen – don’t call the Emergency Services – call King David! Take out a book of Psalms and read the soothing words recited by troubled Israelites for thousands of years. As a great rabbi once commented: If we could only appreciate the powerful effect which the words of Tehillim (Psalms) have in the Heavens we would recite them continually day and night!
 
Let us pray that very soon the time arrives when “the flood waters receded from the earth” and we merit to an era of peace and harmony for all mankind.
 
Shabbat Shalom
 
Rabbi Zalman Lent

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