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    The Torah commentator,
    Nachmanides, commonly
    known as Ramban (1194-
    1271), wrote a letter to his son,
    on how to live a modest and humble
    life. The letter, “Iggeret HaRamban” (lit.
    Letter of the Ramban) advises: “When

    you arise from your Torah learning, re-
    flect carefully on what you have studied,

    to find a lesson in it that you can inter-
    nalize and put into practice.”

    As we embark on our journey through

    Bereishis, let’s take the words of Ram-
    ban to heart, connect the dots, and bring

    the life lessons of our ancestors into our
    lives today.
    This Shabbos, we read Parshas Noach.

    The Torah tells us “…Noach was a righ-
    teous man, perfect in his generation –

    Noach walked with HaShem.” (Bere-
    ishis 6:9)

    The world Noach lived in was lacking in

    morals and ethics. “The earth had be-
    come corrupt before HaShem, and the

    earth became filled with robbery.”

    (Bereishis 6:11) Noach chose to be dif-
    ferent, and walked with HaShem. He

    stood alone and found the inner strength
    to hold onto his beliefs and morals. He
    refused to be influenced by the world
    around him. He had the fortitude to say

    “I will not be part of
    this deal… I will not

    conduct my busi-
    ness this way. I will

    not participate in
    that conversation,
    and no thanks – that
    entertainment is not
    for me.”
    HaShem told Noach of a
    “mabul” that He would bring upon the
    world, and directed Noach to build a

    “teivah”, an ark. For one-hundred-and-
    twenty years, Noach hammered away,

    building an ark of epic proportions –
    unlike anything that had ever been built
    before. It had to be large enough to

    house his family along with a menag-
    erie of animals. From large elephants

    and tall giraffes, to fierce lions and even
    the tiniest of insects. Noach made room
    for them all.
    Noach’s relentless construction aroused
    the curiosity of many. People would
    stop by, questioning Noach as to what
    he was up to. When Noach explained
    about the impending flood that would
    obliterate all of mankind, the reaction
    was one of disbelief and laughter. To his
    credit, Noach continued his task, even
    though he was subject to mockery and
    ridicule. Though the teivah was visible

    to many, aside from his immediate fam-
    ily, Noach wasn’t successful in con-
    vincing anyone to join him.

    In contrast, Avraham Avinu, from a sim-
    ple desert tent, was able to reach out to

    others. How is it that Avraham succeed-
    ed in influencing multitudes, while No-
    ach couldn’t get anyone to hop aboard?

    The Torah tells us about Avraham’s and
    Sarah’s “kiruv” work. “Es hanefesh
    asher ossu b’Choron” – “And the souls
    they created in Choron.” (Bereishis
    How does one create a soul? Avraham

    and Sarah gave of their very being. Rab-
    bi Moshe ben Izra teaches, “Dvarim ha-
    yotzim min halev nichnasim el halev,

    Words that emanate from one heart, en-
    ter another.” They gave from their

    hearts, they gave from their souls, and
    their words entered the hearts and souls
    of so many.
    Avraham was known as a man of
    “chesed”. With chesed, one can give life
    to a soul.
    The Torah also tells us that Avraham
    begged and pleaded with HaShem to
    save the city of Sodom. While Sodom

    was just one city, the impending flood-
    waters were of much greater magnitude,

    affecting an entire world. Yet, no-
    where do we find that Noach cried

    out on behalf of the people of his

    time. The flood is called “Mei No-
    ach”, for Noach had the opportu-
    nity to intervene, to cry out to

    HaShem. However, his reaction
    was one of silence.
    HaShem instructed Noach to take
    the animals into the teivah, making

    him the world’s “busiest zookeep-
    er”. His days and nights were filled

    tending to all the animals. Life in
    the ark was a “chesed boot-camp”.
    After a year of giving and caring,
    Noach left the teivah with a new
    understanding of selflessness.
    Like Noach, we too, are trying to
    stay afloat. Our floodwaters are the
    raging waves of Covid, political

    unrest, a resurgence of anti-Semi-
    tism, building collapses, hurri-
    canes, and wildfires.

    With stormy winds blowing all
    around us, it’s time to make our
    homes our personal “teivahs”, our
    sanctuaries, our safe havens.

    HaShem’s commandment to No-
    ach was “Asei lecha – make for

    yourself” a teivah. This message
    speaks to all of us. “Make for
    yourself a teivah.” Each one of us
    must take this message to heart.
    Let’s fill our homes with chesed,
    with lovingkindness. It will keep
    us afloat during these challenging
    times. King David writes in
    Psalms (89:6) “olam chesed
    yibaneh”, — if we fill our world
    with kindness and compassion,

    HaShem will rebuild the world with
    kindness and compassion.

    A teivah is an encasement. Just as No-
    ach’s teivah housed his family and all

    the animals, so too, our physical body

    houses our spiritual soul – our nesha-
    mah. We must ask ourselves: Are we

    making room for others in our personal
    arks? Are we using our time to lend a
    helping hand, to give a listening ear, to
    care, to pray, and even to cry for others?
    Do we really feel the pain of others?
    Olam chesed yibaneh. Let’s rebuild the
    world with chesed.
    The teivah had a “tzohar” – a window.

    The Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760) teach-
    es that the word tzohar is comprised of

    three Hebrew letters – tzadi, hei, reish.
    These are the same letters as the word
    “tzarah” – a problem. With the right
    mindset, we can take our tzarah, our

    challenge, and transform it into a tzo-
    har, a window – a window of opportu-
    nity that lets in light, warmth and sun-

    At times, we may feel that there is no

    end in sight. But if we view our chal-
    lenges and difficulties as opportunities

    for spiritual growth, we will see much
    berachah in our lives.

    I will share a sweet, personal story. This

    month marks nine years since the dev-
    astating Hurricane Sandy. The floodwa-
    ters hit my daughter Tziri’s Five Towns

    neighborhood very hard. My then three-
    year-old grandson had just learned the

    story of Noach in school. He looked at
    the water covering the main floor of
    their home. He looked out the window

    and saw a flooded street, their car sub-
    merged in water. “Mommy, mommy”,

    he called out, “I see the the mabul, but
    where is the teivah?”
    When my daughter shared the story
    with me, we both had a good laugh. And
    then it hit me. Yes, where is the teivah?
    The teivah is wherever you make it. We
    have the power to form our personal
    sanctuary of kindness and healing, of
    love, compassion and understanding.
    We can build our own teivah.