05 Oct NEW WEEKLY COLUMNIST!!! RISING ABOVE THE FLOODWATERS
The Torah commentator,
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
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-
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
and no thanks – that
entertainment is not
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.