How to Stay Afloat in a Storm

The people of Israel are being besieged by rockets day and night with no end in sight. Too many families are grieving lost children and relatives, while two hundred families are worrying day and night over the plight of their loved ones being held hostage by the Hamas terrorists. In addition to the pain and suffering there is also the awful unknown. How long will this war go on? How long until we reunite with our loved ones being held as prisoners? The unknown itself is also torture. Does the Torah have anything to say about this? It certainly does.

In Parshat Noach that we read this week, the Torah shares with us the details that led up to the flood, the horrors of the flood, and what life was like after the flood. We know G-d commands Noach and his family to board the ark and take representatives of all the animal species with them together with enough food for all the animals during the voyage. The Torah tells us what the ark looked like, the length, width, and height of the ark; yet, the Torah does not spell out for us clearly what the mood on the ark was like. How did Noach, his wife and his kids manage the year on the ark? How difficult was it when they had no idea how long they would need to stay on board? And what did they do to pass the time? There were no iPhones, Play Stations, or even chess boards at that time! The Midrash provides some insight into the matter.

Midrash Rabbah 33:3

וַיִּזְכֹּר אֱלֹהם אֶת נֹחַ, מַה זְּכִירָה נִזְכַּר לוֹ שֶׁזָּן וּפִרְנֵס אוֹתָם כָּל שְׁנֵים עָשָׂר חֹדֶשׁ בַּתֵּבָה,

G-d remembered Noach, what exactly did G-d remember? That Noach sustained and supported every animal on board the ark for twelve months day and night.

The Talmud explains that for an entire year Noach did not sleep because he was taking care of all the animals 24/7. Some animals eat during the day and some at night. Some animals eat multiple times a day, and some less frequently. Noach constantly practiced chesed, which means kindness; and because of this, he was saved with his family from the flood and able to descend from the ark and start life anew.

People want to know what they can do during this challenging time of war in Israel against the Hamas terrorists. We learn from Noach that a great thing to do during difficult times is chesed. Kindness is contagious and brings light into an otherwise dark environment.

Over the last weeks since the war began, we have seen great chesed expressed around the Jewish world. Lots of time, money, and resources have been dedicated towards our brothers and sisters in Israel. By doing so, we pray that we will all be able to descend from the ark of war and into a world of peace and blessings.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Ephraim Epstein 
Community Scholar in Residence