Amid the turbulent times we find ourselves in, finding the words that inspire hope and resilience can be challenging. However, perhaps we can draw inspiration from this week’s Parsha.
Chachamim teach us that Noach lived in a world overwhelmed by corruption and moral decay, a world so profoundly tainted that it even affected the animals and the environment. In response to this dire situation, G-d decided to erase His creation, seeing it as a seemingly failed experiment granting humanity free will. Amid this impending catastrophe, there was but one man who found favour in the eyes of G-d – Noach. He received the divine command to build an ark, a Tevah, to save himself, his family, and pairs of every living creature from the impending Mabul, the stormy waters of destruction.
The obvious question is: How did Noach maintain his composure and determination throughout the 120 years of building the ark, especially in such a hostile environment?
One of the answers lies hidden in Noach’s very name: Noach, which means “calm.” “אֵ֚לֶּה תּֽוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק – These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man.” Noach’s righteousness was deeply intertwined with his remarkable ability to remain calm. His modus operandi was “Noach” – he refused to be reactive to the turbulent world around him. When people allow themselves to be entirely reactive, they become moulded and controlled by external circumstances, relinquishing their freedom to make choices based on their beliefs and values. By constantly maintaining a calm state, Noach chose to act rather than react. He resisted the external influences of his surroundings and acted in a manner he deemed right and just.
In the context of our tumultuous times, with the constant stream of disheartening news from Israel and the overwhelming negativity we encounter in various media outlets and social platforms, it’s challenging to claim that we don’t experience natural emotions such as anger and despair. Nonetheless, we can aspire to follow in Noach’s footsteps to have the ability to choose how we respond to the challenges and turbulence around us and regain control over our feelings. With strengthened Emunah (faith), we can transform our reactions into positive actions and calmly forge a path of righteousness and hope in a world desperately needing it.
Rabbi Shlomo Gabay