(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Torah’s recitation of the events of the great flood and of Noah’s ark is
well known to all of us, no matter our position on the religious spectrum of
Jewish life. It seems pretty accurate in reviewing human history since that
event that we are always somehow perched on the precipice of a cataclysmic event
of horrendous consequences, whether it is man-made or of natural or climatic
making. In our time, we are faced with recurring natural disasters that have
taken hundreds of thousands of lives, with the threat of nuclear wars of untold
destruction and with economic crises that sap the vitality of societies, nations
The motto of King Louis XIV of France, “Après moi le
deluge” – after me comes the flood – is an apt assessment of how much of
humankind thinks today. There is very little optimism to go around in today’s
world. The messengers of hope and change are not very convincing in their words
and certainly not in their deeds and policies. So there is an overall malaise
that besets us. There are no big dreams, bold policies, acceptances of risk and
visions of what can and should be accomplished. The great ideals and movements
that marked the beginning of the 20th century are now shattered idols. Political
rhetoric has lost all believability. and the “Kabbalist” soothsayers and human
rights activists are, in the main, impostors. We pray for rain but are fearful
of the flood.
Enter the ark. The ark symbolizes not only the salvation of
one person and his family but, more importantly, it symbolizes the ability to
rise above our fears and innate pessimism and salvage the purpose of our lives
As a reinforcement of this idea, there is also the natural
phenomenon of the rainbow, which represents an eternal covenant between
humankind and the Creator that the flood will not recur.
This rainbow is
not to be misinterpreted or its impact to be exaggerated. We have no guarantees
against recurring disasters, natural and man-made, wars and strife, but we do
have a promise that somehow human life will continue.
It is therefore
incumbent upon us to make that life productive, meaningful and, in a true sense,
eternal. The ark was and is the will of humankind to not only survive the
omnipresent threat of the flood but somehow to overcome its dangers and attempt
to reinforce the rainbow and not be distracted by the false messages of
unrealistic hopes and the prophets of impending doom.
Every generation is
charged with the task of building an ark for itself anew. It is also instructed
to teach the message of the rainbow to the next generation, to implant belief,
tradition, values and a concern for others into the lives of those that will
All of this is true for humankind generally.
certainly is true for the Jewish people.
Israel, and world Jewry, finds
itself hemmed in by enemies and beset by great problems. We are the only people
targeted openly by others for a great flood to befall us. The world apparently
is unaware that the fate of all is tied in inextricably with the fate of the
Jews. One would have thought that the story of the 20th century and its
horrendous events would have made this lesson clear to all. Obviously this is
not the case.
But, nevertheless, we Jews have to continue building our
ark. This little, seemingly flimsy ark has withstood all the floods that time
has cast against us. We should revitalize ourselves, dream great dreams again,
see the great picture and not concentrate so much on the picayune details which
so blind us to our accomplishments and goals. We have to rebuild ourselves anew
but without discarding the treasures of our past. God promised the Jewish people
a new heart and the ability to rise to all challenges.
And above all, we
must educate our generation and future generations to observe the rainbow that
is reflected in the Torah and our teachings and traditions. Jewish ignorance,
hedonism and worshiping false idols that mask themselves as being somehow the
greater good are the real flood that threatens our future existence and success.
The rainbow teaches us that our ark is waterproof, and those generations and
individuals wise enough to enter it will surely succeed in avoiding all
permanent floods and disasters.