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Noah’s Ark

by Rabbi David Zaslow

My friend and teacher Avraham Sand cites Tatiana Rona: “Do as Noah did and build an ark. An ‘ark’ in Hebrew is taiva – which means also a ‘word.’ Your ark shall be your words of meditation and prayer. Enter into your ark and let the waters lift you up, rather than drown you with everything else.”

Rebbe Nachman taught that when Noah built the ark, he built the prototype for the Torah. Torah is the “word” of the Holy One, what the Greeks and Christians later understood as the “Logos.” We don’t just read Torah, we enter Torah as we would enter Noah’s ark. Torah keeps us afloat when all else in our lives is being flooded. It rescues us. It holds us above the waters. On the deepest level Torah is our ark. Every word we speak is an ark that we build. It can rescue or keep afloat those around us.

Rebbe Nachman also taught (in the name of his teacher, the Baal Shem Tov) that the “window” Noah was commanded to build atop the ark is from the word which means “light,” and which is related to the word zohar meaning “radiance” and “opportunity.” So as we build our arks out of our words, may our words keep us afloat, and may each word be radiant and travel across all the realms as radiant opportunities.

This week, let us build many radiant arks for one another. When you hear a kind word from a friend he/she is building you a radiant ark. When you speak a kind word you are building a radiant ark. Through this kind of sanctified speech we will help create many opportunities in each other’s lives. The mitzvah this week is for each of us is to build many arks with our words by speaking kindly. Suppress negative speech, critical judgements, and gossip. Join Noah and build your own ark.

Noah’s name means “comfort.” When you build an ark with your words the Holy One will bring out the comfort, the inner Noah, that is already deep within you. Noah’s name is a cognate of the words which mean “rest.” Every Saturday we yearn for what we call Shabbat menucha …Shabbat rest. But at the deepest level this rest is the not just the cessation of work, but the deep “comfort” of knowing that all our work is done – there is nothing more to do but to bask in the light of the arks built this week.