The account in this week’s Torah portion is one of the most well known of Bible stories – Noah and the Ark.
There are so many lessons that can be drawn from this text and I’d like to approach it a little differently this year.
What can we learn from God and from Noah this week?
1) Noting that Moses was 80 years old when God called him to bring Israel out of Egypt, and Avraham was 100 years old when Yitzhak was born, my first suggestion to all of us is this:
Stay healthy and fit – when you’re 80, or 100, or 600 (like Noah), God may call on you to do something very important! Seriously, it is never too late to make a difference in this world. Since when has an advanced age ever been a problem in God’s eyes? Think about it!
2) Don’t listen to critics; do what you are called or inclined to do in your service of God. If you have no critics, you’ll likely have no success, either. Theodore Roosevelt’s comment on critics bears repeating here: It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who knows the great enthusiasm, the great devotion, who spends himself in a worthy cause, who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.
3) Plan ahead – it wasn’t raining when Noah built the ark. There is a delicate balance between focusing on the present and making today the best day of your life and, on the other hand, planning ahead for efficiency and success in the various arenas of life. The wise man balances both of these aspects of living and learns wisdom.
4) Don’t miss the boat. All of us are offered unique opportunities in life. Sometimes we realize it and take advantage; some times we ‘miss the boat’ and regret it later. This is not limited to considerations about major, life-changing opportunities. How about the every day opportunities we have to do things like show kindness instead of ignoring someone, or hold our tongues rather than speak a word of gossip or criticism of someone else? Daily life is full of opportunities to become a better person. Don’t miss the boat!
5) Speed isn’t always an advantage. There were cheetahs on the Ark, but there were also snails. In our fast paced society, rushing has become so ‘normal’ that thoughtfulness and patience are nearly lost arts; not to mention that when we are overly rushed or in a hurry, we often make mistakes. The cheetah in you needs to slow down a bit and the snail needs to step it up. Impulsiveness and procrastination need to meet in the middle and find wisdom.
6) If it’s a rainy season of life for you right now, remember that no matter how long it rains, eventually the sun will shine again. If you have to start your life over, change careers, move to distant cities and make any other life changes that are difficult and stressful, have a companion by your side. Two are better than one.
7) Finally, remember that we are all in the same boat. The problems may look different, but we all have problems; we all have challenges; we all have issues to work through; we all need to grow in spiritual maturity. Therefore, we all need to develop a spirit of compassion and understanding towards our fellow man.
In Tune with Torah this week = ponder each of these seven thoughts and if you keep a spiritual journal, you may want to write your own thoughts in response to them. The story of Noah’s ark never grows old;
its message is as important to us today as it was in his time.