Noach’s Ark: A World of Kindness
It's a crazy world out there. Parshas Noach offers a valuable key for surviving it.
A Fascinating Midrash
A Midrash describes Noach's frenetic twelve months on the Ark:
Says Rabbi Levi: "The entire twelve months, Noach and his family had no time to sleep. They needed to tend to the needs of the many animals, beasts and birds."
Says Rabbi Akiva: “Noach had to provide even the most exotic animals, like the elephant and the ostrich, with their specific needs. Some animals needed feeding precisely at the second hour of the night, some at the third.”
Says Rabbi Yochanan: “Once, Noach came late to feed the lion. The lion bit him, and from then on, he walked with a limp”.
An Essential Fact
It is important for us to realize that the existence and survival of Noah’s family along with all the animals was nothing short of miraculous. Ramban tells us that even a ship ten times as big could not hold pairs of every species along with each's necessary supplies. Aside from that, our Sages write that during the Flood, boiling water crashed down from above and surged forth from below, destroying everything in its path. Survival of any kind should have been impossible under these hostile conditions.
In the midst of all the chaos, the Ark sat, undisturbed, as though belonging to another dimension. It existed through the word of G-d. Perhaps it could be compared to the Jewish experience in the wilderness, enveloped within the Clouds of Glory. A spiritual existence.
A Simple Question
Question: Why, then, did Noah’s life have to be difficult? Surely, with a single extra miracle, Hashem could have made the animals self-sufficient! Why did Hashem choose to burden Noach and his family with providing 24-hour service?
A Beautiful Answer
Rabbi Dessler explains: Before the Flood, the earth became so corrupt the very fabric of society corroded. People stole freely, there was no justice, and disregard for others was the norm. They became cruel and egocentric. The world became an evil place.
With the miraculous survival of Noah and his family, they were issued a divine mandate. To undo the damage caused by the society around them, they had to counter it equally -- they had to create a world of kindness. The new world order depended on this one mission.
To bring this about, Hashem orchestrated that Noach's and his family's rescue be fundamentally linked to their own selflessness. In exact proportion to how much they were kind and selfless, they would be saved. The effort they expended caring for the animals was, in actuality, the key to their survival. And thus, even the slightest lapse had a consequence.
The story of Noach and the Ark teaches us how to preserve our values and moral standards in a morally degenerate world. We must create our own oasis of good and loving kindness, where we follow Hashem’s Torah, perform His Mitzvos, and avoid negative influences -- by creating positive ones.