This week’s Torah reading, parshat Noah, tells us the story of Noah’s Ark – a story we’re all familiar with. We know the grandeur of the problem: all of creation has corrupted and turned evil. We know the grandeur of the solution: God destroys everything with a flood. But within the narrative lies a subtle detail that speaks volumes to us today.
The Torah says that the animals and people entered the ark in their designated numbers. They are referred to as pairs when they enter. Yet, when these same people and animals leave the ark, we’re told they leave in their family groupings. In other words, the people and animals who were isolating together in the ark formed relationships and bonds while they were there.
As nature raged outside, the ark protected those within — not just with shelter from the storm, but with the understanding that they will survive if they create strong bonds with each other. When the destruction outside became overwhelming, it is the love and bond they developed for each other that secured difficult moments.
The corruption that led to the flood included a preference for disconnect and ultimate autonomy from everyone and everything. The Sages speak of a world where absolute self-interest and self-promotion became the motive and expression of everything. The Torah contrasts that with the changing reality inside the ark. While everything entered on its own, they quickly formed trust, family, bond, and the hope of continuity.
After the High Holidays, I heard from many families who re-experienced the power and joy of sitting together with family members. In some cases, it had been years since they were able to experience those moments. The spirituality of Judaism is not just the holiness of God and ritual, it is also the holiness we create when we reach toward each other and build strong unions.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.