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Parshas Noach -  A Modern Day Ark                   2 Cheshvan 5779

10/11/18 11:30:52


A few weeks ago I did something that I would say happens to others but not to me! While aboard a flight which was about to land in San Diego, the pilot went through his typical, prepared remarks and preparation for landing. in addition to the usual safety instructions, he reminded all the passengers to take their personal belongings and then quipped, ”Some of you will still leave stuff behind.” I thought to myself, ”Boy, I bet he insulted some people with that last comment!” Like, who is going to forget something after he made that statement, challenging everyone not to forget anything. Well…sure enough, right after after I deplaned and was walking to the baggage claim area, I checked my carry on for my phone charger and immediately recalled not seeing it or remembering to put it into my bag. I definitely processed the gathering of my paraphernalia, actually remember thinking about putting my charger into my bag, and…yeah… here I was, the shmugegy whom the pilot was referring to! I went back to the gate, gave the attendant my seat number, explaining that I had forgotten to take my phone charger. Within minutes I was reconnected to my charger and off I went.

Typically, people forget things getting off a plane but do not forget things at the gate boarding the plane. At the gate we don’t usually unload as much stuff as we do once we’re on board. Perhaps the time is too short before boarding so we don’t bother taking things out. Nevertheless, chances are greater that we will forget something when we leave the plane than we line up to board the plane. Another observation, particularly when the policy of the airline is not to have assigned seating, is how people randomly take seats and fill up the plane when boarding. Also, the order in which people board the plane isn’t necessarily the order they use get off. For example, the last person on isn’t necessarily the first person off and vice versa. As much as the airlines try to control the boarding process, passengers will never board in the order of rows and succession of the next row. On the other hand, the deplaning is done in a very orderly fashion, with people allowing the passengers in front of them to retrieve their belongings from the overhead bins, waiting patiently for them to proceed. Despite having plenty of time to gather up the personal items, I still forgot my charger.

When we board a plane there is an agent who checks our boarding passes, scanning them to make sure we are who we are while also checking our hand luggage and carry-ons to see if they meet the allocated space requirements. Wouldn’t it be nice to have an agent escort us off and make sure we have everything we brought with us as we depart? I know this sounds a bit sarcastic and foolish, but for those of us who forgot or will forget, it could really be helpful! A very eerie similar scenario is found in the Torah. In fact, it is the first recorded voyage for a large group that needed to get on board quickly and efficiently and to disembark in an orderly fashion as well.

In this week’s parshas Noach we read of the maiden (& only) voyage/journey and of the survivors of the Mabul, the great flood. In Bereishis 7:7 the Torah states: “VaYavo Noach UBanav V’Ishto U’Neshei Banav Ito El HaTeivah Mipnei Mei HaMabul” - “Noach, along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, came into the ark ahead of the waters of the flood”. Later, in Bereishis 8:18,19, the Torah states: “VaYeitzay Noach, UBanav V’Ishto U’Nshei Banav Ito………Kal Romeis Al HaAretz L’Mishpichoseihem Yatzu Min HaTeiva” - “Noach left the Ark along with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives………all that walk the land—left the ark by families. Rashi, commenting on the words: ‘because of the waters of the flood’ states that Noach was forced into the Teivah. Even Noach was of those who had little faith; he believed but also did not believe that the Flood would come; he did not enter the Ark until the waters forced him to do so. It sounds as though Noach, and even the animals, took their time getting onto the Teiva. Only when it was ‘the last call for boarding’ did they all hop on. Apparently, they did not show up in any set formation or order, rather they boarded haphazardly. Random people merge together on a plane (or ship for that matter) and for the duration of the flight have a certain sense of connection that didn’t exist at the gate prior to boarding which disappears as soon as they walk through the exit door. While on the vessel everyone is in the same situation as their fellow passengers, unlike who and what they were prior to and after the trip. One commentary compares this to the year of the flood; everyone and every creature lived together in harmony. Miraculously, all kinds of life, from human to animal to fowl, all coexisted together and lived and came out alive! Noach witnessed and understood what a miraculous ‘happening; this was for thousands of species to live together. Not one creature died in the ark. This was a great kindness that Hashem did for Noach, and Noach saw this miracle and built an altar, offering sacrifices to Hashem for His kindness.

Imagine a plane filled with passengers deciding to remain in the cabin; not one person getting off the plane, each passenger feeling a good and different type of life than experienced by the outside world. As tempting as this may seem, it is highly unlikely that the airline would permit everyone to stay, and even if they would allow such an event, it is not in the best interest of anyone, for as interesting and polite as people are while sitting next to each other during a flight, this is a temporary connection; it is not one intended to last. Moreover, the Pninei Torah says Hashem commanded Noach and everyone to leave the Teivah. Hashem directs Noach to leave the utopian society - where he is only focused on the wellbeing of himself, his family, and the animals onboard - to leave the Teivah, the ark, and go out into the world where they had previously lived. Instead of allowing the sins of the generation that brought the flood upon the world, go out now, return to that world, and stop such sins from occurring again in the future. Go out from the ark and mill around the market place, mix among the people and have a positive influence on them. Ultimately, we have a responsibility to be a source of positive influence, but only after we become strong in our commitments, belief, and sincere depth of Torah scholarship Are we truly able to do so.

Finally, Reb Yitzchok Ben Yehuda HaLevi, in his work Paneach Raza, learns out from the words ‘go out from the Teivah’ that this is the way all of the humans and animals exited the Teivah (the Ark) according to their families. So too, families should leave Shul on Shabbos - family by family - as they leave the Ark, the Aron Kodesh, which they had faced while praying. We should demonstrate our unity, love, and commitment from where we had just read and learned the Torah that we have a mission to guide, be lead, and influence the world we live!

Ah Gut Shabbos

Rabbi Avraham Bogopulsky

Mon, December 17 2018 9 Teves 5779