And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. — Genesis 7:7
The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32, and the Haftorah is from Isaiah 54:1–55:5.
A number of years ago, an art gallery ran a contest to see who could create the best painting that portrayed the idea of peace. There were many worthy submissions. There was a magnificent painting of a sun setting over the tranquil waters of a pristine beach. Another depicted lush pastures with rolling green hills and a placid lake. Still another entry showed fresh snow in the mountains with a small log cabin glowing with the light of a warm fire within.
Yet, none of these peaceful scenes won the prize. Instead a most unlikely contender was awarded first place. It was a painting of a storm with lightning flashing and winds blowing through the trees of a rocky cliff. But if you looked a bit closer, you could see why it was the winner. In the cleft of the rocks was a mother eagle with her wings spread out over her six sleeping chicks. It was the picture of peace.
Friends, peace isn’t the absence of storms in our lives. There will always be storms that come and go. Peace is the ability to remain tranquil through the storms, taking shelter under the wings of our God like the baby eagles in the painting.
I think another good depiction of this idea would be a painting of Noah in the ark floating above the waters of the flood. All around Noah, the waters were raging; death and destruction were taking place all around him. Yet Noah and his family found refuge in the ark. The name Noah means “comfort” and “rest.” Noah was able to stay at rest during the storm.
This is a great illustration of how we need to be during the storms in our own lives. Great tumult may be going on around us. The economy might be in the dumps, war on the horizon, trouble at work, a bad medical report. Yet, whatever the situation, we can find rest in our ark protected by God, floating above it all.
The Hebrew word for “ark” is tevah, which also can mean “word.” Using this definition, we can say that Noah found rest in the “word,” and we can find rest in God’s Word. When the storm is raging around us, we can take refuge in the words of our God. God says, “Be still, and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10). He declares, “So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God” (Isaiah 41:10). “He will cover you with his feathers, and under his wings you will find refuge” (Psalm 91:4). Through God, we can have peace even in the storm.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President