“As long as the earth endures,
seedtime and harvest,
cold and heat,
summer and winter,
day and night
will never cease.”—Genesis 8:22
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.
What if life were perfect? What if it were spring every day? Not too hot, not too cold, but just right. The flowers would always be in bloom, the fruit and vegetables ready to pluck. Every day would be the perfect day; not a cloud in the sky. How great would life be?
This week’s Torah portion indicates that life wouldn’t be very great at all. The portion is called Noach, not just because that is the name of the main character in the story, but also because it is the Hebrew word for “comfort.” This is the story of what happens when life is always comfortable. In fact, according to tradition, in the time of Noah, it only rained once every 40 years! That was enough to sustain life for four consecutive decades. There were no seasons and no problems. It was spring every day.
Sounds like paradise, but exactly the opposite was true. The result of such a comfortable environment was that no one ever lacked anything and so no one ever had to ask for anything. People stopped praying, and with that, they lost their connection to God. It was a downward spiral from there until the people became utterly corrupt and God had no choice but to destroy them and start all over again.
This time, God did things differently. He promised, “As long as the earth endures, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, summer and winter, day and night will never cease.” Usually, this verse is understood to mean that God promised never to flood the world again. However, the Jewish sages teach that it also shows us that this was the point in time when God created the seasons.
God wanted mankind to be cold in the winter so that they would pray for heat. God wished that people would be hot in the summer so that they would pray for cooling. God wanted us to miss long days in the winter and pray for more daylight hours that would come in the summer. He wanted us to plant and then pray for rain and a good harvest. God wanted people to experience longing and lacking so that they would pray to Him. Through prayer, people would connect with God and become more godly. Not only that, but through prayer, people could also receive far more than they would without asking for it.
It’s natural and normal to enjoy being comfortable. However, at the same time, we have to remember that there is a blessing in being uncomfortable. I pray that we all enjoy many comforts and blessings in our lives, but that we also experience a healthy dose of discomfort from time to time so that we will pray, grow closer to God, and enjoy even more blessings.
With prayers for shalom, peace,
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President