United Against a Common Enemy

Yael Eckstein  |  October 19, 2020

group of people standing in unity

And Noah and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives entered the ark to escape the waters of the flood. Pairs of clean and unclean animals, of birds and of all creatures that move along the ground, male and female, came to Noah and entered the ark, as God had commanded Noah. — Genesis 7:7-9

Each week in synagogue, Jews read through the Torah from Genesis to Deuteronomy. The Torah portion for this week is Noach, from the name of the main character, Noah. It is from Genesis 6:9 –11:32.

On January 22, 2020, like most Israelis, I watched with wonder as world leaders, representing over 70 nations, gathered in Jerusalem to mark the 75th year since the liberation of Auschwitz, the most infamous Nazi death camp. Watching world leaders pay homage to Holocaust victims and the Jewish people felt prophetic and even messianic.

One of the speakers at the event was Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former Chief Rabbi of Israel and a Holocaust survivor. At the end of his moving speech, Rabbi Lau spoke about the biblical story of Noah’s ark, which is found in this week’s Torah portion. He asked how it was possible that with every type of species on the ark, none attacked another. There were snakes and children, lions and doves. Yet, remarkably, during the 150 days that they were aboard the ark, not one creature was harmed.

Rabbi Lau explained that the reason why not one animal turned on the other was because they were united against a common enemy — the raging storm. They understood that in order to survive, they had to live peacefully together on the ark.

The rabbi then turned to the world leaders and asked, “Don’t we have a reason to understand what the snake understood in the ark of Noah?” He explained that today nations of the world face terrible common enemies such as cancer, hunger, crime, and nuclear weapons. We cannot afford to attack one another. Rather, we need each other in order to survive and create a better world for our children. We need to be united against our common enemy.

Rabbi Lau ended his speech by addressing the world leaders, saying, “In one small way, one sentence, one signature, you can decide upon millions of people! So, decide for love and friendship and peace forever!”

Rabbi Lau’s message is even more potent today as the entire world contends with the coronavirus. We need to work together and help one another in order to overcome this common enemy and global challenge.

This is the time to show more love and less hate; to extend more kindness and drop more grudges. The commitment to peace and unity starts in our own homes and with God’s help, it will spread to the whole world.

Your turn:

What can you do to bring about more friendship and unity in your home and community?

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