By Mike Steklof
While reading this week’s Torah portion (Noach) I was struck that Noah’s 150-day adventure on the ark bears some similarities to what we have all experienced since March. While I do not have any animals or other people to keep me company in my apartment/office, I have tried, like Noah, to trust in G-d that there would be a hopeful outcome to the current pandemic.
Noah and his family were on the ark for nearly 5 months. While G-d gave Noah directions (build an ark, go onto the ark with you family, bring animals onto the ark), G-d never revealed to Noah his entire plan. Noah was to trust that if he followed G-d’s commandment, his family would survive the flood. There is a similar call to trust later in the following Torah portion, Lech Lecha, when G-d tells Abraham (Abram at the time) to leave his native land and his father’s house for a land that G-d would show him. Like Noah, Abram did not have access to the full plan but he obeyed G-d’s commandments and trusted that if he followed G-d’s directions, good things would happen.
During the last seven months, I have kept these two teachings close to me:
When I am seeking hope about the future state of our world, I have reflected on these words from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks: “Faith is not certainty but the courage to live with and for G-d in the presence of uncertainty and to hear the voice of G-d even in the heart of the whirlwind.”
When feeling anxious and not fully in control of what is happening around me, I call upon this text, a practice phrase for the Mussar trait of Bitachon (trust), “My life is in the hands of the one who made me.”
At the end of Noah’s epic and unprecedented journey, the ark came to rest at the edge of a mountain. At that moment, Noah encountered what must have been the hardest part of his journey as the timing was not right for him to disembark; he had to wait, stuck in the ark for another two and a half months. When the time was at last right and the waters had receded, G-d spoke to Noah and told him it was finally time to disembark. We learn from this that everything comes at the right time. “Everything has an appointed season and there is a time for every matter under heaven. A time to give birth and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to uproot that which is planted….” Ecclesiastes Chapter 3.
I hope that at the right time, the current pandemic will end and all of us will be able to reflect on:
-How this experience has changed us
-What stories will we tell
-How have we become better
While we do not know what the future will hold, I hope that, like Noah, we have trust in G-d and recognize that everything comes at the correct time. While the current times are tough I wish for you that, you have renewed strength and courage while we wait to disembark.
Mike Steklof is the Director of Teen Engagement and Inclusion at the Center for Jewish Engagement and Learning.