This D’var Torah on Parashat Noah was inspired by my teacher, Rabbi Jonathan Slater, through his translation of the Birkat Avraham and his magnificent contemporary commentary. I am forever grateful for the humanity he restores in me each time I learn from him.
In this week’s parasha, God instructs Noah to “make an opening for daylight in the ark” (Genesis 6:16) Why? After all, wouldn’t a sealed ark weather the storming floods better than one with an opening?
What if sealing off the ark completely would make it so dark that even greater fear would abound? Perhaps darkness represents fear and even loss from all that sustains us. Then, the opening might represent the Divine light streaming hope and possibility into our lives. Living in total spiritual darkness, it is difficult, if not impossible to reflect on the source of our darkness. Spiritual practices help shed light and open us to the dark truth of our worst behaviors. According to Birkat Avraham (Noah 2), we can learn how to find the power to open our souls through God’s instructions for Noah to put an opening on the side of the ark. Through this opening the light of hope would shine once the flood was over.
When we bring the light of self-reflection into the words of our prayers, we are “aroused to enter the opening” to sincere and profound behavioral change. And there, through “reorientation and accountability,” we open our hearts to receive the boundless feeling of The Holy One’s enduring love. And in that moment, unlike those whose hearts are filled with rage, violence, maliciousness, spite and fear we are saved from our own small selves.
May the words you utter on this Shabbat Noah create an opening for you to face the human realities of loss, disappointment and all that darkens your heart. Then, may the light of Shabbat peace, joy and love stream directly into your heart, restoring hope and renewed possibility for who you might yet become.
Rabbi Nina Mizrahi,