Floods are typically not a good thing. The water and the damage in its aftermath are every homeowner’s nightmare. They have a way of wreaking havoc on our lives, and we can sometimes feel completely helpless when a flood comes rushing through our homes, not to mention the dreaded cleanup that follows.
The flood described in this week’s Torah portion—where the entire world was destroyed save for Noah, his family, and select creatures—is a metaphor for the stress and anxiety that can overcome a person. No one plans to have a stressful day, but these situations have a way of creeping up on us, throwing us for a loop and derailing our plans. But sometimes a flood is necessary in order to reset and start over, just like Noah was told to do.
G-d instructed Noah to build an ark, a massive vessel that would house him and his wife, their three sons and their wives, and a pair (or more) of each living creature. The Hebrew word for ark is “teivah,” and because Hebrew is a language with many layers of meaning, that same word can also be translated as “word.” So when G-d told Noah to build and then enter the ark once the flood began, He was also commanding Noah to enter the words of Torah, to immerse himself in spirituality and to protect all his passengers for the duration of the flood.
Yes, the world is undergoing an upheaval; yes, there are raging waters outside—the anxieties of the real world and the inevitable stresses that come along with them—but before it even began, the solution already existed: Protect yourself by immersing in the beautiful words of Torah and prayer. That’s how Noah and his family were saved. But that was only a temporary solution.
One cannot simply escape and ignore the realities of the world. We can’t just run away and pretend as though nothing is wrong and there is no flood. There most certainly is a flood; but after we reinforce and fortify our spirituality, then we are able to face it head on. And not only face it, but we are able to harness the raging powers of the flood and subvert it to positivity.
That’s why, after nearly a year in the ark, G-d again spoke to Noah. This time the command was “Leave the ark!” You’ve had enough time to be a recluse and recharge your spirituality. Now it’s time to go out of your ark and make a difference in the world.
Will there still be stressful episodes flooding through our lives? Sure. But now we have the tools to deal with them in real time and to turn the energy of the flood into a force of good. There is a time for escaping real life, and then there is a time to make the avalanche of life work for you.