18 Oct 2023 Parshas Noach: A Window You Shall Make for the Ark
We are all familiar with the narrative that unfolds in this week’s parsha, Parshas Noach. It had been ten generations since Adam and Creation, and all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth. G-d decided it was necessary to destroy all life forms – from man to animal – and even the three tefachim of top soil were washed away and destroyed in the deluge.
The only human survivors of the flood were Noach and his wife Naama, their three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes, and the wives of their sons. As for the animals, any animals that were in the ark survived, as well as all the fish in the sea (Rashi to 7:22).
Before the flood began, Hashem gave Noach precise instructions as to how to build the Ark. It was to have three floors – the top for the people, the middle for the animals, and the bottom for the garbage. The roof was to be sloped so the rain would run off it and down. Included in the instructions to build the Ark, Noach was commanded: צֹ֣הַר תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לַתֵּבָ֗ה – a tzohar you shall make for the Ark (Bereishis 6:16).
What was the tzohar that Noach was to construct? Quoting Medrash Bereishis Rabbah, Rashi offers two opinions:
צהר. יֵ“אֹ חַלּוֹן וְיֵ“אֹ אֶבֶן טוֹבָה הַמְּאִירָה לָהֶם
There are those who say the tzohar was a window, and there are those who say it was a precious gem that gave illumination for them.
As they were in the Ark for an entire year, and the world was inundated with water and darkness, we understand the second opinion of Rashi: אֶבֶן טוֹבָה הַמְּאִירָה לָהֶם. The tzohar was a precious stone or gem that illuminated the Ark for them.
(This too is somewhat difficult to understand. We might wonder; how could one stone illuminate the entire Ark and provide enough light for all of its inhabitants? However, certainly Hashem could make a neis and the entire Ark would be illuminated from one stone. Once the stone was up and Noach’s hishtaduls was done, from that one stone – much light would shine forth [It is not lost on me as I type these words that from our massive outpouring of national hishtadlus, Hashem can make many great miracles and much light can and will shine].)
However, according to the first opinion quoted by Rashi, יֵ“אֹ חַלּוֹן , that the tzohar was a window – for what did the eight people in the Ark need a window? It was storming, the world was full of destruction, there were the rain waters pouring down from above, the waters of the deep rising from below, destruction at every moment floating all around and over the Ark… What purpose would a window serve the Ark’s inhabitants?
One answer remains as important for Noach in his time as it is for us, each individual in Am Yisrael, today. When the world around is storming, one may not ensconce him or herself in a protective cocoon without a window to the destruction happening outside, all around. It is morally reprehensible and against the Torah to say, “I am safe (or live under the illusion of safety, for today, no Jew anywhere in the world is safe), I am protected, I have my secure Ark which will keep me warm, dry, and protected, and hence, I can close my ears, my eyes, my heart, my mind and my life to the destruction around me.”
When the world is storming – when our nation is fighting for her Land and Home! – when our soldiers are stationed at the southern and northern borders (at the time of this writing), when one hundred and ninety-nine captives are confirmed held in Gaza – including babies, elderly and disabled – when thousands of our brothers and sisters have lost their lives, and so many are bereaved, R”L, it is criminal to close our “windows”, to live with the (false) illusion of safety, and to shut our hearts, minds and prayers to their plight!
When one member of Israel is suffering, the entire Israel suffers along – וַאֲחֵיכֶם, כָּל–בֵּית יִשְׂרָאֵל יִבְכּוּ אֶת–הַשְּׂרֵפָה, אֲשֶׁר שָׂרַף ה (Vayikra 10:6). A window you shall make for the ark.
Israel Prize laureate and presidential candidate Miriam Peretz, who lost two of her sons (Uriel and Eliraz HY”D) during their service in the IDF, has paid condolence visits to over 30 families who lost loved ones in Hamas’ recent barbaric attacks on Israel.
Speaking with Kan Reshet Bet, Peretz said, “Every morning, I have terrible lists, I did not ever think that I would have binders of names. One after the other, I go from morning to night between bereaved families all across Israel… we need all the help. Yesterday I went to fourteen families, people who I don’t know.”
Peretz also noted that there are families who are surrounded by thousands of visitors, and there are those who have only a few. She recalled that there was one mother who called her and asked her to come, because she was already standing on the porch. “Many times they need to hear that their sons and daughters who fell, fell not because they ran to battle but because they wanted to live. The greatest comfort is that we live,” she said.
“When a grandmother tells me, ‘I won’t make kuba any more,’ I embrace her and show her the rest of the siblings and tell her, ‘What about them? You won’t make kuba for them?’ And then the grandmother says, ‘No, no, for them, I’ll make it.'”
“There are no bereaved families here – there is a bereaved country,” she emphasized. (https://www.israelnationalnews.com/news/378588)
צֹ֣הַר תַּעֲשֶׂ֣ה לַתֵּבָ֗ה – there are those who say a precious gem and there are those who say a window.
הכותבת בבכי, בברכת ישעות ונחמות, ה׳ ירחם עלינו ועל ארצינו,