Cleaning Up The Mess We Did Not Make

original art, expressing the crazy amazing and daunting world we've been gifted

may every word, thought and prayer be channeled toward the safe and victorious return of our holy soldiers and may all of Am Yisrael come home to Eretz Yisrael speedily with celebration 

Across my balcony, within a park in Efrat, rests a wooden deck scattered with yoga mats and two gazebos. Each gazebo hosts a wooden table, inviting anyone and everyone into her space.

People may or may not know, but this is actually much more than a social gathering hub for residents in the neighborhood. This special area was built in loving memory of a girl who lived in my building. One who I had the privilege of an evening jog with, a holiday meal and a myriad of awkward half-Hebrew and half-English encounters behind the elevator doors.

She unfortunately left this world about two years ago, leaving behind some of the kindest people I’ve ever met to mourn her.

Since October 7th the world has looked different and everyone has been doing their best to cope with the incomprehensible. A method of seeking normalcy is the understandable human need for interaction; for laughter and a brief moment of relief. Some (what i believe to be) teenagers have been seeking sanctuary for a few nights to laugh, eat and instead of forgetting all the atrocities in the world–remember why their hope is so essential. They gather under these gazebos and like Noah’s Ark, seek shelter from the world.

Kids will be kids and happen to have left a mess–i am not writing this at all to bring negativity to them, they are human and doing their best. Truly, it’s what i noticed after that inspired me.

The family built this yoga platform and gazebos in the physical world to connect with someone that left it. To them it is clear that the space needs to remain protected and honored. We can blame and yell and debate who is correct and why—but that does not clean up the mess.

Someone came and cleaned up the mess that was left. Someone that did not make the mess, but understood the intrinsic value of the place and therefore needed no further reason to restore the beauty of its creation. I am not saying this story for the “neighborhood watch”, but rather because it highlights a cosmic truth.

Since October 7th the truth of the world has been becoming increasingly more clear. There are those who value life and those who do not. There are those who are broken and those who are whole enough to clean up the messes they haven’t made. We inherited a reality that indulges in messes, people who revel in the rubble of others suffering.

G!d created this world and it is the intimacy of the relationship between Am Yisrael and the Torah that illuminates this truth.

The Jewish people have been historically, spiritually and morally categorized as “a light upon the nations” and have withstood each and every generational test of “soul stamina”.

There has always been the notion of Jews being “a light upon the nations” which honestly until now i never thought meant anything other than simply bringing light into the world. Observing the nature of humanity now, one that can be so devastatingly disappointing and disgusting beyond words, i understand that “a light upon the nations” does not exclusively mean to inspire others to bring light–but rather for our nation’s internal light to be strong enough to withstand the efforts of extinguish from barbarians.

The world around us seems to be imploding, drowning in people’s inability to seek truth. Judaism has always fostered the importance of questioning and finding peace in objective truth. Yet the world succumbs to the ego of subjectivity, of who owns what and who deserves life—a decision that only the Creator of the world can validate. The objective truth of divinity is what has kept Am Yisrael afloat. It is our ability and commitment to vulnerable, authentic and active pursuit of a relationship and inter-connectivity.

Jews seek the world and find G!dliness just as much as they seek G!dliness and find the world.

There are numerous commentaries on this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Noach.

Questions like:

  1. Was Noach actually a righteous person—or just in contrast to the immorality around him, an “okay” person?
  2. The text states that Noach dedicated his life to building the ark, but is noted as having little faith…how?
  3. What was the “צוהר” in the ark?

Maybe the answer to all three of these questions will reveal the enigmatic power of the Jewish people and their everlasting connection with G!d.

Let’s address the first through a famous Midrash, an explanation i originally heard from Rav David Milston of Midreshet HaRova:

We often rely on the phrase, “Noach was a Tzadik in his generation” as though to say that his only claim to greatness was the contrast of the surrounding immorality. However, the Midrash points out that Noach actually lived in three generations. The first being אנוש, the second מבול and the third of מגדל בבל. In each of these generations rested a concrete morality issue among society. אנוש reflected the immoral challenge of Avodah Zara (Idol Worship), מבול emulated corruption/promiscuity and בבל the catastrophic disconnect of בין אדם למקום (between man and G!d)

The Midrash then concludes that Noach was actually a Tzadik through three fundamental ways: the first being between man and himself (contrasting to Avodah Zara), man and his fellow (contrasting to interpersonal immorality) and lastly between man and G!d.

The Maharal echoes these three fundamentals by highlighting that these are the exact three mediums in which an individual is challenged in life.

Proven by modern psychologists such as Maslow and Freud, the human can only truly provide for others once they themselves have been accounted for. So establishing a strong relationship between oneself ultimately sets precedent for a healthy relationship with those around, thus fundamentally establishing a strong bond between ones self and the oneness of G!d. As articulated by Rav Milston, “If one can respect that which is tangible, then maybe they’ll have a chance (at least a chance) of a relationship with G!d.”

The next question, amplified by Rashi’s commentary—how could Noach dedicate his entire life to building the ark in preparation for the flood, yet be classified as less than faithful?

The text of the pasuk says, וַיָּבֹ֣א נֹ֔חַ וּ֠בָנָ֠יו וְאִשְׁתּ֧וֹ וּנְשֵֽׁי־בָנָ֛יו אִתּ֖וֹ אֶל־הַתֵּבָ֑ה מִפְּנֵ֖י מֵ֥י הַמַּבּֽוּל: Rashi illuminates this question by explaining that the words, מִפְּנֵ֖י מֵ֥י הַמַּבּֽוּל indicate that it was only until the waters began to rush the world did Noach seek shelter in the ark.

Rav Judah Mischel articulates a beautiful and sobering reality. Noach had faith. Faith in the words of G!d and the ultimate plan of rebuilding the world through all consuming seas and planted seeds, which allowed him to dedicate every moment of his life to building a shelter from this avenue of destruction. However, Noach did not have the fundamental faith in himself, to believe that he held the worthiness of divine instruction to be saved within the sanctuary built by his own hands.

As we learned from the first answer, the ripple effect of insecurity becomes a tsunami-like wave of disconnect.

Rav Judah continues and makes this Torah palpable. This incredible, extraordinary, horrific and prophetic moment in history is an era that only our generation has experienced. We have always been called to build an ark, however it is the nature of the world that has forced us inside.

Maybe an underlying fear of this era is the subconscious insecurity that we are not worthy of divine hosting. That we don’t have “what it takes” to play a role in redemption. So the winds of change forcibly place us in these spaces of spiritual solace.

When everything seems to be falling apart, אין עוד מלבדו and when everything ultimately comes together, אין עוד מלבדו

Now that we are in the ark, within the תבה—what are we meant to do?

The Hebrew word תבה also translates to “word”, so now that we have been fully immersed within the prophetic promise of G!d, what exists within this space that grants us peace?

The third question, the Tzohar.

The Tzohar among our sages’ debates can be boiled down to two objectives. One being a window and the other a stone. The window served as a light that gathered from the outside, the rock a light that illuminated from within.

i’d like to suggest that there was a light we’ve found through survival and resilience–and a light G!d Created us to create.

Am Yisrael up until now has been “a light upon the nations” – a window, to draw and release divine light in inspiration toward those who seek. Now, Am Yisrael is the ultraviolet expression of divine vision. A light that permeates enigmatically through darkness and incorporates all shades of color through her inviting warmth.

To amplify the words of Mark Twain, “The Jew saw them all, survived them all, and is now what he always was, exhibiting no decadence, no infirmaties, of age, no weakening of his parts, no slowing of his energies, no dulling of his alert but aggressive mind.  All things are mortal but the Jews; all other forces pass, but he remains.  What is the secret of his immortality? ”

The truth is, there is no secret.

Jews have been gifted not only the road map of seeking higher purpose and reason to live in honor, but the integral genetic code of desire for divinity. Rav Judah shared the concept by Rav Kook that G!d is titled “א-ל אמונה” – the G!d of faith.

In knowing everything; from tumultuous horrors to the most breathtaking joys, G!d had faith. In creating the world with every failure and success of humanity, G!d breathed faith into the molecular structure of our existence. Just as natural and essential it is to breathe, so to in having faith.

So yes, here we are cleaning up the most heartbreaking mess that could have ever been, a mess we would have never dreamed of making. Why? Because we understand that G!d created the world to connect with us and that the intrinsic value of this place and all who live in it, therefore we need no further reason to restore the beauty of its creation.

We clean up this mess by loving someone a little bit more whose heart we did not break.

We clean up this mess by smiling at someone because we can and even if anyone else can, we desire that connection.

We clean up this mess by redeeming the words of “Tikun Olam” by eradicating Amalek from the face of this world.

We clean up this mess in love, sometimes in fear and in faith—always and unequivocally, because we can.

עם ישראל חי,

.חי וקיים

About the Author
Edan is currently studying for a degree in English and Torah education. Since making Aliyah in 2020, she hopes to share some of the wisdom and insight she has been blessed to have witnessed and heard, as well as try to articulate and pass on moments that were most impactful for her. Edan believes in using the power of words to silence our fears, worries and doubts in order to hear our inner truths of clarity, faith and hope. Through some poetry, Torah and anecdote, she is praying to illuminate the lights that already exist in all of us.
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