Word of Advice

There is a staggering postulation found in Chassidic thinking and expounded by the Kedushat Levi, the Berditchever Rebbe, Chidushei Harim, the First Rebbe of the Ger Hasidic dynasty, the Sfat Emet and others. They explain that the term Teivah which is essentially the story and the vessel of survival for Noach and his family is not simply the ark, but rather, words or letters. Now read the portion of Noach again for the first time! 

Noach it would appear in this astounding interpretation was also given the task of creating the words that would not only record what was about to occur, but potentially take on the mission of re-creating the world that as we know was at the outset fashioned out of words;

בָּרוּךְ שֶׁאָמַר וְהָיָה הָעוֹלָם

Blessed is He Who spoke, and the world came into being.

From Pirkei Avot 5:1

בַּעֲשָׂרָה מַאֲמָרוֹת נִבְרָא הָעוֹלָם

With ten utterances the world was created…

The only other “Teivah” ark to appear in the Torah was the one Yocheved designed to save Moses a smaller Teivah (ark) understandably translated as basket became his receptacle to survive.; Shemot 2:3

וְלֹא־יָכְלָ֣ה עוֹד֮ הַצְּפִינוֹ֒ וַתִּֽקַּֽח־לוֹ֙ תֵּ֣בַת גֹּ֔מֶא וַתַּחְמְרָ֥ה בַחֵמָ֖ר וּבַזָּ֑פֶת וַתָּ֤שֶׂם בָּהּ֙ אֶת־הַיֶּ֔לֶד וַתָּ֥שֶׂם בַּסּ֖וּף עַל־שְׂפַ֥ת הַיְאֹֽר׃

When she could hide him no longer, she got a wicker basket for him and caulked it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child into it and placed it among the reeds by the bank of the Nile.

Moses who later claimed to not be a man of words, was ironically enveloped by words, early childhood development for what was to come! The Teivah for both Noach and Moses represents a word which is (also) a home, an ark, for letters. Through their coming together we can make meaning.

To say we are living in times of stormy waters would be a gross understatement, yet we too are tasked to (re) build the ark. Many ask what can be done. עשה לך תיבה -Make for yourself words! At a time when we are being flooded by false and heinous narratives, unapologetically tell our story! Create the Teivah, the words that will educate, enlighten and inspire. Words that will give voice to the stories of those brutally murdered, and every one of those taken hostage. Sound the alarm over the incoming falsehoods spewed by respected news agencies, and “elite”academic institutions. Find and create the words to comfort, Lenachem , also strikingly drawn out of the word and story of Noach.

Shabbat shalom

About the Author
Shalom Orzach is a senior educator and consultant for the iCenter and serves on faculty for the Foundation for Jewish Camp. He was a scholar on the prestigious Jerusalem Fellows Program, following which he was the Executive Director for Jewish Renewal at the UJIA in England. Shalom is an acclaimed public speaker on contemporary Israel who brings extensive knowledge, humor and passion.
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