Let me begin this week with a very sobering question. Do you not sense that the world around us seems to be unravelling? Do you not feel that conventional norms and values are being eroded from day to day? Is the world around us not losing its mind?
Look all around you. Brexit, Donald Trump, the rise of the European far right, North Korea, and the list goes on...
The question we must ask ourselves, both as individuals and as a people, is how do we transcend the chaos? Or to paraphrase Kipling, “How to keep a cool head when all around you are losing theirs".
For inspiration we can look towards the first biblical hero. We have all heard of the story of Noah and the flood. Yet its major protagonist I believe is unfairly underrated. It could in fact be argued that in a way he is one of the greatest biblical heroes.
Picture yourself in a crazy world filled with corruption and anarchy. No one has respect for anyone else. People lie, people cheat, and everyone is envious of everyone else. There is no right or wrong. The toughest and the meanest get the furthest.
What do you do? How does one survive? How does one retain ones integrity when all around you seem to have lost theirs? In a world that is being disrupted, how does one create an anchor? In a world of confusion, how does one retain some clarity?
The answer today is the same one as G-d gave to Noah thousands of years ago. G-d says to Noah, if you want to protect yourself from the "raging waters" that threaten to drown you, "come into the ark".
The Baal Shem Tov offers a stunning insight. He explains that the Hebrew word for "ark" is "Taivah", which also means "word". What G-d is in fact saying to Noah is that in order to retain one's integrity when all around have lost theirs, one must enter the oasis of tranquillity which is built by immersing oneself in the "words" of Torah. If one wants to maintain a clear sense of right and wrong when people about you have lost this moral compass, one immerse one’s mind and heart in the timeless wisdom of G-ds Torah.
As Jews we have always protected ourselves from the chaos around us by creating:
A home that is illuminated with clarity and permeated with warmth.
A space that is impregnable by "the raging seas".
A bastion that will also serve as a "beacon of light" to a world engulfed by confusion.
Our challenge is not to be afraid to "enter into the ark".