Wednesday, March 29, 2023

In Parshas Noach, we read about the great flood. Hashem had enough of corruption and immorality. The Talmud in Sanhedrin (57a) explains that idolatry and sexual immorality was pervasive. Rashi comments that even the animals, the wildlife and the birds were acting in an immoral fashion. God caused the greatest disaster to befall the earth, so that He could start over.

The Talmud in Berachos (59a) tells us that thunder, storms, earthquakes and natural disasters were created as “wake up calls,” to shock us out of a sense of complacency and have us rededicate our hearts and minds to serve Hashem better. With all the natural disasters that have recently been occurring, including fires, tornadoes, earthquakes and hurricanes, we have to stop and think what this all means. How does this relate to our own lives?

Metaphorically speaking, we often experience “storms” at some point in our own lives. Our otherwise natural, sunny days may be interrupted by an unexpected loss of a loved one. We may suffer financial setbacks. Our children may engage in disappointing behaviors. We may experience relationship problems. We may be told that we have a serious health problem. These are all examples of “storms” that can upset our equilibrium and cause us to question our faith. However, this need not be the case.

When the hurricanes recently took place, the residents along the coast were warned of the big storm surges that were about to flood them. At first, all they could see was that, like a tsunami, the water was initially receding. It was being pulled back and parts of the ocean floor might even have become suddenly visible. Soon afterwards, however, the rush of water came back with incredible force. Not only did the water levels return to what they once were, now it was creating waves that were overabundant and flooding the area.

Again, using storms as an analogy, many of us face challenges in life. At first, it seems that the water is receding, that our problems are causing us much grief and great loss. However, having faith leads us to realize that as much as we are pulled back, this is how far we will be propelled ahead — much like the storm surge. Our destiny is to be even stronger than before.

Job was a man who seemed to have lost everything. He lost his family, he lost his livelihood and he lost his health. He faced many challenges and “storms” in his time. Yet, he passed the test of faith. In the end, Job received twice as much as he had started off with (42:10). In effect, he got “double for his trouble.” He lived another 140 years in tranquility and was able to see his great, great-grandchildren thrive. While he endured great challenges and storms in life, the surge that followed lifted him to even greater heights.

Incidentally, some of the commentaries speculated that Job’s misfortunes, as great as they were, only lasted for 12 months. As such, his storm was just a “chapter” in his life. It did not comprise the whole book of his life. Another lesson to be learned is that, as awful as the storms in life may seem, the sun will eventually come out. Our sense of equilibrium in life will eventually return — hopefully with our having been propelled by our challenges, and coming out even stronger as a result.

Noah, his family and all the sets of animals were eventually set free after the storm subsided. They were able to resume their lives and repopulate the earth. As we face our own personal “storms” in life, let us learn the lesson that Noah and Job discovered. Challenges in life are eventually overcome and, many times, we may come out even stronger as a result. May Hashem bless all of us that this be so.

Rabbi Dr. Avi Kuperberg is a forensic, clinical psychologist and a member of the American Psychology-Law Society. He is past president of the Chai Riders Motorcycle Club of NY/NJ. He is the coordinator of Bikur Cholim/Chesed at Congregation Torah Ohr in Boca Raton, Florida. He can be reached at [email protected]

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