July 12, 2024
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Noach’s Ark: Protecting Us Even Today

Over the years, many individuals claimed to have found the remains of Noach’s teiva (ark). Many believe the teiva is buried under layers of volcanic debris in the snow-covered Mount Ararat in Turkey. Others believe the teiva is located in the Durupinar site in eastern Turkey under a rocky spot the shape of a boat. In 2006, a team of Texas archaeologists claimed they had located the teiva in Iran’s Elburz mountain range. Although none of these claims about the physical remains of the teiva have ever been substantiated, the concept of Noach’s teiva is eternal.

The Rambam declares that a person is influenced by his surroundings. Therefore, a person must make sure the city and community he lives in provide a positive influence. If one’s environment is decadent, the Rambam ruled that he must leave the city to live alone, even in the desert or mountains, away from the bad influence.

Once, the Satmar Rebbe asked the Chazon Ish about this obligation to separate. He was seeing a breakdown in moral behavior. Accepted minimal standards of morality were being discarded and society was even defending people who acted this way. Based on the above ruling of the Rambam, how are we permitted to live inside a city? The Chazon Ish responded that Noach’s teiva protected him and his family from the destruction of the world around him. The teiva was not just a physical entity of protection; it protected his family from outside influences and danger and served as a concept to be used for future generations. Our yeshivos and shuls are our teivos, where the Torah study and tefilla create for us a society of holiness and purity. That is why we can live anywhere—as we really have our own society created by our Torah institutions.

The Chidushei Harim states that our protective teiva today is our Torah and tefillah. The Sfas Emes explains that the word teiva in Hebrew means a box / ark, but it also means “a word.” Just as the teiva created a protective environment for Noach and his family, so too the words of the Torah and our tefillos create a protective environment for ourselves that connect us to Hashem.

The Torah starts with the word Bereishis, with the first letter being the letter beis. Every letter in the aleph-beis has a meaning. The Dinover Rebbe explains the letter beis stands for bayis—a house. Just like a house is constructed with bricks, so too the Torah is written with letters that formulate words—teivos. I believe this teaches us the concept that the values of the Torah are what support our homes. Our homes then become our teivos—arks.

In stores, offices and schools, Plexiglas has been installed to create barriers between people to prevent the spread of germs. Many people, especially the immunocompromised and older people, are afraid of contracting the coronavirus. There are some people who remain mostly indoors in their own protected environment to not expose themselves to potential germs. Infectious disease experts warn us that the coronavirus is an airborne infection transmitted through water vapor molecules that pass through the air.

We can learn deep lessons from this. Man’s actions and behaviors also become “airborne,” becoming so pervasive, they affect even the animal kingdom. The generation prior to the flood was so decadent, as the pasuk says, “Ki hishchis kol basar darko, all creations became decadent.” Rashi tells us not only man’s behaviors were depraved, but even the animals began to cohabitate with other animal species. The Beis Halevi explains that man’s actions affect the behavior and moral fabric of the entire animal kingdom.

Alas, the outside world’s ideology is not aligned with the Torah. We need to create our own teiva, in the sense of environment, where we can breathe and absorb the correct value system. We need to install “Plexiglass partitions” to block the negative influences of the world. The values in our homes must be pure and “germ free.” The reading material, music and images we bring into our home and the discussions we have need to reflect our values.

The words of Torah that we study create a teiva, an ark, an ecosystem that includes our shuls, yeshivos and homes, all of which protect and insulate us from outside negative influences. This ecosystem is our modern-day Noach’s ark.


Rabbi Baruch Bodenheim is the associate rosh yeshiva of Passaic Torah Institute (PTI)/Yeshiva Ner Boruch. PTI has attracted people from all over northern New Jersey, including Teaneck, Paramus, Fair Lawn, Livingston and West Orange. He initiated and leads a multi-level Gemara-learning program. He has spread out beyond PTI to begin a weekly beis medrash program with in-depth chavrusa learning in Livingston, Fort Lee and a monthly group in West Caldwell. Rabbi Bodenheim can be reached at [email protected]. For more info about PTI and its full offering of torah classes visit www.pti.shulcloud.com.

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