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Images of Peace

Images of Peace


Noah's Ark represents the idea of the survival of life at a time of otherwise total destruction. This week's Torah reading describes how the Flood covered the entire world, but Noah, his family, and the thousands of animals sheltering in the Ark were saved.

Diverse species of animal, which would usually battle together or devour each other, dwelt calmly together One image of the Ark described by the Sages is that of peace. Diverse species of animal, which would usually battle together or devour each other, dwelt calmly together. The Ark is described as having the spiritual quality of the World to Come, where all are in unity and all conflict is dissolved.

This aspect of the Ark links also to the theme of the sukkah, the hut with its roof of branches and leaves which was the focus of the Sukkot festival a fortnight ago. In Chassidic teachings, the Ark and the sukkah are compared to each other as a realm of peace.1 Now, although the Sukkot festival has ended, the image of the sukkah as a source of peace continues. Every week, in the Friday evening prayers, we ask G‑d to "spread over us the sukkah of Your peace." We are asking G‑d that the spiritual peace of the sukkah, like that of Noah's Ark in our parshah, be spread over each of us as individuals, and over the Jewish people.

However, it is not enough that there should be peace only for the Jewish people. There actually has to be peace for the entire world. The remarkable power of Jewish teaching is that potentially there is always a dual effect in everything we do: Whether in Torah study, prayer or observance of the Mitzvot, there is one aspect which connects the person to G‑d, and there is also a complementary aspect which draws G‑dliness into the world.2 In all aspects of Jewish life we are seeking both spiritual fulfillment for ourselves, and also "to perfect the world under the sovereignty of G‑d."3

Similarly, one aspect of Noah's Ark is that it represented spirituality, holiness and ultimate peace for Noah and his family who were inside it. Another is that once the Flood came to an end and they left the Ark, their task was to express these qualities in the world as a whole.

This meant keeping the Seven Noahide Laws, the Divine instructions to Noah and his descendants.The Noahide Laws constitute seven general rules of goodness for all humanity, including respect for the sanctity of life.Yet at the center of global society is the spot where, the Sages tell us, Noah offered sacrifices to G‑d when he left the Ark at the end of the Flood.4 This is the site of the Temple in Jerusalem. Here is the focal point where the Jewish people join themselves to the Divine and at the same time, as described above, bring blessing into the world.

Ultimately this will lead to awareness of G‑d's Presence throughout existence: "The world will be filled with knowledge of G‑d as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9) — an image which itself links with that of the waters of the Flood, yet in a purely positive mode. For indeed, in the time of the Messiah all bad will change to good, and all conflict will be transformed to peace.

See the sources in Sefer HaMamarim Melukat vol. 1, p. 177 note 31.
See Likkutei Sichot, vol. 35, p.10.
Text of the Aleinu prayer.
Genesis 8:20; Mishneh Torah, Laws of the Temple 2:2.
Dr. Tali Loewenthal is Lecturer in Jewish Spirituality at University College London, director of the Chabad Research Unit, author of Communicating the Infinite: The Emergence of the Habad School and a frequent contributor to the weekly Torah reading section.
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Anonymous Kansas City October 23, 2009

Thank You As always a delightful insightful and inspiring article by Dr. Lowenthal

In reply to Never say never? Believe it or not upheaval can be transformative, what may look like a flood can create a new universe of peace, for after all G-d is running the show - even when we can't see it. So yes G-d’s promise shall always endure. Try to do a good deed to bring the Messiah instead of worrying. You’ll be amazed at how much better you’ll feel and how much more productive it is. Reply

Rachel Garber Phila, PA USA November 2, 2008

Noach and Tikkun Olam in Philadelphia As I read this column by Dr. Loewenthal I was struck by the "coincidence" of a city wide effort by various Kehillahs throughout Philadelphia in a collaborative effort called Mitvah Mania that took place today. Hundreds of Jews through out the city came together, although at different sites to repair our world here in Philly. We planted trees, painted senior centers, packed bags of food for the needy and engaged in numerous acts of tikkun olam. This is the second year that this event , which was the brainchild of the Jewish Federation, and which included Jews from all branches of Judaism, took place in an effort to "do good" it wasn't until I read Dr. Loewnthal's article that I made the connection with Noach. This was such a thrilling experience, meeting and working together with other Jews to help repair our little corner of the world. How meaningful this was to have it connected to the parasha of the week. Thank you for adding another dimension to a lovely and rewarding day Reply

K. Kney London, Cda October 31, 2008

Never say never? Re: G-d's 'rainbow covenant': Never again shall i ....

but what then do you call what time we are living through now?

Direction, please. Reply

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