At the heart of the movement for inclusion is a simple claim: Every human being is created in G‑d’s image; we each possess a soul of infinite worth; and differences in our bodies, minds and abilities are therefore external and should not define our interactions with one another.

While the assertion that every one of us is created equal is not likely to turn many heads, the implementation of that idea still encounters some resistance. And it’s not an insensitive resistance. It is the perception that inclusion asks too much—that it is a logically sound but quixotic endeavor.

In conversation with peers, lay people and community leaders, one finds that the subject of inclusion often leads to a response that, yes, every member of our community should feel welcome and at home in our synagogues, programs and schools. But wholesale reform is costly and difficult for most average-sized communities, and the task seems too vast for any single action to be meaningful.

Can the construction of every 20-year-old synagogue be revamped? Can every congregation afford an ASL interpreter? We assume that inclusion means an overhaul of our institutions, an all-or-nothing quest. If we cannot provide cutting-edge accommodation, we might as well leave it for others who are in a position to make real change.

In this week’s reading of Parashat Noach, a curiosity concerning the ark seems to confront this common reaction of resignation.

Some 120 years before the impending submersion of Earth and its inhabitants, Noah is commanded to construct an ark with very specific dimensions: 300 cubits in length, 50 in width and 30 in height.1 This corresponds to approximately 470 feet in length, 78 in width and 47 in height. For antediluvian man to construct a box of that size is certainly an architectural achievement—and an arduous assignment.

And yet, for all its capaciousness, it is wholly inadequate for its designed use—to provide shelter for a representation of every living beast, bird, reptile and insect in the land. It is absurd to think that an ark the length of a football field-and-a-half can house the nearly million species of animals that roam the Earth. Factor in storage space for a year’s worth of food, and the ark is useless as the salvation of the world’s animal kingdom.

So how did the ark contain the multitude of Creation? Nachmanides offers that it was a miracle. “The small space contained a large volume.”2 But Nachmanides doubles back: If G‑d intended to defy the constraints of space and miraculously accommodate all living things, then why did Noah and his family need to exhaust themselves in the construction of the ark? Let it be a modest yacht, a floating shoebox, a sailboat—it doesn’t matter if G‑d is making the arrangements.

And here the commentator arrives at a resonant conclusion. G‑d will tend to His creations, regardless of whether it squares with the laws of physics or not. But He prefers human innovation over Divine intervention. Miracles come on the heel of human effort; they do not replace it.

G‑d looks to humanity for an overture—an attitude of preparedness that says that we are committed to doing what we can to shelter G‑d’s handiwork. Spend 120 years chopping trees, gathering wood, cutting planks and assembling a boat that provokes the disbelief of those who see it. Astonish Me and the world with what you are capable of. Then you’ll find that even your limited structures can miraculously hold much more than seemed possible.

This, perhaps, is a response to the reluctance well-meaning communities sometimes feel about creating more inclusive environments. The ark that will encompass every living thing may not be within our hands to build. We may not be endowed with the resources or the clout to re-engineer our facilities and neighborhoods. But we can certainly change our attitude, being conscious of how we speak to others, being attuned to the different needs of people with different abilities, and yes, make incremental changes to our brick-and-mortar structures to allow an increasing number of fellow Jews to participate in Jewish life.

When a purposeful effort is made—when we build what we can with the materials we are given—then even if the physical space falls short it becomes clear that this is a community that cares for all its members. If we broadcast that we are striving to invite every Jewish body and soul, we will see our communities expand and our congregations enriched, strengthened and beautified by the welcoming presence of Noah’s miraculous, yet human-made ark.