This week's portion is titled Noah, and is named after the famed builder of the ark. It is during this portion that we learn of the cataclysmic flood that destroyed life, save that of Noah, his family, and the animals he brought on board with him.

The Torah explains why this dramatic act was needed. Humankind had devolved into a moral abyss. Immorality in all of its forms was rampant. Hatred amongst the peoples of the earth was complete. There was one exception to this rule, Noah. Despite living in the most depraved of circumstances he maintained his dignity and righteousness. Noah "went with G‑d," as the Torah tells us. This means that G‑dliness ennobled his life and the lives of those around him. 

An island of decency in a sea of depravity was the hallmark of NoahAn island of decency in a sea of depravity was the hallmark of Noah. And so G‑d despaired of Noah's generation and decided to begin anew the task of creating a human species worthy of its vaunted status. Even after it had been decided On High to destroy the existing life, people were given ample opportunity to change their ways thereby obviating the need for the flood. During the long tenure that construction on the ark continued people would ask Noah, "Why are you building this large craft?" To these queries he would reply, "Because G‑d has wearied of human immorality and has decreed that the world will be destroyed should people choose not to repent." Needless to say the people chose to scoff at Noah and his dire warnings instead of taking them to heart and changing their evil ways. Even when the rains of the flood started the people could have changed and transformed those destructive rains into rains of blessing, but still they remained hard-hearted. 

When the rains turned menacing they became known as the "Mayim Rabim" (multitude of waters). Noah and his family remained safely insulated from the destruction going on outside. They miraculously survived the flood and lived to rebuild humanity. Upon their emergence from the ark seven special laws were commanded to Noah, and through him to all humanity. The laws are aptly called the Seven Noahide Laws. These laws include: 1. Belief in one G‑d / Not serving idols. 2. Not blaspheming G‑d. 3. Not murdering. 4. Not stealing. 5. Not committing immoral sexual acts. 6. Not being cruel to animals. 7. Establishing courts of justice.

These laws are meant to be the basis for all human society for all future generations. These laws clearly establish codes of decency expected of every human being.

Our Rabbis teach us that the flood waters are also present in every generation. They are represented by the numerous anti-spiritual influences found all around us. These waters may appear very tempting and good at first glance, but when one takes a step back and analyzes what he is seeing, the destructiveness becomes apparent. 

The ark represents different things depending on who is looking. For the Jew the ark is the protection afforded by our Torah that is to be found in our synagogues, Jewish schools, and our homes. The walls of these edifices safeguard us from the destruction found in the outside realm. 

The ark represents different things depending on who is lookingFor the non-Jew, the ark represents strict adherence to the Seven Noahide Laws. Those laws are the Torah's clear instructions as to what should be the goals and aspirations of all humanity. It is precisely those laws that allow all of humankind to achieve, in an overt way, its predestined state of superiority and G‑dliness.

Whichever group we may belong to it is of critical importance to make sure the walls of our "ark" are watertight. This means that humanity must reject secularism (an existence devoid of G‑d).

On the other hand, we see some people who in the name of G‑d perform atrocities that are beyond words to describe. That is precisely why the Seven Laws are so important. Anyone who wants to serve G‑d must do so on His terms. When one uses G‑d's name for evil he has in fact desecrated the Holy Name. This is most hateful in the eyes of G‑d.

During these trying times we must find refuge in our personal, communal, and even national arks. We must make sure that negative influences are securely locked out. Better still, we must allow the light of the enlightened to shine forth transforming the surrounding darkness into life-giving light!