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.