This next week, our country will elect a new president. A general fear of the unknown looms over us like a wall cloud before a tornado. We do not know where it will hit or when, or if at all, but the green, dark sky teases us about what might come. One scary aspect of this election is the name-calling and labeling, and the neglect of any concern about how we might falsely characterize others in an attempt to draw people nearer to our own point-of-view. We are each of us born into this world without a name, character or story. Once we are named, we begin living a life of identity and our story begins.
Noah's name gives us prophecy into the person that God hopes for him to be. Noach, made up of the letters nun and chet, when the letters are switched, becomes the word chen, translated as grace. How do we look within ourselves to find the full nature of our name and act within the influence of its full meaning? And, what becomes of the name of someone whose character contradicts, perhaps violently, the name's reputation?
When we meet Noah, we hear that he is a righteous man, perfect in his generation, and one who walked with God. Though a lovely introduction, the lack of detail is less than compelling proof of Noah's good character. We are told that Noah believes in God, listens to God's orders and observes God's commands, but is that grace?
"God said to Noah ‘come into the ark'" and Noah obeys bringing his family and a pair of each species aboard. The Baal Shem Tov, a 17th century mystical rabbi, teaches that the Hebrew word for "ark," teivah, is also translated as "word." Therefore, if this sentence from Bereshit chapter 7 is reinterpreted, the Baal Shem Tov believes it could mean, "come into the word." God is asking Noah to enter in prayer, and observance of Torah study, to find a sanctuary in meaning and holiness amidst life's storm. Each of us has our own teivah, our own ark, that we build to jump upon with all that is important to us when we need to stay afloat in the craziness of the world. Noah's grace is evident not only in his willingness and ability to build an ark according to God's instruction, but in his spiritual relationship to God.
God then commands Noah to "go out of the ark." Here the ark is the physical lifesaver, yet the metaphor comes in Noah's ability to leave that which has been his sanctuary. The Divine command to leave, is to use that which has been gained inside the ark, and bring it out to the world. To learn the blessing of sanctuary, safety, love, family, values and compassion and bring that grace into the broken world.
You and I need not focus on building the material ark. Our task is to leave our sanctuary and bring God's gifts and lessons out to the world. At the end of the storm, there is a rainbow. There is no rainbow IN the ark. There is only rainbow OUTSIDE the ark. If you have reason to fear what is coming, build a sanctuary of spiritual relationship and then go out from that sanctuary, spreading goodness and grace. Earn your good name. Vote. Make sure to see a rainbow.