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Staying Afloat in a Turbulent World

by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg

  

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The harrowing tales of survivors of the tsunami in Southeast Asia were still fresh in our minds when yet another water related tragedy struck. Will we ever be able to forget the heart-wrenching images of Louisianans struggling to survive amidst unforgiving flood waters? In the most active hurricane season ever recorded, Katrina, Rita and Wilma left in their wakes untold thousands of people trying to stay afloat—literally, financially and emotionally.

Often times, we feel as if life is one extended hurricane. We are constantly battling the waves which the sea of life sends our way. As soon as one wave washes ashore, the second one is not far behind; threatening to capsize over us unless we skillfully navigate our way over its raging crest. Indeed, the daily financial pressures and business worries which life presents us are dubbed by King Solomon as the “mighty waters” which threaten to drown us. They primarily imperil our spiritual side; desensitizing us to that which is really important in life through causing us to be constantly focused on making another buck. They constantly occupy our minds; rendering it like a vessel filled to the brim with murky waters which won’t allow the radiance of the sun to cause it to sparkle.

The sacred words of Torah and prayer have a waterproofing effect, ensconcing the person in an impenetrable bubble which can endure even the harshest winds
The Torah speaks of a great flood which washed away all of civilization. Only Noah and his family survived the Flood by entering the Ark which protected them from the pelting rain which streamed from above and the churning waters which rose from the depths. Our eternal Torah isn’t merely telling us a fascinating tale; if we look a bit deeper, at the story behind the story, we can also unravel the secret behind surviving all floods—even the ones which the meteorologists don’t forecast; the ominous floods of life.

G-d commanded Noah to enter an Ark. The Baal Shem Tov points out that the Hebrew word for “Ark,” also means “word.” We all can survive the floods which wish to engulf our lives through engrossing ourselves in the holy “words” of Torah and prayer. The person who wakes up in the morning and devotes his first hours to earnest prayer and some short words of Torah before running off to work, effectively insulates himself against life’s storms. The sacred words of Torah and prayer have a waterproofing effect, ensconcing the person in an impenetrable bubble which can endure even the harshest winds. Starting the day with prayer and Torah serves as our daily reminder that G-d is in control, and though we must strive to earn a livelihood, we must never let ourselves become overly perturbed by business pressures—because ultimately everything is from G-d; and G-d is always good.

One who meets life’s storms while in the safe sanctuary of the “Ark” will find that the storm waters which seem to be so destructive are actually purifying waters. G-d purified the world through the flood (which lasted forty days, similar to a Mikvah which must contain forty sa’ah of water), and He purifies us by sending challenges and tribulations in our direction. If we are properly prepared for these storms, they bring out our highest and most noble qualities, elevating us to spiritual heights we could never attain without the help of these hurricanes.


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RELATED CATEGORIES

Mitzvot » Prayer » About

Torah
Torah is G–d’s teaching to man. In general terms, we refer to the Five Books of Moses as “The Torah.” But in truth, all Jewish beliefs and laws are part of the Torah.
Mikvah
A ritual bath where one immerses to become spiritually pure. After her menstrual cycle, a woman must immerse in the Mikvah before resuming marital relations.
Baal Shem Tov
Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov (1698-1760), Polish mystic and founder of the Chassidic movement.
Noah
Tenth generation from Adam. Of all humankind, only he and his family survived the Flood which destroyed all civilization in the year 2106 BCE.
Solomon
Son of King David, and succeeded him on the throne of Israel in the year 836 BCE. he was the wisest man to ever live. He built the first Holy Temple and authored several books of the Bible.
G-d
It is forbidden to erase or deface the name of G-d. It is therefore customary to insert a dash in middle of G-d's name, allowing us to erase or discard the paper it is written on if necessary.