This Parsha this week is Parshas Noah. Noah, as we all know is told to build a taiva – an ark, so he and his family will be saved from the flood. A simple question must be raised that is often overlooked: Why is this boat called a taiva – an ark? Why not a sefina – a boat? Another question that should be asked is, what was the connection between the cause of the flood – robbery (Genesis 6:13) and Noah staying in the ark? How did Noah and his family spending an entire year in the ark manage to rectify the world from the terrible sin of robbery?
Rav Dessler explains to us that every relationship in this world is based upon giving and talking. When we go to a store to buy something, we really want to take the item. We give money in order to be able to take. The store employee wants to take money. He gives us the item in order to take. In such situations, the main focus of both parties is to take; they give as much as they have to just to be able to take.
The generation of the flood had stooped to such a low level that all they wanted to do was purely to take. They were not even willing to give in order to be able to take. This was the level of absolute corruptness. This had to be corrected for humanity to continue.
There is another opposite way of living: Where a person is purely out to give. However, in order to survive, he or she must take – to give. This was the way the famed Chofetz Chaim did business. He charged just enough over the cost so that he could continue to provide for his customers. He had no intention of taking any more than he had to in order to give.
To rectify the situation at the time of the flood, Hashem made a situation that had Noah in an environment where all he did was give. What did Noah do all the time in the Ark? The Talmud recounts a conversation between Eliezer the servant of Abraham and Shem the son of Noah. Eliezer asks Shem, “how did you spend the whole year in the ark?” Shem answered, “We had no time to sleep, at day or night. Some animals had to be fed in the morning; some in the afternoon; others at night”. Imagine, a year full of caring for animals, with nothing in return!! This is pure giving, caring for others.
A ship refers to a boat that is headed to a certain destination. Whether powered by motor, steam, or oars, it is going from point A to point B. The Ark was merely a container that held its cargo, with no specific destination to go to. This was the great goal of the ark – not to go somewhere, but to recreate an environment of giving for others. This was the holy task of Noah and his family in the ark, to recreate a world that was based on giving, rather than taking, of thinking of others, rather than oneself.