On the roof of the Aish center looking down at the Western Wall with Chevra & Davai in 2011

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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Torah Thought: Parsha Noach

All week, I’ve been bothered by something in the Torah portion.  G-d told Noah to create an ark that was 3 stories and (depending on your conversion from amos, which is a biblical measurement to feet) over 30,000 square feet per floor.  The lowest floor was created to hold all of the waste & refuge.  The middle floor was designed to hold between 2 – 14 of every type of animal in existence depending on whether they were pure or impure animals.  The upper floor was designed for the human beings who were saved, which consisted of Noah, his 3 sons, and all of their wives… a total of 8 people. 

The question that bothered me is what to 8 people need with over 30,000 square feet of space???

My first house was a 3 bedroom row home in the Queen Village section of Philly.  It was roughly 1,600 square feet.  It wasn’t huge, but it wasn’t tiny either for a city house.  When I think that you could have fit roughly 20 of these houses in a space for 8 people, it seems quite excessive to me.  The sages tell us that since the Torah is G-d’s wisdom, so to speak, then it’s impossible for anything in it to be illogical.  Anything that we cant understand, is above us… not a mistake.  That being said, I still kept dwelling on why such a large space was needed.  I couldn’t find any traditional explanations on the subject.  In truth, because of time constraints, I didn’t really spend that much time looking for one.

After a few days, I came upon an explanation that started to make sense.

In the Ba’al Teshuva world, we often invite people over for a Shabbas meal who, we are know, are not Shabbas observers and are probably going to drive home after dinner.  If keeping the Shabbas is so important, how can we invite these people over in the first place?  Maybe it’s better to not have such Shabbas guests…

As I was once explained, there are Rabbinic opinions that allow us to invite someone over on Friday evening before the sun goes down for dinner, because there’s the possibility that they will find dinner so spiritually inspiring (or get too tired or drunk), that they may decide to sleep over instead of driving home on Shabbas.  Given that possibility, it is not a forgone conclusion that they’re going to violate the Shabbas at all.  The catch is that you need to have a place for them to sleep.  Even though the circumstances are unlikely that your 6 or 60 dinner guests are going to stay over instead of drive home, as a host we need to not only accept them if they do decide to stay over, but hope and pray that they will.

I don’t believe that the extra space in the human section of the ark was son Noah and his sons can have a 2 on 2 football game using a regulation field.  I think that up until the very last moment, G-d was hoping that the generation, or at least some of it, would do teshuva, return to belief and observance in G-d, and occupy a lot more of that space.

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