This week we read the second Torah portion of the year, the story of Noah and his ark. We read how decrepit and corrupt society had become in Noah's time, how robbery, murder, incest and jealousy were the norm. 

 God tells Noah, a righteous man and a tenth generation descendant of Adam and Eve, that he will bring a flood and destroy the wicked place the world had become. Noah is instructed by God to construct a giant ship on dry land, albeit at an extraordinarily slow pace. 

 God wanted Noah's wicked neighbors to notice the awkward sight of a ship, slowly being built far from any body of water. They would ask Noah 'Why are you undertaking such an odd construction venture?" to which he would answer that God was going to flood the earth, unless their behavior shaped up quickly. Hopefully they would be inspired to repent. But it didn't help. The earth was flooded, only to resurface after a full year's time. Only Noah, his family, and a pair of every specie of bird and beast were taken on the ark, and spared. Noah, his wife Na'ama and their family became the ancestors of all people (the Jews, for example, stem from the eldest son, Sem, hence the German-coined term for anti-Jewish sentiment: "Antisemitism").

 Rabbi David Kimchi, a medieval French biblical commentator, writes that the word "Torah" grammatically stems from the word "Hora'ah", or "instruction". Every single word of the Torah is meant to be an instruction, a lesson for us today that we can implement in our lives.

 How so? The world may only have been flooded once, but we are flooded quite often. It might not be from dark rain clouds, but it can be a flood of financial worries, health issues, family issues, or even the news. 

 The news coming out of Israel alone can be enough to flood us with worry. Jews don't feel safe walking down their neighborhood streets in their own country, yet most of the world finds them at fault. The inherent kindness of the Jewish people can hamper the will to clamp down on terror, even leading us to believe that perhaps we truly are the ones to blame for terrorists' wrath.

 Our world can be difficult to navigate, and make it worrisome to stare into the future. The story of the flood, Noah and his ark can provide a powerful refuge and a sense of purpose, meaning and direction for us. 

 The world was then at the lowest moral levels imaginable. A truly great challenge. We too are faced with challenges. When faced with a great problem or challenge, we can lose hope. We can look in the mirror and see an image which is very far from our ideal self staring back, and give up.

  The story of the flood teaches us a beautiful lesson. Even in the darkest times, when we go through the greatest challenges, the solution, more often than not, is "flooding". Realize that far from giving up on ourselves, all we need to do is wash away the false preconceptions and limitations we assigned to ourselves, and let ourselves burst through. Those ideas we may have in our head; I'm not a good parent, or good friend, employee, boss, spouse, or co-worker. Or maybe I'm not a good Jew... Such ideas need to be washed away, and room for who really are, which was buried under our self-imposed limits, is left to express itself.

 Every single individual is so precious, so irreplaceable and full of boundless potential and good in God's eyes, that he had to make us from scratch. Modifying another individual would never have been enough. Look at yourself and see what you can be. Recognize the Jewish soul that every one of us has burning inside, waiting to shine through.  

Rabbi Avrohom