This year, I imagine we can all relate to the story of Noach in an entirely new way. In the early weeks of the Coronavirus pandemic, we all gathered our immediate families and hunkered down in our “arks” as the storm of the pandemic raged around us. Since then, we experienced much of what Noach and his family likely experienced: fear, uncertainty, and an unsettling sense of claustrophobia. We are left wondering, “How will this all end? Will the storm ever calm?”
Perhaps we can find some answers in the aftermath of the flood. We all know that the rain lasted for forty days – but what happened when it stopped raining? The parsha gives us several clues, telling us that “the waters swelled on the earth one hundred and fifty days” and “then the waters went on diminishing until the tenth month.” Rashi helps us piece together a cohesive timeline, which brings Noach’s total time in the ark to 365 days – one full year, far longer than the 40 days of rain. Instructively, Noach didn’t simply wake up at the end of that year and walk off the ark. The process played out in a much more gradual way.
First, we are told that he just “opened the window.” Then he sends out a raven who cannot find dry land. Then he sends out a dove three times, until it does not return, signaling it has found a safe place to roost. Only then does he remove the covering from the ark and see the ground is drying. Yet he still waits to exit until Hashem tells him to do so. His return to safety was slow, deliberate, and step-by-step.
In many ways the opening of school in September – thanks to the incredibly hard work of Schechter Boston’s administration, teachers, and lay leaders – was like Noach cracking open the ark’s window. Though we are certainly still surrounded by a turbulent storm, the ability for our children to return to the Schechter campus has let in some light and fresh air.
And though we have no way of knowing how long we will need to continue to seek shelter in our arks, G-d willing, one day, as a community we can begin to open our window a little wider, send out our raven, progress to our doves, remove our coverings, and leave these stormy and difficult times behind us. Like Noach, the world into which we emerge will look quite different than the one we left behind, and it will be up to us to rebuild it again, to ensure it is fertile, fruitful, and enriching – for our children and future generations.
Until that time arrives, may we all be blessed with the strength to continue to navigate the storm and the wisdom to understand how to safely emerge.
Kerry Newman, Schechter Parent