A great flood was about to arrive on Earth. Noah is told by G-d: “Build yourself an ark… come into the ark together with your family,” and this ark will protect you from the flood.
“Teivah” is the Hebrew word used in the Torah for ark. “Teivah” also means “word.” Says the Baal Shem Tov: “Build yourself an ark” – enter into protective words of Torah and prayer – which protect you from the raging floodwaters of financial anxieties that each of us have.
This advice may seem counterintuitive. When you are suffering financially it sounds more practical to intensify your efforts to find supplemental income: A new job, new types of investments. When money is lost it seems that the most logical thing to do is to become more aggressive in your pursuit of money, not to escape behind spiritual walls.
But think again. From where do we derive ultimate security? Can a structure rest comfortably on a shifting foundation? Would you feel safe being embraced by transient love? Can a child build confidence with absentee parents? Can we be secure with something that is fundamentally insecure?
True security can only come from something that is not temporary; safety and trust is built on that which is solid and permanent.
Everything in this material universe is intrinsically impermanent. We are mortals living in an ever-changing and ever-aging world. Everything physical erodes, ages and dies. Everything that has a beginning has an end. Our looks, our youth, our food, our belongings, and yes – our money – all get depleted.
I always found it ironic to call those financial vehicles – which are inherently temporal and fraught with risk (as every prospectus legally reminds us) – with the name… “securities.”
With everything material, including money, being so transitory, how can we expect to find security there? Yet we return there again and again. Is it because we have become addicted, or because we don’t know of any other alternatives?
The mere fact that in times of financial anxiety most of us would gravitate back to more aggressive money pursuits is the clearest demonstration how addicted we have become to money, and how we feel that it is the only panacea to relieve our anxiety. However, the rule is that anything that brings you anxiety can never relieve your anxiety. But this is a rule of logic, not of emotions. As much as it may make sense that a “drug” will not solve your problems, the addict returns to the drug again and again. Because life is not about sense; most of our decisions are emotional ones in the first place.
As one shtetl drunk once said: You drink to drown your tzoros (problems). Then you find out that tzoros float…
And thus comes the brilliant but simple advice of this week’s Torah portion: “Build yourself an ark… come into the ark together with your family.”
When the floodwaters of financial pressures and anxieties are raging and threaten to drown you, build a protective “ark” and enter into it with your family. Surround yourself with sacred words, insulate yourself with spiritual values and ideas.
Take time each day, each week, on weekends – designate any time that works – gather your family together and study some Torah, read a spiritual thought together, pray together.
This is not escapism. This is being pragmatic, and empowering. It is acknowledging that when the unpredictable floods are going wild, you have the power to create an oasis – a protective womb – that lifts you and your loved ones to an eternal place, which shelters you from the storm.
Not just shelter that avoids danger, but a space that brings permanent comfort being that it connects you to the immortal – the holy words that surround your life. So that even when you “leave the ark” and return to the material world you have become somewhat immunized, no longer so vulnerable to the inherent insecurities of everything corporeal.
Build yourself an ark. Enter into it. Feel nurtured.
A simple piece of advice. But one that can change your life forever.