Where Is Noah's Ark?

The legend of the flood is remarkable in that it finds echoes across many different cultures, in every region of the world. The Hopi Indians in North America talk about righteous people surviving a flood by floating in giant reeds. Indigenous tribes in Hawaii talk about a righteous man who survived the flood in a ark and saw a rainbow at the flood's end. The famous Gilgamesh epic from Mesopotamia includes the survivor sending out a dove and a raven to see if the waters had receded.

All of this indicates that the flood is, indeed, accurate history. If so, it's reasonable to expect that a vessel as large as the ark might indeed have survived. Those who believe it has, claim it lies under the ice that permanently covers the summit of 17,000 foot Mount Ararat, in Northeastern Turkey. So far, though, all of the photographs, videos, and testimonies, are unconvincing at best.

After the biblical flood has receded and Noah and his family have emerged from the ark, they bring a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Lord. God smelled the pleasant aroma of their sacrifice, and decided that He would never bring another flood of such magnitude to the world. The Torah tells us God's reasoning: "For man's inclination is just evil from his youth, and therefore I shall not destroy everything as I have done."

That is a very strange reason! If man's inclination is evil, that sounds like more of a justification to bring more punishments, not less!

The biblical commentary of Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin expresses one line of understanding. Prior to the flood, he says, the physical substance of the earth was thicker and more influential over the character of man. So much so, that once man became entrapped in his evil ways, he could not escape. It was, in a sense, a form of spiritual quicksand. After the flood, however, the physical earth had been purified by the waters. Now, man's physical essence had been weakened. This gave his spirit a fighting chance. (Perhaps this can explain the dramatically decreased lifespans of the post-flood generations.)

The main word, according to Rabbi Sorotzkin, in God's explanation for His change of heart is "Inclination." Before the flood, man's essence had become evil. God only destroys when there is no hope of redemption. After the flood, man's good essence, presumably inherited from Noah, was primary. Any evil behavior was a function of man's inclination, the temptations of the moment. Before the flood, man was described as having "Only evil thoughts, all of the day." Now, man had a chance to think and do good things as well.

I believe that Noah's Ark does, indeed, exist, in a much more important place. Think about Noah. Here is a man surrounded by the most corrupt culture and history, who maintained his decency. Noah had tremendous faith, Noah refused to join in with the violence and upheavals of pre-flood society. That was a time when anarchy reigned, when the powerful judges abused their power to steal whatever they wished. "The land was filled with violence and theft." The rabbinical commentaries add sexual corruption even amongst the animals to underscore just how bad things were.

Imagine being one person in that whole crazy world who knew this was wrong! What tremendous strength of character! And so, God chose Noah and those he influenced, namely, his family, as the last great hope for humanity.

And inside that ark, something even more wonderful took place. The entire animal kingdom sent representatives to survive the flood. Who took care of them? Noah and his family. This was an intense, full time job of loving kindness. The ark was a bastion of faith, decency, morality, and caring.

I believe that any place where these character traits are taught, encouraged, and practiced, is where Noah's ark is. The world is going through upheavals, as it has been more or less since then. There are tremendously evil people and groups that wish to destroy civilization. The call of the extremist is very powerful. Those schools, houses of worship, places of kindness such as nursing homes, hospitals, homes for the disabled and so many thousands and millions of others, are all Noah's ark.

You see, when God smelled that sacrifice, he was smelling the beautiful aroma of Noah's beautiful character, his faith and his caring. God said that this is the real potential of humanity. If humanity does fall, it is only a temporary inclination. Whenever we see the world around us sending negative messages and descending into negative behavior, we should go into a Noah's Ark to find new strength.

And, then, we must also leave the ark and reenter the world as Noah did. But when we leave the ark, we must make sure that the ark never leaves us.

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