As part of the detailed instructions that Noah had to follow in building the ark, G-d said to him, “Tzohar ta’aseh la’teivah … A window shall you make for the ark” (Genesis 6:16).
While the majority of Bible commentators say that the tzohar was a skylight – the same window that Noah opened after the flood (see Genesis 8:6) - others say it was a precious stone [that refracted the outside light to illuminate the interior]. All seem to agree, however, that the main purpose of the tzohar was to provide light for those living inside the ark.
Rabbi Paysach J. Krohn, in his wonderful book Echoes of the Maggid (Mesorah Publications), quotes Rabbi Velvel Perkovsky who proposes a different understanding of the tzohar and its purpose in the ark - one which has an important and timely message for all of us today.
Rabbi Perkovsky suggests that perhaps the purpose of the window was twofold: Not only for light, but for Noah to be able to look out at the destruction and devastation that was taking place outside his safe quarters and recognize how unfortunate others were. G-d wanted Noah to be sensitive to the pain and suffering of others.
Now I don’t know about you folks, but this week I was struck by the tremendous irony of Jewish people all across Toronto (myself included) cheering for their home team, the Toronto Blue Jays, in the American League Division Series, and hoping that they ‘stay alive’ even as they fell behind two games to none to the Texas Rangers – and all this at the same time that, halfway across the world in the Middle East, our Jewish brothers and sisters are also hoping to ‘stay alive’ and not to be stabbed to death by Arabs with knives and screwdrivers!
Do you realize what’s been going on in Israel these past few days? While we have been busy rooting for the Jays (or the Mets or Royals etc.) and celebrating on the streets when they win, Jews are being attacked on the streets by Arabs in what could only be called a ‘Stabifada’.
Here’s a news item from this week Monday:
Earlier in the day two Palestinians stabbed a 21 year old man and a 13 year old boy who was riding his bike, in the Pisgat Ze’ev neighborhood of Jerusalem. The terrorists were 15 and 13 years of age, from East Jerusalem. One was run down by a car and injured. The other was shot to death by border police when he refused to drop his knife. The Israeli victims are in serious condition. Shortly before that, on Ammunition Hill, a 16 year old girl from East Jerusalem stabbed a border policeman in the back. He then shot and wounded her. In the morning, an 18 year old Palestinian stabbed a border policeman in his flak jacket at the Lion’s Gate in the Old City of Jerusalem.
Here’s another news item from this week Tuesday:
A total of 3 Israelis were killed and 24 wounded in 4 terror attacks today. In Jerusalem two terrorists boarded the number 78 bus in Armon Hanetziv, shooting and stabbing. Two Israelis were killed and 16 wounded. Police shot and killed one of the terrorists and injured the other. Also in Jerusalem, an Arab employee of Bezeq (Israeli phone company) rammed his Bezeq vehicle into a crowd of people at a bus stop on Malchei Yisrael street. He then got out of his car and stabbed people. One Israeli man was killed. Three more Israelis were injured. The terrorist was killed by police. He was related to the terrorists who attacked the shul in Har Nof last year. In Raanana a resident of East Jerusalem stabbed a man before being subdued by people at the scene. Later, another East Jerusalem resident stabbed four Israelis. People chased down the terrorist and subdued him until police arrived.
It’s like there’s this great flood of destruction and waves of violence that are threatening our fellow Jews in Israel as we speak, and we just continue to cheer on our favorite sports teams from our cozy and safe (for now) homes in Toronto and elsewhere in North America as if everything was just honky-dory.
Now more than ever we need to build a tzohar window inside our secure homes, so that even as we continue to root for our teams in the playoffs (if we must do so), we will always remember to look out towards our brethren in Israel. This way we will remain constantly aware of and sensitive to the daily violence and stabbings that threaten their lives – and feel their pain.
May G-d protect our fellow Jews from all harm, wherever they may be. Go, Jays, Go!