After all these festival-disrupted weeks, five consecutive days of work can feel arduously long. It's like we've plummeted faster than Felix Baumgartner from the high of Yom Tov into the humdrum of the rat-race. When we'll read the Noah's Ark story on Shabbos, it may well resonate with our own feelings of being flooded with work backlogs or the rush to meet end-of-year deadlines.
In a sense, last month felt a little like the secure, protected environment of the Ark- where the tempest around you doesn't really bother you. This week we face the chaos again.
One intriguing point about the Noah's Ark story is that G-d had to tell Noah and his family to leave the Ark and regain their position in the world once the waters had receded. You would have expected that, after 365 cramped days of living on top of each other and scores of animals, the people would have leapt out into the open air as soon as the safety hatch was opened. Yet, nobody moved and G-d Himself had to coax them out.
When El Al lands in Tel Aviv after nine hours in the air, the passengers are out of their seats and headed for the door as the wheels touch the tarmac. Yet, the Noah family- who had been at sea (is it called a sea?) for a year- did not budge even after the door had been opened.
Who could blame them? In the Ark they had lived a miraculous experience (How else do you explain feeding elephants for a year? And how else do you account for all the impalas coming off the boat alive, considering the lions were kept just metres away?). As soon as they would step out of the Ark, they would have to take on that dreaded thing called work. Life in the Ark was a holiday, but stepping back into the outdoors would mean getting their hands dirty, shouldering responsibilty and setting themselves up for disappointments.
Inside the Ark, everyone felt connected and together. Once back in the "real" world, they could expect to feel alone.
Human nature seeks the path of least resistance. Human achievement is about facing and overcoming challenges. Impulse says "stay where its warm and secure and predictable". Human spirit says "step out into the cold and barren outdoors and make it warm and secure".
Noah and his family may have imagined that they would have felt happy had they stayed in their floating refuge, but G-d knew that they could only feel fulfilled once they ventured out to make a difference. So, He schlepped them back into the realm of responsibility.
Since then, human nature still pulls us to stay under the covers and look after ourselves. But, all human achievement only begins when we pull those covers back, step our of our comfort zone and do something to give to the world, rather than to wait to discover what the world has to give us.