There is a story told of a man who was captured behind enemy lines during war. To his horror, he was sentenced to death by firing squad. However, the captain gave the man another option. He told him, “You can go to the firing squad tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., or you can choose to walk through this door.” Feeling hopeful, the man asked: “What’s on the other side of that door?” The captain answered: “No one knows. All I can tell you is that there is some unknown power behind that door.” The man thought it over, and the next morning, when it came time to choose his fate, he selected the firing squad. After the shots rang out, the captain’s secretary asked him: “You’ve offered so many people the other option, and every time they choose the firing squad. What’s beyond that door?” With a look of dismay on his face, the captain answered: “Freedom! But people would rather face a known death than journey into the unknown.”

A young boy once went to the circus and was astonished when he saw a giant elephant tethered to the ground by a thin rope. Curious, he walked over to the elephant trainer and asked: “How are you holding down such a huge elephant with such a tiny rope? The rope doesn’t look very strong. This elephant could break down a brick wall, why doesn’t he break free of this tiny rope?”

What’s the first thing you would do after surviving an apocalyptic event?

While you ponder that, consider that Noach’s first act was to offer korbanos (sacrifices) to Hashem. How did Noach know to do this? Rashi (8:20) explains that Noach inferred this from the fact that Hashem had commanded him to take seven of certain animals, instead of the minimum two needed to keep the species alive. “If Hashem wants me to have a surplus of animals,” Noach concluded, “it must be so that I can use the extra ones productively for avodas Hashem.”

Breakups are never easy

This week’s parshah tells the story of Avraham and his nephew Lot. For many years, the two had lived together in harmony, until a bitter fight broke out between their respective shepherds. As the fighting escalated, the once-close relatives decided that the land was not big enough for both of them, and ultimately they decided to part ways.

Imagine waking up in a hospital bed with amnesia; you haven’t the foggiest clue who you are. You try to recall your most recent memories and how you may have gotten here, but you can’t seem to remember. After a few seconds, you come to realize that you truly have no idea who you are. Just then, a group of men enter the room and deliver some shocking news. They tell you that you are the leader of the country, and that once you’re feeling better, there are some important issues for you to deal with. How would you feel? You’d probably hold your head up high, realizing that you are someone important. But what if instead of addressing you as a world leader, those same people informed you that you were the hospital janitor; instead of awaiting your return to the Oval Office, they’re awaiting your return to the bathrooms on the second floor. How would you feel then? What would you think of yourself?