The Window צוֹהַר
Updated: Oct 28, 2022
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Parshat Noach is a tale of destruction, covenant and rebuilding. There are very specific instructions for Noah, the most righteous man of his generation, to build the ark. Within those instructions appears a mysterious word, Tzohar. There is a debate about what Tzohar can mean. Does it mean a small window that somehow illuminates the voluminous ark, or is it a jewel that beams necessary light for Noah and his family to tend to the many animals on the ark? (See link for more on this at the bottom of this page.)
For this D'var Torah I chose the idea of Tzohar as being a window at the top of a structure that offers light and hope to those inside. The ark provided shelter for Noah and his family during the deluge. The address at Westermarkt 20 in Amsterdam was an ark of sorts. Here is a short midrash combining the story of the ark with the story of Anne Frank in Europe during a raging storm that came long after the rainbow covenant.
The Window צוֹהַר
Once, long after the sign of the rainbow, there was a land which harbored
the storm of the ages;
a brutal storm which threatened to swallow a segment of humanity.
In that land lived a people of many shapes, abilities and characters.
They were accountants and thieves,
clowns and seamstresses,
bakers and laborers,
men, women and children,
old and young.
The clouds gathered gray and cold, the winds blew and rain began to fall;
at first just a numbing drizzle,
but the storm grew stronger and stronger each day.
The people saw that they were not safe and began to seek shelter or flee.
Among the people was a family.
In the midst of the ensuing storm, the family found an ark made of bricks and wood.
They entered through its doors and shut them tightly behind them.
They climbed a hidden staircase to a darkened space high above the ground below
and there, in the ark, they huddled,
protected from the storm that raged all around them.
For day after day,
month after month the waters rose
and the ark rocked in the winds.
In that family, who found shelter in the ark was a young girl whose name was Anne Frank.
Every day she sat in the ark
surrounded by the storm
in a darkened room
with one window high above her that shone light upon.
It was her window to the world;
to the storm: but also to the sky and to the tops of living trees.
There Anne sat and wrote of her life in the ark.
Surrounded by the storm,
she wrote words of hope that the someday the storm would ebb
and the prayer that rains would not erase people from the world.
She wrote those words down in a diary, as children do,
when children hope and dream.
Many days later,
indeed, many more than 40 days and 40 nights;
it felt like forever;
the storm raged so violently that it was no longer safe,
even in the ark.
The waters rose higher and higher
the family felt the terror of the unprotected.
The thunder echoed through the walls ,
the rains battered the roof
and the winds blew fiercely around them,
until the family was spit forth from the ark,
into the heart of the storm.
In this ark, though, there were no ravens
and no doves
to send off through the sky to search for a place to flee,
for there was not an inch of dry land to be found
and no safe harbor for them to rest.
In this story of the ark there was not a happy ending;
no parting of the clouds,
no fresh breeze and sunshine;
no shimmering rainbows;
not for Anne.
But for Anne,
there was the memory of that window
a small sliver of light,
and what is beyond the sky,
during those terrible stormy days
in the land of the ark,
not so long ago.
May Anne's memory be a blessing, and may the memory of all of those who perished in the storm be forever a shining blessing of light.
Anne Frank's Diary
Taken from the New York Times website. Photograph by Monica Almeida
In the period of over two years (6 July 1942 to 4 August 1944) that Anne Frank spent in hiding in the Secret Annex, nature and her longing for freedom played an ever greater role. Through a window in the attic that was not blacked out, Anne could see the sky, birds and the chestnut tree. She wrote about the tree in her diary three times, the last time on 13 May 1944
From www.annefrank.org . The Chestnut Tree
צֹ֣הַר ׀ תַּֽעֲשֶׂ֣ה לַתֵּבָ֗ה וְאֶל־אַמָּה֙ תְּכַלֶּ֣נָּה מִלְמַ֔עְלָה וּפֶ֥תַח הַתֵּבָ֖ה בְּצִדָּ֣הּ תָּשִׂ֑ים תַּחְתִּיִּ֛ם שְׁנִיִּ֥ם וּשְׁלִשִׁ֖ים תַּֽעֲשֶֽׂהָ׃
A skylight*skylight: (Hebrew obscure) you are to make for the ark, and finish it to a cubit upward.
The entrance of the ark you are to set in its side;
with a lower, a second, and a third deck you are to make it.
For more information on the ark and the word Tzohar please see: