In Parashat Noach, Hashem instructs Noach to build a boat to protect himself from the coming flood which will wipe out the world. Ramban explains that Noach's world had become filled with corruption to the point that theft was commonplace and there was no order. He clarifies (BeReishit 6:13) that specifically stealing is so bad because common sense alone should dictate that stealing is wrong and creates a chaotic environment.
Our world is fast paced. We are constantly busy and we feel that we must keep up with the world and juggle all of our responsibilities. Often the responsibilities and distractions remove us from even more crucial and essential priorities. Rav Ron Yitzchak Eisenmann tells a story in his book, The Elephant in the Room, of a meeting he had scheduled that he felt was very important for the wellbeing of a certain couple. The woman called Rav Eisenmann a few hours before the appointment to ask if she could bring her child because the babysitter had canceled. The Rav agreed, although he was disappointed and concerned that the couple might be distracted. The meeting went very well and the Rav’s advice was well received without any interruptions from the beautifully behaved child. After the meeting the mother suggested to her daughter that she ask the Rav a question from the Parashah that she had raised earlier. The girl walked over to the Rav’s desk and stood silently. Her mother encouraged her to ask the Rav her question. The girl responded that the Rav was not listening. The Rav, who was cleaning off his desk, told her that he was in fact listening. The mother said, “Ask, the Rav IS listening.” The young girl responded, “No mommy, the Rav is listening with his ears but not with his eyes.”
The Slonimer Rebbe cites a passage from the Zohar which tells us that just as the Teivah protected Noach from the raging storm outside, Shabbat is "protection" from the world around us. Shabbat is a great gift from Hashem. The world continues to move around us, but on Shabbat we rest, just like Noach rested on the boat from the corruption around him and like the young girl in Rav Eisenmann’s story required the Rav to rest from his work in order to achieve proper focus. We on Shabbat show our trust that Hashem runs the world and that we can abstain from the rush of weekly activities. We learn to listen to our spouses, children, family, friends, and selves, and to be fully present, listening not just with our ears but with our eyes as well.
Shabbat is not just a day of physical rest. On it we must rest from all of our distractions. If we do so, we will begin to hear and see things which we were previously too busy to realize. Hashem is everywhere and we can find Him in everything, but we first need to know to look for Him. A story about the Kotzker Rebbe illustrates this point. A student once traveled a long distance to learn with the Kotzker. Upon his arrival, he met with the Rebbe and related to him how far he had come to learn. The Kotzker asked, "What did you come to find?" "I came to find Hashem," he answered. "How foolish," the Kotzker said, "Hashem is everywhere. You didn't have to travel here to find Him. Once you find Him yourself, you'll see Him everywhere."
On Shabbat, we should merit to truly rest and be protected from the world, to connect with Hashem, and to connect to all the beauty around us. In this beautiful and meaningful manner, let us heed the crucial lessons of Noach and his ark.