Make yourself an ark [in Hebrew, "teva"] of gofer wood, divide it into compartments and smear it with pitch inside and out. This is how you shall construct it. The ark's length shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a skylight for the ark, the top of the ark shall be a cubit wide [with the sides slanted down]. Place the opening of the ark on its side. Make three floors in the ark. (Gen. 6:14-16)

The Hebrew word "teva" means not only "ark" but also "word". R' Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev (in his book Kedushat Levi) found a lesson in proper speech hidden in the measurements of the Ark.

One must weigh one's words carefully before speaking. When one builds an "ark" (in Hebrew, "teva", i.e. "word"), one must measure out its height. Height hints at considering the greatness and loftiness of the Creator.

Width hints at the area between two opposite sides. These are the two opposite but complementary aspects of divine service, love and awe of G‑d. This is also a result of considering the greatness and loftiness of the Creator.

Length is the divine endowment of bounty which comes into the world as a result of carefully guarded and measured speech which is dedicated to the service of G‑d. One must place paramount priority on the prayer, the service of the heart…

The Midrash offers several definitions for the word "tzohar". It is commonly translated as skylight or window, but Rashi tells us that since they were going to be in the darkness of heavy cloud cover during the forty days and nights of rain, Noah was instructed to place a sparkling, gleaming jewel on the ark to light the way. Reb Elimelech of Lizhensk (in his book Noam Elimelech) says this teaches us that every word that one utters should bring great light into the world, dispelling the darkness of exile.

Reb Shlomo of Radomsk (in Tiferet Shlomo) says, " the opening of the ark on its side..." refers to the opening of the portal of divine endowment and bounty into the physical world. This opening shall be "on the side". It is not G‑d's intention that a person should place his primary focus on his material needs and desires, rather, they should be on the side or secondary.

Therefore, says the Tiferet Shlomo, one must imbue every word (in Hebrew, "teva") of one's prayers with full intention and focused concentration. In other words, one must place paramount priority on the prayer, the service of the heart. Then one's material needs will come automatically, as if from the side, and the world will be full of divine bounty.

[First published in B'Ohel Hatzadikim, Noah 5762;]