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.”
Rav Hershel Schachter shlita extrapolated that we should have a similar attitude when looking at all the good things that we have in our lives. By acknowledging how it would look to have the bare minimum needed for survival, we can appreciate all the surplus that Hashem has granted us. From Noach we learn that this introspection should then lead to the question, “Now, what does Hashem want me to do with all the extras?”
While this lesson is most obviously associated with wealth and charity, Rav Schachter applied it to many other areas of life, as well: If we have more time than our families demand, are there others nearby who need someone to grocery shop for them? If we have more strength than needed to make it through our days, is there a local shul, business, or organization that can use assistance during this difficult period? If we have more intelligence than strictly necessary to earn a living, can we find an opportunity to share words of Torah or professional expertise with others?
By closely examining the blessings, talents, and resources that Hashem has bestowed upon us, we can, like Noach, find ways to use the “extras” for avodas Hashem!