What is Noah telling us today?
Cheshvan 11 5780 נֹחַ, י”א חשון תש”פ
Noah was called a righteous man in a generation that was filled with evil. Our sages say that if he had been born at the time of Avraham Avinu, he could not be compared with him. I look at the Scriptures as giving us direction and purpose in life. To me, the Bore Olam who is omnipotent and omniscient brought us these narratives to give us principles for us to live by. When a donkey falls into a hole on his path, he will always remember it and never step in that hole again. It seems that a donkey is smarter than us. How much smarter is the Bore Olam? Why then would the Creator, who said that He was fed up with mankind, keep giving us another chance?
Humans were given Free Will which includes taking responsibility for our choices. The Yetzer Ra’ and Yetzer Tov, (the bad and good inclination within us), corresponds with our nature. Throughout history, it has been in our nature to choose the wrong thing but is that always necessarily so bad? There’s an expression, Greed is Good but this greed within us forces us to push forward. If we can dominate that aspect of our being, it is amazing how much we can accomplish for good. Light would mean little if there were no darkness. There is a constant inner struggle to maintain balance in our lives. Israel means “to struggle with God”.
What was the first thing that Noah planted after the flood? A vineyard and he got drunk. Was the Creator not smart enough to know that we humans would continuously fail? Why did He have such infinite patience? It is difficult for us to see it from His perspective, but I believe that He wants us to learn from our own mistakes and for us to choose to return to Him. He did not create us to be slaves; as a matter of fact, after He gave us the Ten Commandments, the first thing He spoke about was against slavery. Sadly, we humans prefer to be dominated than to be responsible for ourselves. That is why the welfare system is so popular and Communism was accepted by millions because people prefer that the government make all their decisions for them. This is like selling our souls to a system. That is why religions are so popular and why they have been able to accumulate so much power and wealth.
What does this have to do with Noah? Bereshit 6:11 says, “God saw that the earth was corrupt and full of violence.” The word for violence in Hebrew is “Hamas – חָמָס”. God was going to destroy everything including animals and vegetation, not only mankind. Why would He have to destroy everything that He created on the earth? The Torah doesn’t give us all the answers. The Bore Olam gave us a brain and He wants us to think for ourselves and not allow others to think for us. We are responsible for our actions and we harvest the consequences. Here the Creator was letting Noah know that man’s actions were destructive and had infected everything that lived on the earth. Today the environment has become like a god. The same people who want to save the whales are for killing the unborn. This is the most immoral generation since the time of Noah. The principles of the Torah are being eradicated. Men are once again becoming violent…Hamas.
With freedom comes with responsibility. Noah was the example of a man who was less evil than the others of his generation and shows us that the Creator wants to allow us to renew ourselves. We can do teshuva, return to Him. The Torah repeats the idea of ten generations which is 40 (one generation) times 10. This signifies that every tenth generation or 400 years, there would be dramatic changes upon the earth. We are once again entering a time of man’s self-destruction yet so many say that we are progressive, open-minded and improving. It means that we can do whatever we want, and we don’t need to care about anyone else but ourselves.
In Genesis 11 we reach the story of the Babel Tower where the languages were confused, at a time when mankind had a singular purpose: to make a name for themselves but with whom were they competing? Obviously, the Creator. He had wanted mankind to multiply and fill the earth yet here in verse 4 we read, “so we do not get scattered all over the earth.” From the beginning, we have constantly been going against the instructions of the Creator.
What can we draw from these narratives? When men intend to do evil, they unite in that purpose. When men want to do good, there is always division. The Tower of Babel shows us the enthronement of man as gods, the beginning of humanism. All their gods have had human traits. This is taking place as we speak even if we refuse to see it. Whether we want it or not, we are responsible for each other on this earth. This portion is teaching us about the deterioration of humanity because we want more than what we have. The Creator told us that the things that He wants us to know, He has revealed to us and the secret things belong to Him alone. However, we are more interested in pursuing the things that are not for us and the things that we need to master, we ignore it because we say that they are too simple.
Noach means “comfort”. The Creator wants us to have a comfortable life, but we are in a constant struggle because of the violence within and around us. If we remain clear, open, honest and stand up for what is right; if we can dominate our nature, the beast within, we have an opportunity to turn things around. Those who walk with God, as Noah did, can make a difference in this world!