Last week's Perasha Bereshit ended with perek 6, pasuk 7-8...."And Hashem reconsidered having made Man on earth, and He had heartfelt sadness. And Hashem said, "I will blot out Man whom I created from the face of the ground...from Man to animal, to creeping things, and to the birds of the sky; for I have reconsidered making them". Then the pasuk goes on to read...."Ve Noach Matzah Chen B’nei Amony"...."And Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem".
This is the reason why we start off each new week, echoing this statement in our Havdalah three consecutive times on Motsei Shabbat..."Ve Noach Matzah Chen B'enei Amony"....We want Hashem and others to find Chen (favor) in us!
So because Noach stood out among all of the people in his generation, Hashem approached only him with His plan to destroy the world with the exception of Noach and his family. Hashem told Noach to build an ark with all the exact dimensions to hold and protect his family and all the pairs of animals so they can re-populate the earth after the Mabul.
The question that's begging to be asked is...why did Hashem burden Noach to make an Ark that would take 120 years to build rather than just make a miracle to build it in a much quicker way. Rashi answers this question, saying that the reason was to give the people of that generation a chance to repent as they watched Noach labor slowly over building this tremendous Ark on dry land. But instead of seizing this opportunity to change their ways and cause them to make teshuba, they laughed and scoffed at him labeling Noach a crazy person.
Noach had a tremendous opportunity to save his generation from destruction but his failure to influence them is one reason why the flood is called "Meh Noach", the waters of Noach, implying according to the Zohar, that Noach may have had some responsibility for Hashem bringing the flood.
There’s a Kabbalah that says that Moshe was a Gilgul (reincarnation) of Noach and when B’nei Yisrael sinned with the golden calf and Hashem threatened to destroy the Jewish people, Moshe who lived 120 years (the same amount of years that it took Noach to build the Ark), prayed on their behalf and said to Hashem in parashat Ki Tisse (32;33) “Mecheni Na” ‘Erase me from your Torah’ if you destroy this nation. “Mecheni Na” in Hebrew is spelled with the same letters as “Meh Noach”
So we learn from this that Moshe, as Noach’s gilgul fixed Noach’s shortcoming of not reaching out to save his generation during the 120 years that it took him to build the Ark. Moshe on the other hand prayed to Hashem that if the Jewish people would be destroyed, he would also want to cease to exist.
The perasha opens up with the first pasuk, "Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noach walked with G-d". The Torah uses two adjectives to describe Noach's character traits: "Tzadik and Tamim". Rabenu Bachiya defines "Tzadik" as a person who is careful with other peoples property. "Tamim" is defined as perfect in all his character traits, he was ethically flawless. But then the pasuk ends..."in his generations".
Many of the commentaries want to compare Noach to Avraham Avinu. Some sages say, that if Noach was so great in the corrupt generation that he lived in, how much greater would he have been, had he lived in a generation that was good? But according to others... Had Noach lived in the time of Avraham, he would have been insignificant, living in Avraham's shadow.
One of the differences between Noach and Avraham is that Noach didn't try to influence his society in the proper way as Avraham did by taking in guests and doing acts of kindness. Avraham was the first person to recognize that there is a G-D that continuously runs the world but more than that, Avraham understood that it was his job to emulate Hashem in every way.
As great as Noach was for being so righteous, even enough to be singled out and saved, he still wasn't able to convince the society around him to repent. Some say, that maybe he didn't really believe that the flood would actually come, as G-D had warned him. Its for this reason that Noach wasn't strong enough in his convictions or persuasive enough to help his generation make teshuvah and save them from the great flood.
We too must realize that we are faced daily with similar tests and an opportunity to influence our fellow Jewish neighbors in some positive way, if not, we may also be held accountable.
Pasuk 12 says..."And G-D saw the Earth and behold it was corrupted, for all flesh had corrupted its way upon the Earth". Rashi comments on this that whenever you find promiscuity, catastrophe comes to the world and kills the good along with the bad to the point where even domestic animals, beasts and birds had relations with those which were not of their species.
After the Mabul that destroyed the world, Hashem promised to never send a flood again, so He sent a rainbow as a sign. Unfortunately, today we're also living in an immoral and promiscuous society but Hashem is keeping His promise to a degree.
We see that He's not sending a great flood to destroy the entire world, but we have been witnessing many natural disasters these days like the hurricane floods in the Gulf states, brush fires in California and earthquakes in Mexico etc, that may be considered as “Mini-Mabul's.”
Maybe Hashem is sending these natural disasters to warn the people to stop their immoral and promiscuous ways. Unfortunately, society is not getting the message, rather they choose to label 'Climate Change' as the culprit of these natural disasters. Some may even think that we can run away and hide from G-D as its stated at the end of the perasha where it brings the story of the Tower of Bavel.
The building of that tower was an attempt by the people of that generation to inoculate themselves from any type of disaster. "We are going to build this tower that will reach the heaven and this will protect us from any future flood. The Almighty will never again be able to destroy us! We don't have to worry about G-D anymore."
In December of 2004, there was a group of approximately 1900 vacationers from Sweden that went to the tropical island of Phucket in the Indian Ocean. Its known that in Sweden, for decades, this Scandinavian nation has grown in prosperity and peace, immunized by its policy of political neutrality.
They said, "We will protect ourselves from the worlds troubles by being a neutral country void of the disastrous effects of wars." Their idea was to create a cradle to grave society through Socialism. "We are going to take care of you from the minute you're born until the day you die" they proclaimed.
One winter they set out to go from the cold winter of Sweden to the warm climate of Thailand. That unfortunately was the week that the great Tsunami hit that area and many perished in that disaster. In 1987 the stock market lost 508 points in a single day, one of the greatest crashes since the Great Depression of 1929.
Someone pointed out to me many years ago that the difference in years between those two events was 58 years, which is the same Gamatria as the name ‘Noach’ (nun chet is the numerical value 58). In the 80's we had the AIDS virus, a few years ago we had an Ebola scare and today we have the Zika virus spreading in southern Florida and the Caribbean. So its quite clear that if Hashem wants to destroy us for our sins, He has many different agents and there's no way that we can hide. But there is one way that we can protect ourselves and that is by finding our way to the Bet Midrash to learn Torah which has become our safe haven or our “Noach's Ark” of today!
May we all walk in the ways of the righteous Noach, but may we also emulate Hashem by doing acts of kindness as we learned from the father of the Jewish nation Avraham Avinu. May we also make a place for ourselves in the Shuls, Yeshivot and Bet Midrashiim of our community to learn Torah, so that we keep far away from the immoral and decadent ways of today's society!