Weekly Torah Portion: Noach
29 Tishrei – October 19, 2017
Rosh Chodesh Cheshvan is Friday and Saturday
The Torah relates that Noach worked on the construction of the massive ark for 120 years. Only eight people, Noach, his wife, and his three sons and their wives merited the boarding of the ark when the flood began. No one else in the world merited being saved.
Rabainu Bachya asks an interesting question; why didn’t Noach pray to G-d to save the world like Avraham who prayed to G-d to save the wicked Cities of Sodom and Amorah?
He explains that both Avraham and Noach knew that in order to save the world or the cities, there must be at least ten righteous people.
The reason the number ten has such great significance is because the Torah spells out ten distinct statements of G-d during the creation of the world. Thus to uphold the world or cities it is necessary to have the presence of ten righteous people.
Avraham wasn’t sure what the situation in Sedom and Amorah was. Avraham therefore began asking G-d to save the cities if there were 50 righteous people, and when that wasn’t met; he incrementally lessened the number and asked G-d if He would save the cities in the merit of a smaller number of righteous people. When ten righteous people couldn’t be found, Avraham stopped praying to G-d.
Noach on the other hand knew all along that there were not ten righteous people for he knew that his family consisted of eight and there was only one additional righteous person, Methuselah, who died right before the onset of the flood. In fact G-d delayed the flood for seven days so that they could observe the Shiva – the seven day mourning period after his death. Since he knew there were not ten people he didn’t feel it helpful to pray to G-d.
As I was relating this idea at a class during the week, an idea came to mind.
Why couldn’t Noach convince society to turn around and repent from their decedent corrupt and adulterous lifestyles? After all, Avraham during his lifetime was able to introduce the Monotheistic belief into society and influence many to choose a righteous path.
Perhaps during Noach’s generation people felt that they had to maintain a righteous lifestyle throughout their lives without tripping up at all. They felt that once they sinned or erred there was no returning to a righteous path; as a result their lives spiraled downward.
For example, when the Torah relates that G-d did not accept Kayin’s inferior sacrifice and He accepted Abel’s superior offering, G-d spoke to Kayin asking him why he looked depressed and G-d told him that he could correct his deed. However, Kayin did not try correcting his ways by offering a better quality sacrifice because he felt there was no point in rectification. This type of thinking eventually led him to murder his brother Abel.
Since society felt this way the Talmud relates that anyone who asked Noach what he was doing while he was constructing the ark was told about the eventual flood G-d will bring if they would not repent, they laughed at him and totally disregarded his reprimand. This is how Noach knew that there weren’t even ten righteous people and he did not begin to pray as Avraham did.
The Torah relates that Noach was righteous and complete from birth. The Talmud relates that Noach was born circumcised. Noach was able to maintain this lofty level all his life and was also able to raise his children in a way that they retained their righteousness.
Unlike Noach, Avraham was born into a family of idolaters. He began thinking and contemplating into the irrational and absurd nature of bowing and serving newly formed idols – which could not speak, hear, walk or talk.
Avraham began to look at the world and recognized its vastness and the precision of all its functions. He then turned his attention to a built structure. He saw the carpentry, windows, heating system and lighting apparatus and understood that homes just don’t grow from the ground. The standing house testifies that there was a construction crew who created it – even if they are not present to testify that they did the work.
Avraham then turned his attention back at the world, the landscape, environment, vegetation and galaxies and said, “If a simple house had to be created by someone, then the complex and ingenious development of the world was certainly created by Someone.”
Once Avraham recognized that there was a Creator, he went out on a mission to speak and reason with people about their mistaken beliefs. Avraham started a revolutionary notion – that one does not have to be locked into his mistaken and errant patterns of life; rather, one can upgrade and change their position for the better.
This is why G-d chose Avraham to be our forefather, for He saw through Avraham’s outlook on G-d and life, how his descendants would be able to shape themselves into amazing representatives of displaying and spreading the characteristics and virtues of the Almighty into the world!
Wishing you a most amazing, enjoyable
and uplifting Shabbos!
Rabbi Dovid Saks