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(G-d said) "In another seven days I will bring rain of the land for forty days and forty nights. I will utterly destroy all living thing… from upon the face of the Earth." (7:4)
Noah accepted G-d's universal death sentence on the world order without question. He appears to have acted with total indifference to other people. He did not, as Abraham, appeal to G-d with "Would You wipe out the righteous with the wicked? … Far be it from You, Judge of the Earth, not to do justice!" (18:25) He did not even plead with G-d to search for individual people worthy of being saved. Instead, he seems to have made no move whatsoever at that stage to persuade G-d to change His mind - against the spirit of Torah (and that matter basic human) ethics which despise those who refuse to intervene to help those in danger (c.f. Lev. 19:16). And like Abraham, Noah was in close touch with G-d. The text (20:7) states explicitly that Abraham was a prophet - one who received the Word of G-d. The Ramban (to 6:9) derives that Noah was also a prophet.
Surely Noah should have taken advantage of his closeness to G-d to attempt to persuade Him to change His mind about the terrible fate he was to bring on the Creation?
One approach to these issues may be found in the Midrash's (Tanhuma 6) comment to the following:
Noah… (and his family) went into the ark because of the waters of the flood. (7:7).
The Midrash explains the words 'because of the waters of the flood' as a slur on Noah's faith in G-d. It was the rising waters of the flood rather than G-d's command to enter the ark (7:1) that actually pushed Noah inside. Up until then, the Midrash explains, Noah was not entirely convinced that G-d was going to carry out His unambiguously declared intention of mass destruction.
This fits into the Midrash's observing (Gen. Rab. 30:10) that whereas Abraham walked before G-d (24:40), Noah walked with G-d (6:9). Abraham, derives the Midrash, did not need any spiritual support from G-d to walk in His ways, but Noah did.
Both Abraham and Noah were extremely honest. Abraham was unshaken in his faith in G-d: even in the long periods when he did not get His direct communication, he remained plugged into the Force that creates and maintains the world. That would develop the meaning of 'walking before G-d' He used his own spiritual efforts to perceive and come close to G-d though natural daily life, and not just the supernatural direct communications. So his closeness to G-d was not merely a product of His 'visits', but Abraham's own efforts in climbing up the ladder. When, therefore, He announced His intention to destroy Sodom, Abraham had no doubt that G-d was speaking to Him and that He meant what He said. So he could appeal to Him on the fate of the people of Sodom…
Noah, unlike Abraham, was at a much lower level of spiritual development. He did not plug into G-d; he only responded when G-d plugged into him. Unlike the people of his generation, he reacted positively by 'walking with G-d', but he still hedged his bets. He built the ark as commanded, but he did not carry the spirit of urgency that would make an impression on others that the end was nigh. Still underlying his labors was the notion that, maybe, he got his command from a less than omnipotent source. Maybe He that Created the World would not carry out His threat… Noah did not have the conviction that G-d 'does not swear falsely or change His mind'. (Sam. I 15:29) With all these doubts, Noah therefore lacked the closeness with G-d to pray with sufficient conviction and in his honesty he felt too far away from G-d for his prayers to make any difference… So he 'hedged his bets' once more…
This does not mean that a person who lacks Abraham's closeness to G-d should not pray to Him. Spiritual honesty can be overdone. But two important points come from the discussion. Firstly, a person should view coming close to G-d from his own spiritual level as his life's work. Secondly, people involved in kiruv rechokim - educationally and socially bringing Jews back to the Torah way of life, need to use Abraham as an ideal: to be sufficiently close to G-d to radiate the sincerity needed to impress those they seek to influence…
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashat Noach (and others) from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/index.htm
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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