LISTEN TO ME
Avraham Chaim Feldman
Our sages teach us that the construction of the ark took 120 years. Although Hashem could have saved Noah and his family in many ways, which would have saved much time and energy, the sages teach us that He specifically chose to have Noah go through this arduous task to arouse the curiosity of all who passed by.
Our sages teach us that the construction of the ark took 120 years. Although Hashem could have saved Noah and his family in many ways, which would have saved much time and energy, the sages teach us that He specifically chose to have Noah go through this arduous task to arouse the curiosity of all who passed by. This would enable Noah to have a chance to explain to them that Hashem was planning a flood that would destroy the entire world because of the evil that had pervaded it. The passerby would, hopefully, be impressed enough to change his behavior and begin to live a more ethical lifestyle. Is it not odd that from the thousands of people who must have passed by and seen Noah hammering away, not one ever allowed himself to be inspired and to be saved from death? We know that only Noah, his wife, his sons, and their wives were protected in the ark throughout the flood. Apparently, no one else had decided to repent. If they had, they would have been saved. How could this be?
Perhaps the answer lies in another teaching of the sages. The Torah says that Noah and his family went into the ark "because of the waters of the flood" (Genesis 7:7). From here the sages derive that Noah was mediocre in his belief because it took the pushing of the waters to force him into the ark. Obviously, this statement is not to be taken at face value. The Torah itself states that "Noah was righteous and walked with Hashem" (ibid. 6:9). There is no doubt that he was aware of Hashem and knew that His word was to be taken seriously. However, we are being told that Noah was lacking in his belief, a belief that was to be expected of him. Perhaps this is the explanation for Noah's inability to convince anyone to repent. One who, himself, is not totally knowledgeable of the truth he is teaching will not succeed in convincing others of its importance. They will sense that he is not firm in his own belief and will, ultimately, be turned away because of it.
In order for a change to take effect, one must have the intent in his heart, as he speaks with his words. Words do not have an effect until they are spoken with sincerity. Noah had something important to teach, which should have been taken seriously, but his lack of belief (on whatever level it may have been) was enough to take the effect out of his warnings to the people.
Avraham Chaim Feldman, a native Atlantan, is studying at the Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.
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