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THE PERFECT STORM

by Joey Wagner    
Torah from Dixie Staff Writer    

In this week’s Torah portion, Hashem fulfills His decree to destroy the world. He saw the wickedness in the world and decreed the flood. There are two main points that need to be understood.

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In this week’s Torah portion, Hashem fulfills His decree to destroy the world. He saw the wickedness in the world and decreed the flood. There are two main points that need to be understood. Why did the world have to be destroyed? Would it not have sufficed to simply wipe out the people who sinned? Also, why specifically did Hashem decree a flood? There are many other ways Hashem could have destroyed the world.

The Maharal of Prague, one of the seminal figures of Jewish thought of the last five centuries, explains why Hashem was left with no choice but to destroy the world. The Mishnah states in Ethics of Our Fathers that the world stands upon three principles: the Torah, prayer, and on acts of loving-kindness. Should these three foundations be neglected the world could not be sustained. This is precisely what happened in Noah’s generation. The verses seem to indicate that the people of Noah’s generation sinned primarily in the areas of theft, idolatry, and lechery.

Idolatry is the antithesis of praying to Hashem. Likewise, lechery is directly opposed to Torah. The Torah is purely spiritual and demands control of one’s physical desires. Lechery, on the other hand, puts no limits on physical animal-like activity. Finally, whereas acts of loving-kindness entail the giving of yourself to help your fellow man, theft involves only selfishness and taking. After these sins were committed the world could no longer exist. It would not have been enough for Hashem just to wipe out the wicked people. The world’s foundations had been destroyed.

Why though did Hashem specifically destroy the world with a rainstorm? The Kli Yakar, one of the leading Polish sages of the early-17th century, explains that the sins committed by this wicked generation deserved certain punishments in court. However, these punishments could not be carried out because the courts were not yet established. For example, the Talmud (Tractate Ketubot 30a) teaches us that the punishment for lechery is strangulation. While the courts were not yet established, Hashem in his Divine providence would cause that person to choke on water or drown in a river. Water is one of the methods through which Hashem carries out punishment; hence a rainstorm was in order.

The rain fell slowly. It fell slowly because Hashem hoped that the people of the generation would see the rain and realize the need for them to repent. Had the world been destroyed instantaneously, Hashem’s true desire to righteously coexist with the people would have been compromised. He specifically punished the generation with the storm in order to provide the people with a tangible call to repent.

Finally, while the sins of that era were being committed, the world was being filled with impurity. As a result, the world was in need of an immersion into a spiritual bath to purify itself.

Many of us neglect to realize that our own actions have real spiritual ramifications. May we all merit to strive in service of Hashem, and please Him to prevent the thought of another flood.

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Joey Wagner, an alumnus of Yeshiva Atlanta, is studying at Ner Israel Rabbinical College in Baltimore.

You are invited to read more Parshat Noach articles.

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