Parshas Noach 5758
Volume 4 Issue 2
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
You gotta believe. Day in, day out for 120 years, Noah built an ark.
Naysayers and scoffers chided him, mocked him, and continued on their path
to self-destruction. But Noah continued to build.
It must have been terribly difficult for Noach. A man alone, predicting
calamity. He was the only human doing something to save himself. Yet
despite 10 years of outreach and cajoling to curious onlookers to mend
their evil ways, he was not able to persuade one member of civilization to
join him. Why?
The Torah tells us that when Noach finally entered the ark for the journey
of salvation amidst the world's destruction he almost had to be forced.
"And Noach entered the ark because of the flood waters" (Genesis 7:7).
Rashi explains that even Noach himself was considered one of those with
only modest faith. Noah did not enter the ark until the rains fell and he
realized that disaster was imminent.
Surely his failing was minute by our standards. After all, Noah was
handpicked by G-d Almighty to save and perpetuate civilization. Yet his
minor flaw is recorded. There must be a lesson for all of us in the
Torah's documentation of it.
British physician John Abernathy, in addition to being a renowned surgeon
and teacher in the late 18th Century, helped patients with an array of
emotional problems. He once related the story of a patient who entered his
clinic complaining of severe bouts of melancholy and depression. It seems
that the artisan lost faith in his own abilities. He felt he was not
living up to his normal standard. He was beginning to fail at his life's
work. After examining him, Dr. Abernathy made a simple suggestion.
"Go see the famous comedian, Grimaldi. He is known to cheer those who are
depressed and he would do wonders for your spirit. He will make you laugh
and that would be better than any drug I should prescribe."
The patient looked even glummer. "It won't help me," sighed the despondent
patient. "I am Grimaldi."
Noach worked extremely hard to build the ark, but he could not rehabilitate
one soul. Perhaps the Torah tells us the reason why he was unable to
convince anyone to join him.
Noach himself would not enter the ark until the rains forced him in. He
did not run to the boat with a battle-cry of unshaken faith. For whatever
reason, perhaps he felt that G-d's compassion would ultimately overcome His
wrath: still, he did not show clear, unwavering belief that the flood would
In order to bring Jews close to Torah, in order to build souls, one must be
steeped in the faith so powerfully that he need not be pushed into his own
ark of his own salvation. In addition to building it, he must breathe it,
live it and be totally committed to it.
One can build great arks, but unless the passion of his faith exudes from
his soul, it may never touch others. He may save himself and his family,
but no more.
My grandfather, zt"l, once told me that if a certain secular writer would
have seen the Chofetz Chaim, he could never have believed that man evolved
from a monkey. The Chofetz Chaim's radiance emanated a spirit which
thundered the sanctity of his very essence.
In order to promote true faith one must be unwavering in his own
commitment. Any lack thereof, albeit well intentioned, may get lost in a
large, doubting crowd. For without one's own sense of absolute faith he
will never lead others into his own ark d'triumph.
Mordechai Kamenetzky - Yeshiva of South Shore
516-328-2490 Fax 516-328-2553
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Copyright © 1997 by Rabbi M. Kamenetzky and Project Genesis, Inc.
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The author is the Associate Dean of the
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