By Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
This week we read Parshas Noach. Ten generations after the creation of
Adam Harishon, the first man, the world has been corrupted. "Vatishaches
ha'aretz lifnei HaElokim (6:11)" - and the world was in a (spiritually)
destroyed state before Hashem. Rashi explains that the term 'vatishaches'
refers specifically to immorality and idol worship. "Vatimalay ha'aretz
chamas" - and the land was filled with thievery. Hashem decides to flood the
world, saving only Noach and his family, the only righteous individuals.
Through them, the new world will be built.
"Vayomer Elokim l'Noach, ketz kol bassar ba l'fanoi" - And Hashem said to
Noach, the (time for the) end of all flesh has come before me - "ki mal'ah
ha'aretz chamas (6:13)" - because the land has been filled with thievery.
Interestingly, with all of the major sins being performed, the decree was
sealed due to thievery!
The Ohr Gedalyahu explains that thievery is at the very core of every sin.
Every person is allotted a certain amount of time and energy on this earth.
This is given to allow the individual to build a relationship with his
Creator by spiritually adding to this world that which only he can add.
Every moment is measured and precious. When a person takes this gift and
abuses it. When ones energy is used to perform an act that distances him
from his Creator by spiritually polluting the world, that constitutes
thievery in its most basic sense. Stealing the power granted to us by
Hashem to help eternally help ourselves by using it to infinitely hurt
ourselves. When the earth is filled with such acts, that is the time for
the end of all flesh.
The Kli Yakar writes that the term 'ketz kol bassar', the end of all flesh,
is referring to the 'yom ha'missah', the day of death. "Ba l'fanoi!" Hashem
tells Noach that it has come before Him. It is complaining! No one thinks
of me! Their lives are so long, no one feels threatened by the consequences
of their actions. They rob and plunder without realizing that the 'yom
hamissah' will take it away from them. As the Chovos Halevovos writes, a
person can spend his whole life amassing a fortune that his wife will enjoy
with her second husband. "V'hinnei mashchisom" - I will destroy them.
In the face of all of this stands Noach, a righteous and complete
individual. Only he and his family didn't join the depravity of the
society. Only they were saved. Yet, the prophet Yeshaya (54:9) refers to
the floodwaters as "mei Noach", the waters of Noach. We are accustomed to
Noach's name being used in regard to the miracle of his survival. Noach's
Ark, etc. But, in what way was Noach held responsible for the destruction
that the flood was called by his name?
Chaza"l explain that the floodwaters were called by his name because he
didn't pray for his generation to be saved! Why, in fact, didn't Noach pray?
In order to understand this we need to have some background information. A
bit later on in Breishis we'll learn that Hashem, while planning to destroy
the cities of Sdom and Amora, reveals his intention to Avraham Avinu.
Avraham begins to plead with Hashem to save the cities if they will find
there fifty righteous individuals. When Hashem agreed, Avraham continued to
plead to save the cities for the sake of an even lesser number of righteous
people. This continues until Hashem agrees not to destroy for the sake of
even ten tzaddikim. At that point, Avraham stops praying. Chaza"l explain
that Avraham had learned this from the generation of Noach. Noach had less
that ten tzaddikim and their merit was not able to save the world.
At first glance this might seem to explain why Noach didn't pray. However,
with further thought, it clearly doesn't suffice. As Rav Chaim Shmuelovitz
asks, if Noach also understood that ten wouldn't save the world and that
was the reason why he didn't pray, why was he held accountable? Why were
the floodwaters labeled 'the waters of Noach'?
He explains based on another chaza"l. In the beginning of Shmos, when
Paroah was deciding how to deal with his Jewish problem, he called upon
three advisors, Bilaam, Yisro and Iyov. Bilaam spoke out against the Jews
which is what Paroah had wanted to hear. Yisro spoke out in defense of the
Jews and had to flee the wrath of Paroah. Iyov remained silent.
Hashem responds to our actions using 'midah k'neged midah'. This means that
the response fits our act. Not simply a punishment but rather a means of
revealing mistakes and rewarding proper acts. Let's see how this concept
works through with the three advisors.
The ultimate end of Bilaam, who advised that the Jews should be killed, was
that he was killed by the Jews. A clear example of midah k'neged midah.
Yisro, who defended the Jews, ran for his life and settled in Midyan. There
he met Moshe as he was fleeing from Paroah. Moshe married Yisro's daughter
Tziporah, connecting Yisro to Klal Yisroel in a most intimate way. Once
again, we see a very clear example of midah k'neged midah - the one who
defended the Jews became part of the Jewish nation. However, when we come
to the third advisor, Iyov, the connection is more difficult to understand.
Iyov, who remained silent, suffered excruciating pain. How did that
response fit his act?
Let's understand Iyov. He really had wanted to defend the Jews but, seeing
the fate of Yisro, realized that his words would fall upon deaf ears. With
nothing to gain by speaking, he remained silent. In order to reveal his
error to him, Hashem sent 'yisurim', terrible pain. What does one do when
experiencing intense pain? He screams! Even though the screams do nothing
in terms of alleviating the pain, if it hurts, you scream. Hashem was
teaching him that remaining silent showed that it didn't really bother him.
Had Paroah's planned destruction of the Jews bothered him, he would have
With this, Rav Chaim explains our original difficulty. Why were the
floodwaters called the 'the waters of Noach'? Because he didn't pray.
Because he didn't scream. If the destruction of the world would have really
bothered him he would have pleaded with Hashem, even knowing that less than
ten tzaddikim wouldn't be able to save the world. If it hurts, you scream.
We must share in the pain of others, even when the ability to alleviate
that pain might be out of our grasp.
Wishing you a wonderful Shabbos,
Copyright © 1998 by Rabbi Yisroel Ciner
and Project Genesis, Inc.
The author teaches at Neveh Tzion in
Telzstone (near Yerushalayim).