Re: Noah

Leonard H. Wexler, MD (lw126@columbia.edu)
Wed, 25 Dec 1996 10:36:14 -0800

Rachel wrote:
> After re-reading Noah again I can't help but wonder why Hashem didn't give
> the people a chance to repent? He didn't even warn them, only Noah. Was
> repentance an option? Would Hashem have changed his mind if they repented?
> And if so, Why didn't Hashem tell the people about the Mabul?
>
> After the Mabul, when Hashem says He'll never destroy the earth like that
> again, I get the feeling He was sorry He did it. If He warned the people
> maybe it could have been avoided.

The better question is how to understand Noach's response (or lack thereof)
to Hashem, particularly in light of the later story of the destruction of
S'dom, or Moshe's repeated pleadings with Him not to destroy B'nei Yisroel
after their numerous lapses. Never, after Hashem tells him that the world
will be destroyed and thus to build an ark to save himself (and his family
and the animals), does Noach challenge Him and say "Forget it! You can't
just destroy the whole world. To do so would be to admit that You made a
mistake and since You, Hashem, are perfect, You couldn't have made a
mistake in creating mankind - could You have? You mean to tell me that
there aren't even 10 other righteous people in the world? Well, if not,
then I'm not going to do it so if You are really serious, You better plan
on drowning me and my progeny as well - and then where will You be. There
won't be any humans left, and what will that say about Your infallibiliy?"

Years ago, in college, I was fortunate enough to take a seminar with Elie
Wiesel. The topic of the course was, for the first and only time, his
literature and one of the books we discussed was his portraits of famous
Bibilical protagonists. Conspicuously absent from the list of players,
however, was Noach, an omission that I found particularly remarkable since,
in many ways, Noach was the first Holocaust (well, flood) survivor and
Wiesel's life and literature are clearly influenced by that seminal event
in his life. I wrote a paper on why I though Wiesel had chosen not to
write about Noach (assuming that it was a conscious decision on his part),
and basically took the approach that Noach was actually quite pitiful in
his response to Hashem's pledge to destroy the world and that one could
surmise that his getting drunk after the Flood was an indicator that he was
ultimately plagued by guilt over his having survived without putting up a
fight on behalf of humanity. Perhaps, that is why he is only described as
a righteous man "in his time" as opposed to a righteous man. When the
papers were being returned, Wiesel called me into his office to discuss my
paper. He neither confirmed nor denied my "hypothesis" about why no story
about Noach in his book, but he simply smiled - and I always felt that that
smile was a validation of my belief that Noach's behavior, his simple
acquiescence without bargaining with Hashem to try to save the world, was
subject to reproach.