The Almighty is an Av Harachaman, a Merciful Father, who
sustains the whole world. We turn to Him, especially during times of crisis, to show us
His mercy and compassion. Yet Hashem destroyed the world in the days of Noah "because
all flesh had corrupted their way upon the earth."
How terrible was their corruption that G-d could not tolerate it?
Rabbi Eliyahu Ki Tov describes the behavior of that generation as told in the Midrash. The people "wanted to build a world that was entirely evil and allowed a person maximum pleasure and benefit for the present and the future."
They wanted to live only for their own pleasure and joy, and so they freed their consciences not by simply sinning but by enacting laws that made sinning mandatory. Their society didn't tolerate sinning, it insisted on it.
First, they did away with clothing. As the climate in those days was warm, the only reason people wore clothes was out of modesty, and so "they went and stripped themselves of all boundaries of modesty in clothing. The leaders initiated and were followed by the rest of the nation."
What followed was a free-for-all. Once they lost their modesty, they were able to abandon all the rules of sexual morality. Men and women freely exchanged partners. Homosexuality was rampant and bestiality became the fashion. Marriage contracts were made between males and also between humans and animals.
Our Sages teach that Hashem is slow to anger except when it comes to acts of sexual immorality. Noah's generation crossed that line by leaps and bounds.
But, why didn't Noach pray to G-d on behalf of the people as Avraham and Moshe did in later generations?
The Zohar explains. When Noach left the ark he saw a world destroyed. Nothing was left--no trees, no vegetation, no animals, no human beings. Everything gone. "Master of the world," he cried, "You are merciful and compassionate. Why didn't you show compassion to your creations?"
The Almighty responded, "Noach, why didn't you say this to me when I said, 'I have found you to be a tzaddik, a righteous person in this generation', and afterwards, when I said, 'I am bringing a flood, make for yourself an ark.' I said all of these things to you, Noach, hoping that you would petition me for mercy on the world! When you heard that you would be saved, you didn't think of saving others. You just entered the Ark. Now that the world is wasted, you come with petitions!"
Why didn't Noach appeal to G-d before it was too late?
Rabbi Ki Tov answers. Noach believed that the people of his time were too far gone. They were beyond salvation. They had no respect for their own humanity or for that of others. Among all those who lived in his time, Noach could not find even a minyan of good people.
Nonetheless, for all their evil, Hashem takes Noach to task for not defending them, for not taking their case.
One lesson of this parshah is that we have no right to give up on people. Even if we believe they are beyond salvation, we must still extend a helping hand and pray to G-d for their salvation.
Rabbi Aaron Borow
Rabbi Borow is the rabbi of Nusach Hari-B'nai Zion
Congregation in University City, MO.
Click Here For OU Torah Insights 5757 Parasha Index
Click Here To Show Your Support The Cyber Home of Torah