OU Torah Insights ProjectParashat Noach
The deluge that destroyed the world in the time of Noach caused a major upheaval in the physical makeup of the world. The geological and archeological evidence of these changes has baffled many a scientistso much so that even skeptical scientists argue that some fossilized discoveries may be attributed to the Flood.
Not only did the Flood leave its indelible mark on the contours of the planet, but, the Torah tells us, it changed the very physics of the world.
Hashem was deeply saddened by the immorality that had pervaded His world and to insure that it would not happen again, He did not simply destroy the world but changed its structure. After Noach and his family left the confines of their protective ark, they entered a new world order.
Noach had a very difficult year in the ark. He had to provide for and tend to the arks menagerie. Each animal required its own diet and each had its own schedule. "During the twelve months that Noach was in the ark, he did not taste sleep," the Midrash tells us. Noachs natural environment was suspended for that time.
In fact, but for three exceptions, everyones nature changed while in the ark. Only the dog, the raven, and Cham, Noachs son functioned normally in the ark.
What motivated them to be different? Why couldnt they suspend their personal needs during this time of universal tragedy?
The answer is found in their very nature. Dogs are arrogant, the prophet Yeshayah states. They are selfish and uncaring. They must be well trained before they can become "mans best friend."
The raven is known for its cruelty. When Noach released the raven to see the conditions outside the ark, it came upon a human corpse on top of a mountain. After satisfying itself, the raven returned to Noach with no information for the inhabitants of the ark.
Cham, son of Noach, also submitted to his baser instincts. He totally ignored the suffering around him and allowed himself the pleasures of his indulgences. This selfishness did not go unnoticed by Hashem. Cham and his descendants were punished forever.
What a lesson for us. Are we so uncaring that the experiences of the world around us go unnoticed? Are we oblivious? Can we continue to go about "life as normal," without seeing and learning important lessons about compassion, morality and decency?
We must emulate the good we see and eliminate the bad we see. The spiritual nature of the world was changed after the Floods destruction. It is up to us to sustain the world by avoiding the mistakes of the past.Rabbi Mordekai Shapiro
Rabbi Shapiro is rabbi of Congregation Ohr Torah in North Woodmere, New York.
Torah Insights is brought to you every week as a service of the Department of Jewish Education of the Orthodox Union.