Rabbi Israel Becker
This week’s Torah portion records in detail the deluge brought upon the world because of the universal moral and spiritual decay. From our childhood we all surely remember the story of Noah’s Ark and the flood that lasted for forty days and forty nights. Noah and his family were the only surviving human beings. Noah merited to survive because as the Torah records, Bereishis/Genesis 6:9, “Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations”.
Rabbi David Feinstein writes, “There is a powerful lesson for everyone in this. No one has any excuse for shirking his struggle for self- perfection. If Noah was able to win the Torah’s praise as a perfect man in his (evil) generation surely all of us can aspire to the same relative level, whatever obstacles and handicaps we may have to overcome.”
The following inspiring anecdote helps us to understand Noah and ourselves:
Rabbi Yosef Shlomo Kahaneman, of blessed memory, the founder of the Ponevezh Yeshiva in Bnei Brak, often traveled all over the world to raise money to establish and maintain his famous yeshiva. Once in an overseas airport, he was spotted by the secular president of an Israeli university. This particular man, who had been very vocally anti-religious, and in Israel, unfortunately, probably would have had nothing to do with the Rabbi, spots the Rabbi at the airport and approaches him. “Shalom kavod Ha’Rav (Greetings, honored Rabbi). How are you, Rabbi?” he asks. “You and I are in the same business. I’m traveling to raise money for my university and you are traveling to raise money for your yeshiva.”
The Rabbi embraced the man and said, “Shalom Aleichem (Greetings to you), my fellow Jew.”
The university president responded, “Rabbi, if you knew what kind of a sinner I am, you would not have embraced me like that.” Rabbi Kahaneman looked him in the eye and said, “If you knew how precious and holy you are, what a spark you have inside you, inside your soul, you would never speak about yourself like that.”
Noah was aware of the spark inside him and was able to achieve greatness despite the world of darkness that prevailed around him. A challenging environment is no excuse for one’s own moral failure. Each human is endowed with an amazing G-d given soul, our first challenge is to recognize the power within us.