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Parashat Noach - Creation annihilated? - Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane

And He blotted out all existence that was on the face of the ground - from man to animals to creeping things and to the bird of the sky; and they were blotted out from the earth. Only Noach survived and those with him in the Ark. (Gen. 7:23)

Parashat Noach raises the following question: Why did G-d wipe out all of the beasts, birds, and crawling things in the flood? If man sinned, why should the animals suffer? Rashi explains: "The entire creation is for man, and when man is wiped out, who needs all these?" That is, the purpose of the creation is not simply to exist, but rather to actualize the destiny of the Creation. The moment there is no purpose (which is the case after G-d wiped out man, for whom the world was created), then the animals must perish since there is no longer a reason for their existence. Here, too, the moment the deeds of man prove that there is no longer a possibility for him to fulfill his destiny, his existence is no longer necessary, and he perishes. But we are still left wondering: All that creation, just for annihilation? All those generations before the flood (a span of 1654 years) were for nothing?

The answer is no. Harsh though this verses may be, a verse appears at the very end of Bereshit which turns everything around: "But Noach found grace in the eyes of G-d". And while this lonely verse may appear to be only a small comfort to a world gone astray, the truth is that this one verse is everything. Even if we are speaking about one individual – he is the one who counts. Noach is the justification for the world's continued existence.

G-d created the world for the sake of those who will eventually fulfill the world's destiny, and He is not deterred by the possibility that there may be just a very few out there who may be willing. What really counts is that small ray of light that sometimes is not paid much attention to, but illuminates the world with the light of the world's true destiny.

But...

For 120 years, Noah fulfilled G-d's commandment and built the ark, all the while warning the people in his generation about the impending flood. When the people would pass by his house and ask what he was doing, he would reply, "The Almighty said that He is bringing a flood upon the world". The people reacted with vicious mockery. (Bereishit Raba 30:7)

The question that can be asked is the following: For 120 years Noach warned of the flood. And what came out of it? At first glance absolutely nothing! In the end, the flood wiped out the entire world, except for whom? Except for Noach and his family. Not even one person was convinced to do "teshuva". Not even one! Noach's "life endeavor"of 120 years was a waste of time. Or was it?

The story of Noach provides us with a concrete illustration as to what the true role of the chastising prophet is. Certainly the major goal of the warnings and admonishment are to direct the people onto the proper path, in the hope that they will do "teshuva" immediately. But in contrast as to what one might think, if the prophet does not succeed in bringing the people to "teshuva", this does not necessarily mean that he failed! A deeper look will reveal that the rebuke in itself has value. If we look at the prophets of Israel, we will notice an amazing fact: Generally speaking, they were a dismal failure. It seemed as if they influenced no one. The people were not interested in hearing them, and did not change their evil ways. Does this mean that there was no value in the warnings of the prophets? Of course not. After all, the words of the prophets are inscribed forever in our holy Tanach.

The answer to this question van be found in G-d's answer to Ezekiel when He appoints him as a prophet (chapter 2) "And He said to me, Son of man, I sent thee to the children of Israel...that have rebelled against me...and you shall say to them, Thus says the Lord G-d. And they, whether they will hear, or whether they will refuse to hear, (for they are a rebellious house), so that they shall know that there has been a prophet amongst them ". And afterwards (3:7): "But the house of Israel will not hearken to you..." Can this be? If G-d knows that they will not listen, why send Ezekiel out and put him through such humiliation and abuse? And so a new concept is learned here. The saying of truth has value, even if it has no apparent influence at that particular moment. What is the value? "So that they shall know that there has been a prophet amongst them". Even if immediate results are not seen, the value of the warnings are that they manifest the bringing in of G-d's word into the world. The prophet who expresses G-d's truth in giving expression to G-d's actual presence in this world. It is showing us that the world is not "hefker" (chaos). There is justice in the world. By so doing, the prophet in essence sanctifies G-d's name.

(Compiled by Tzipora Liron-Pinner from "The writings of Rav Binyamin Ze'ev Kahane" HY"D - end of commentary on Parashat Bereshit and commentary on Parashat Noach)

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