One Righteous Person
Rabbi Reuven Mann
This week’s Parsha, Noach, contains the amazing story of the Mabbul (Flood). This was no natural disaster, but G-d’s method of obliterating the world He had created. One must ask, why would the Creator of the universe who had observed all He had created and testified that “it was very good” now see fit to destroy it? It must be pointed out that the creation of man was not accompanied by the declaration that “it was good”. That is testament to the supreme significance of free will in the scheme of things. The Rabbis say, “Everything is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven”. G-d gave man the freedom to choose the course of his life. This means he can defy the will of the Creator and corrupt his path. There is no guarantee that man will act in accordance with his higher nature and serve Hashem. Because the righteousness of man is dependent on his own choice, G-d could not pronounce him to be good by virtue of his mere existence. When the corruption of man reaches the level where he can no longer be defined as a being who was created in the “image of G-d”, there is no further purpose in his existence.
However, mankind was not totally destroyed. We owe our existence to Noach who was “righteous in his generations” and thus, “found favor in the sight of Hashem”. He instructed Noach to build the ark and provided all the particulars of its construction. This was a massive task and took one hundred and twenty years to complete. The lengthy period of construction also served as a lesson to mankind. People would be attracted to the work in which Noach was engaged and could inquire as to its purpose. Hopefully, this would give Noach the opportunity to warn them of the impending disaster and urge them to ward it off by repenting from their evil ways. Yet, the generation was so steeped in their sinfulness that they could no longer recognize the truth. As we become immersed in a lifestyle of instinctual gratification, our values become corrupted and our thinking distorted. Man becomes adept at rationalizing his loathsome behavior and loses the ability to differentiate between good and evil.
The story of Noach and the Flood is very relevant to contemporary life. We live in a society whose prevailing value system is hedonism and whose philosophy is “do your own thing.” Our society denies that there is an objective good for which all people should strive. It negates the idea of a universal moral truth that all people ought to live by. Instead, it puts forth the philosophy of subjectivism which is nothing more than saying that whatever feels pleasant to you is right for you. When a person loses his belief in an absolute truth, he, in effect, denies G-d and renders man’s emotional whims as the arbiter of good and bad. At this point, man is not functioning as a higher spiritual being in possession of a “divine” soul. He is just a more sophisticated animal who uses the great intellectual gifts G-d has bestowed on him not to pursue truth, but to gratify instinct. This type of existence is contrary to the one the Creator intended for him and has no intrinsic value. When things reached this point in the days of Noach, G-d decreed that the world should be destroyed by a Flood.
However, it is crucial to appreciate and be inspired by the example of Noach. In spite of the fact that he was raised in a totally corrupt society, he chose the path of righteousness and lived a life which found favor in the sight of Hashem. His heroic existence illustrates the supreme power of human free will. No matter how corrupt one’s surroundings, man retains the G-d given power to think for himself, resist the urge to conform, and strive for the truth. We live today in a morally corrupt and intellectually bankrupt society. We must resist the tide, retain our intellectual and moral independence, and adhere to the path of objective truth and righteousness. For as we have seen, one righteous person can save the World.