Promptly after the story of the flood, Noah disappears. Forever. Not mentioned ever again. Where did he go?
By Rabbi Ari Enkin, Rabbinic Director, United with Israel
This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32), and in it we read about the hero by that name.
Very few figures in the Torah are praised in the way Noah is praised. He is called a “man” (didn’t your grandmay tell you that the greatest compliment someone can say about you is that you’re a “mensch?), he is called “righteous”, he “walks with God”, “perfect”, “pure”, and “an example to his generation” – you get it. Noah is in the big leagues.
Another unique feature of Noah, which I believe is found by only three other figures in the Torah, Abraham, Moses, and Aaron, is that it says that “Noah did exactly as God told him to do.” This appears three times in Noah’s career, in fact!
So here’s the question: Promptly after the story of the flood, Noah disappears. Forever. Not mentioned ever again. On the other hand, the next great leader, Abraham, has many more pages devoted to him than Noah and he is found in many more Torah portions than Noah. And Moses, well, he’s in almost every single Torah portion from the moment he is born! Need I say more?
So where did Noah go?
It has been suggested that Noah’s downfall was because, get this, “Noah did exactly as God told him to do.” Although it sounds impressive, there is a less complimentary aspect to it:
Noah did the bare minimum, no more. When God tells Noah that He is going to send a flood to destroy the world and that he should build an ark to save himself and his family, Noah isn’t moved. He simply goes on with his day and builds the ark. On the other hand, when God told Abraham that He was going to destroy Sodom and Amorah, Abraham immediately began fighting with God to try to save the people and the cities. And how many times did God “lose it” with the Jewish people and want to destroy them and start a new nation from Moses? But each time Moses pleaded with God not to destroy the Jews. And Moses won!
Noah does none of that. He doesn’t try to save his neighbors, his city, or his world when God tells him that He is going to destroy it. Noah does nothing. Noah minds his own business…just a bit too much.
The reason Noah disappeared from the pages of the Torah is because God wants people who take initiative, fight for what they believe in, and care about others. To some extent, Noah was an “experiment” in exactly what a leader shouldn’t be. Noah wasn’t a bad person for not doing anything, but we see that he wasn’t leader material. A leader needs opinions and a leader needs initiative. It appears that Noah had neither.
Make no mistake, following God is not a bad thing. It’s that sometimes, like in the case of a leader, it’s just not enough.
For more insights by Rabbi Enkin on this week’s Torah portion, click on the links below.
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