Was Noah a Righteous Person?

by Leon Hasson and Marie Altchech

We observed the Jewish New Year when we reflected upon our misdeeds during the previous year and resolved to make ourselves better people by incorporating into our lives a few basic tenets of Judaism. It was a time for introspection. The universal story of Noah and the Ark resonates clearly and loudly with us during this time of the year.

As G-d checked on his people on Earth, he looked only to witness greedy, cruel, selfish, dishonest and lawless human beings. So disturbed and disappointed by their behavior, G-d called upon Noah, a righteous person, to build an ark big enough for his family and one male and female of each animal species. Once the ark was built, Noah and his family and all the animals boarded for a trip of a lifetime.

Rain poured down upon Earth for 150 days before coming to a stop. As the waters receded, Noah found himself, his family and all the animals atop a mountain. The waters reached levels never seen before, and once the water receded the ark was still perched on a mountain top. Certainly, all of humanity had drowned. Noah could not let anyone leave the ark until he knew it was safe. He sent a raven to look for dry land. A dove was sent to survey the land and returned with an olive twig in its beak symbolizing dry land. What a relief this discovery was for Noah!

But, what about Noah? G-d considered him a righteous person. For this reason G-d chose Noah and his family to be the only family to survive the flooding of the Earth. When everyone disembarked from the ark, humans and animals re-inhabited the world.

The over-arching question lies: Before the flooding of the Earth, why did Noah not warn other people about their imminent fate and tell them to repent for their misdeeds and their egregious behaviors to prevent G-d from making an end of them? If he was so righteous, why did he not try to save his fellow man?

Abraham pleaded with G-d not to destroy his people after they worshiped a golden calf. G-d sent Jonah to save an entire city, so it would not be destroyed. During Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur we ask G-d to forgive us for our sins and write us in the book of life for the coming year.
As I reflect upon the lessons from this story, I believe the message is critically relevant today. Each one of us is a Noah. We can certainly build our own ark and worry only about our family and ourselves. Yet, if we truly deserve being written in the book of life for the coming year, should we only just think of ourselves? Why are we not helping our fellow man, woman and child and trying to help them also?

We all have within us the means, big or small, to make a difference in today’s world before G-d brings another “flood” upon us. We must help our fellow man and woman. Even if it is only a small gesture of hope, act now. We must live up to being G-d’s “chosen people” and improve the world. Do something to help someone that is not part of your family. Find a person who needs help. Even in the smallest of tokens will improve their world. The agent of righteousness and doing good deeds is reflected in your mirror. Can you see that person in the mirror as having done all he/she could do to help another? Only you know the answer.

Let’s all heed the potent words of Anne Frank as she exclaimed, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”

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