The story of one righteous man in an evil generation. The Almighty commands Noah to build the ark on a hill far from the water. He built it over a period of 120 years. People deride Noah and ask him, “Why are you building a boat on a hill?” Noah explains that there will be a flood if people do not correct their ways (according to the comedian Bill Cosby, Noah would ask “How long can you tread water?”). We see from this the patience of the Almighty for people to correct their ways and the genius of arousing people’s curiosity so that they will ask a question and, hopefully, hear the answer.
The generation does not do Teshuva, returning from their evil ways, and God brings a flood for 40 days. They leave the ark 365 days later when the earth has once again become habitable. The Almighty makes a covenant and makes the rainbow the sign of the covenant that He will never destroy all of life again by water (hence, James Baldwin’s book, The Fire Next Time). When one sees a rainbow it is an omen to do Teshuva — to recognize the mistakes you are making in life, regret them, correct them/make restitution, and ask for forgiveness from anyone you have wronged as well as from the Almighty.
Noah plants a vineyard, gets drunk and then occurs the mysterious incident in the tent after which Noah curses his grandson Canaan. The Torah portion concludes with the story of the Tower of Babel and then a genealogy from Noah’s son, Shem, to Abram (Abraham).
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based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states, “Noah was a completely righteous man in his generation” (Gen. 6:9). The Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin 108a, is bothered by the seemingly superfluous words “in his generation.” What are these extra words coming to teach us?
There are two opinions: 1) Praise of Noah. Even in an evil generation he was righteous. However, if he were in a righteous generation, he would have been even more righteous. 2) Denigration of Noah. In his own generation he was considered righteous, but had he lived in Avraham’s generation he would not have been considered righteous in comparison to Avraham.
The Chasam Sofer, a great rabbi, explained that there really is no argument between the two opinions. If Noah would have stayed
the way he was in his own generation, then in Avraham’s generation he would not have been considered that righteous. However, the reality is that Noah would have been influenced by Avraham and have reached even greater heights of righteousness.
What do we learn from this? We are all affected by our environment. When we are close to people of good character, we are automatically influenced in positive directions. Choose well your friends and your community — they strongly impact your life!