As Earth’s standard of morality began to collapse in Parshat Noach, society itself began to crumble. Seemingly, the plummet of the world’s ethical state had reached a point beyond repair, as even the animals were corrupted. Then, the Torah relates how Hashem saw such a downfall, telling Noach to build and board a tevah (ark) with his family, to stay safe as the world would be washed clean, so to speak.
From the pasuk which describes Noach boarding the tevah, “because of the waters of the flood,” Rashi comments that Noach was ketani emunah, translated to mean “lacking in adequate faith” (Bereishis 7:7). When considering that he actually carried out Hashem’s command and that the Torah describes him as “perfectly righteous,” how could such a classification make sense?
The Kedushas Levi asks such a question, exploring how such a righteous person could also lack adequate faith (Kedushas Levi, Noach P. 12). He connects his answer to the idea that Noach did not daven for or actively pursue the people in hopes of positively influencing them to make a change.
The Kedushas Levi arrives at the idea that Noach was humble, never believing that his actions— whether through tefillah or tochechah (rebuke)—could alter the reality of the world’s demise. While humility is one of the most admirable traits a person can acquire, it seems as though Noach’s self-image clouded his perspective, leaving himself remiss to the reformation he could have brought about; this was ultimately where his lacking faith manifested itself. While we must still acknowledge Noach’s greatness and excellent character, we must also decipher the impact this idea should have on our lives.
Every morning, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror and say, “The world was created for me.” As antithetical and arrogant as this may seem, it is an actual “obligation” noted in Masechet Sanhedrin (37a). How can we really proclaim such a self-centered mantra and advocate it as a Jewish value?
Well, there is actually a more fundamental idea imbedded in these words. Rebbe Nachman of Breslov says that we must believe the world was created for our sake, and therefore we must constantly seek to improve it (Likutei Moharan 49:2).
There is a divine spark of Hashem present within every crack and crevice of the world, waiting to be drawn forth and recognized. Say it to yourself: “The world was created for my sake, and that is why I must improve it.”
This idea is perspective-shifting. With regard to the story of the flood in Parshat Noach, we see a tremendous, righteous person, someone on a level higher than any of us can imagine. Nevertheless, Noach could not see what Hashem knew: that he could make a difference. The depth to this idea does not hit solid ground just yet, as we must now look towards ourselves. Hashem put us on the earth for a specific mission because each of us can fulfill a specific task in a particular way; the world needs us.
Now, how will we proceed? When we look in the mirror, do we believe that Hashem ascribed us a certain duty? If we can recognize that reality, do we live that way?
The world needs us, and Hashem knows that. Now, we need to live like that.