The Lonely walk of Faith

Moshe Kempinski

Torah portion of Noah Genesis 6:9–11:32

A walk of faith can in fact become a very lonely walk. Isaiah declares the following ;

“Hearken to the word of Hashem, those who are zealous( or diligent) of His word ( Haredim LeDvar Hashem) , “Your brethren who hate you, who cast you out, said, “For the sake of my name, Hashem shall be glorified,” but we will see your joy, and they shall be ashamed.( Isaiah 66:5).

Walking in truth and faith at times necessitates a separating form the false veils and coverings that surround us.

Yet loneliness is not meant to be an ideal and separateness is not an independent virtue.

We read of Noach (Noah) the following ;

“These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noach walked with G-d”

Those are three incredible qualities describing Noach. He was righteous, perfect in his generation and he walked with G-d.

We have also been told about Noach at his birth that

“This one will comfort us from the work and sorrow of our hands because of the ground that G-d cursed.” (Genesis 5:29)

Here was a man who was born with unique qualities and it is those qualities that gave him the vision to see above the mire and corruption of his own generation.

Yet we find conflicting opinions in our tradition. Rashi on the words “perfect in his generations” explains that some sages see these words as complimentary and declare if that was how Noach was in his generation how much more so would he be in the generation of Abraham. Yet others teach (Sanh. 108a) that “In comparison with his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Abraham’s generation, he would not have been considered of any importance.“

Both may be true, but in the larger picture it is irrelevant which of the two views prevail, That is so because in the end Noach walked a walk that was righteous and G-d centered.

Yet he Zohar (Vol 3 15a), asks a deeper question that is revealed in the haftara usually read on this Torah portion (Isaiah 54:1-55:5) .

In the text the flood is described as “Mei Noach” – the waters of Noach;

”For this is as the waters of Noach unto Me; for as I have sworn that the waters of Noach should no more go over the earth, so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.” (Isaiah 54:9)

Why then is the flood in the Torah portion of Noach considered to be “the waters of Noach ”? In what way can it be ascribed to Noach?

The Zohar explains with a midrash;

Noah leaves the Ark and sees the world in its destruction ? Noach began to cry before God and he said, “Master of the universe, You are called compassionate. You should have been compassionate for Your creation.” God responded and said, “You are a foolish shepherd. Now you say this?! Why did you not say this at the time I told you that I saw that you were righteous among your generation, or afterward when I said that I will bring a flood upon the people, or afterward when I said to build an ark? I constantly delayed and I said, ‘When is he [Noah] going to ask for compassion for the world?’ … And now that the world is destroyed, you open your mouth, to cry in front of me, and to ask for supplication?” [Zohar Hashmatot, Bereishit 254b]

It is not that important if Hashem would have changed the decree or not, .Beyond the simple obedience of building the ark, he should have prayed for mercy and a rescinding of the decree.

Our sages teach that the ark was built for 120 years, in order to allow mankind to be aroused to repentance during that time. Noach in his righteousness dutifully continued to build and prepare, despite the ridicule and abuse he may have endured.

Yet after all is said and done, we do not hear of Noach praying for mercy for the world like Abraham did. We are not told that Noach attempted to reach out to his neighbors to “make souls” as Abraham did. As a result of his inward focus, he was held to be partially responsible for the flood.

We all stand individually before our creator. Yet in addition we are all one creation of our Creator . We all exist because of the same Divine breath that is breathed into us constantly. When one of us falls we all fall. When one of us rises up again, we all become lifted.

After the triumphant entry to the land Joshua sent men from Jericho to Ai to battle and occupy the city and the battle ends with failure. Joshua is broken from the failure and does not understand what could have happened.

Then Joshua tore his clothes and fell facedown to the ground before the ark of Hashem, remaining there till evening. The elders of Israel did the same, and sprinkled dust on their heads. And Joshua said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord, why did you ever bring this people across the Jordan to deliver us into the hands of the Amorites to destroy us? . your own great name?”…. Hashem said to Joshua, “Stand up! What are you doing down on your face? Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. “(Joshua 7:6-10).

When it is finally determined who caused the transgression we learn that it is one man .Achan the son of Karmi who sinned .

One man sinned and G-d declares :”Israel has sinned; they have violated my covenant, which I commanded them to keep. ”

One man’s sin is the responsibility of the nation.

It is so easy as we walk forward in our spiritual path to become enticed and entranced by our individual growth and lose sight of those around us. But that failed vision endangers us as much as the ones we ignore. The Talmud describes the process of sin and how one misstep can lead to series of failings and failures. ( Shevuot 39a) The Talmud section finishes with the declaration Kol Yisrael Areivim Ze BeZeh. Roughly translated it declares all of Israel are responsible for each other. Yet that is not a direct translation. Literally it declares “ all of Israel are intertwined one with another”.

We are accountable for all those that surround us, our family, our friends, our people and our fellow human beings.

We are all accountable for each other not as an act of lovingkindness but as an act of survival.

LeRefuat Yehudit bat Golda Yocheved

1 thought on “The Lonely walk of Faith”

  1. This is very profound and very heavy teaching. This also applies to the Church (and I mean those who belong to Jesus, not the organisation) We all like to separate ourselves into different groups and condemn those in the other groups who sin. We definitely all need to repent because the sins in the Church are our sins.

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