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Hope For The Hopeless

R Pesach Siegel

Parshat Noach

Oct 4, 2013

Parshas Noach 5774

Noach was a Tzadik. He was a blemish free Tzadik. He was a blemish free Tzadik in his generation. Our sages call him Lapid – a torch. For one hundred and twenty years he rebuked his generation. He was the mouthpiece of G-d as he sanctified G-d’s name in public.[1]

And yet the medrash compares Noach to Avrohom Avenu. Noach was a Tzadik in his generation. Had he been in the generation of Avrohom he would have been considered one who is nothing.[2]

Noach is like a favorite of the king. Though he is dear to the king, he is weak. He is like one who finds himself immersed in thick mud. The king discovers him. He says to him, “Rather than sullying yourself in the mud, come, walk alongside with Me.”

Avrohom Avenu is powerful. He is like a favorite of the king who gazes through a window and sees the king walking through a dark alley. He shines a light through the window upon the path of the king thus enabling the king to walk in safety.[3]

Because Noach was weak, his merits were only sufficient to save himself and his family. Had he been strong like Avrohom Avenu, he would have been able to save the entire world.[4]

Avrohom Avenu offered prayers for the wicked people of Soddom. He beseeched Hashem to spare their lives.

Noach failed to offer prayers for the people of the world.[5]


Blemish free means possessing no short comings. Noach is described as being a blemish free Tzadik. How can one be a blemish free Tzadik and at the same time be considered weak or like nothing compared to Avrohom Avenu?

Noach spent one hundred and twenty years of his life rebuking the people to repent. He obviously was concerned with their fate. Why would he neglect the power of prayer?

The people of the world were totally evil. They deserved their fate. How is it that the weakness of Noach contributed to their destruction?


The MaHari Kara, in his commentary on chumash tells us that Noach certainly prayed for the people of his generation. He did so throughout the entire one hundred and twenty years that it took him to build the Teivah.

The people of his generation were impervious to his warnings. They were set in their ways and would not yield to change. He did not share a common dialogue with them. He therefore did not attempt to change them. He tried to motivate them through fear, fear of the impending devastation. He hoped and prayed that out of a fear of self preservation they would make a sort of accommodation to avert the catastrophe of their own destruction.

In this, he failed. They mocked him and treated his warnings with derision.

After one hundred and twenty years of warnings, one hundred and twenty years of fruitless prayer, Noach ceased his prayers. It was a hopeless endeavor.[6]

Avrohom Avenu would have continued to pray.


I once heard from Rav Simcha Wasserman (son of Rav Elchonon Wasserman) that the difference between Noach and Avrohom was one of perspective.

Noach viewed the world through the prism of reality, of what was possible.

The world, as it was, was incapable of recognizing G-d’s role in creation. They were unshackled, having thrown off the yoke of yiras shamayim. In their present state, there was no possibility of motivating or inspiring them. Their sins were not those of passion, they were acts of one who has broken free from an unwanted master. They actually indentified with their sins.

Prayer does not help for those who have wandered so far to point of breaking away. There is not a shred of decency, no spark, to attempt to inspire and bring back to life.

Within Noach’s view of reality, he is a Tzadik Tamim, a blemish free Tzadik. His view is accurate. He is right. He possesses no shortcomings.

Avrohom Avenu’s view transcended reality. If the world is impervious to the truth, then stir up a revolution. Overturn the present reality. Change the people! Transform them! Create a new reality! Avrohom illuminated the darkness. He shined light where there was no light before.

In Noach’s world he was a blemish free Tzadik, but only from his point of view, the view of reality. In Avrohom’s world, the efforts of Noach are equal to nothing. To react realistically is to accomplish absolutely nothing.

Had Noach possessed the vision of Avrohom Avenu there would be no need to destroy the world. All would have lived on due to the potential of Noach’s efforts making an impact upon creation.

But Noach was not Avrohom. His way was not Avrohom’s way. In comparison to Avrohom he was weak. And so the world was hopeless. Noach was only able to make an impact on his own direct family. Thus they were spared.[7]

The rest of the world went on to its destruction.

We can learn a powerful lesson from this.

There are those among us who have gone past the proverbial point of no return. They are hopeless. They have lost the right to exist. If we view them with a realistic eye, they will be robbed of all hope. By removing the barriers of reality we are literally bestowing life on the hopeless ones, for we are demonstrating that there is no such thing as hopelessness.

By doing so, we are granting them the right to live.

[1] Medrash Rabbah, parshah 30, piska 7

[2] Rashi, perek 6, posuk 9

[3] Medrash Rabbah, parshah 30, piska 10

[4] Pirush Rabeinu Asher, Devarim, perek 34, posuk 6

[5] Quoted in MaHari Kara, perek 6, posuk 9

[6] MaHari Kara, perek 6, posuk 9

[7] Seforno, perek 6, posuk 8

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