MAKING BALANCED DECISIONS
After only 1600 years since creating the world, God decides to start again. Pained by the corruption of man, as well as their violent and inappropriate behaviour, He picks Noah to rebuild His world. On the back of Noah and his family, and the remnants of the animals saved in the Ark, God seeks to create a new world with the hope of a better beginning. Noah’s prophecy, the building of the Ark, and the flood that followed take up most of this sedra. As we know, it rained for 40 days and 40 nights, but it took a year until Noah was allowed to leave the Ark for the safety of dry land.
Noah and his family initially enter the Ark because of the waters of the impending flood. Rashi makes an interesting observation from a midrashic source; He states that Noah lacked faith as he both believed and didn’t believe that the flood would eventually come, therefore leaving it until the last moment to enter. It was the flood actually beginning that compelled him to enter the Ark, rather than God’s instruction.
Rashi’s comment is puzzling. Noah was considered a tzadik, a righteous person – how can a tzadik show a lack of faith? Furthermore, he spent 120 years building the Ark, opening himself up to ridicule and insult by his neighbours, yet here he is criticised for lacking perfect faith. How many of us would have had the courage to do the same thing? In addition, the verse states that Noah did ALL that Hashem commanded him to do – this does not sound like someone who doesn’t have perfect faith! How can Rashi state that he didn’t fully believe?
The answer is simple. A person is faced with constant challenges when making decisions. An internal conflict arises in which we try to balance our decisions between our intellect and emotion. Our intellect pulls us towards logical and rational solutions to life’s challenges, while our emotions stem from our heart, allowing compassion and sensitivity to guide our reactions. Our job is to marry the two.
Noah followed all of Hashem’s instructions because he had been told to. Intellectually he had perfect faith and demonstrated this through his actions in building the Ark. Nonetheless, at the thought that humanity would be wiped out, he didn’t want to accept it until he saw it for himself. Noah did not lack faith, he just let his emotion act as the dominant force in his decision to wait before entering the Ark.
We all play the ‘what if’ game, where we run scenarios through our minds (often difficult ones) and decide how we would act. Hindsight is wonderful as it gives us perspective, but in the actual moment it can prove much more challenging.
We can’t know with certainty what we will do when the unanticipated surprises of life leap upon us. All we can do is prepare for their eventuality, because we know that the best time to buy an umbrella is before it rains!