Thursday, November 3, 2016

A Beacon of Trruth - Noach

Kahane on the Parsha
Rabbi Binyamin Kahane- Parshat Noach

For 120 years, Noah fulfilled G-d's directive to build an ark, all the while warning people about the impending flood. The Midrash relates that when people would pass by and ask Noah what he was doing, he would reply, "The Almighty is bringing a flood upon the world." But the people disregarded Noah's warning and reacted with vicious mockery (Bereishit Rabba 30:7).
This Midrash seems to contain an implicit criticism of Noah. After all, for 120 years Noah warned that G-d would destroy the world if the people continued in their evil ways. But no one listened. In the end, the flood wiped out the entire world, except for Noah and his family. Not a single person was convinced to do teshuva by Noah's warnings. Not one! Noah's life endeavor of 120 years was essentially a failure.
Or was it?
The story of Noah provides us with a concrete illustration of the true role of a Jewish prophet. Certainly, the primary purpose of his warnings and rebukes is to inspire his audience to do teshuva. But unlike what one might think, if the prophet does not succeed in convincing people to do teshuva, he did not necessarily fail. Deeper reflection will reveal that the rebuke in and of itself has value.
If we look at the prophets of Israel, we will notice an amazing fact: Generally speaking, they were dismal failures. It seems as if they influenced no one. The people were not interested in listening to them and did not cease their evil ways. But does that mean their warnings had no value? Of course not. After all, the words of the prophets are inscribed forever in our holy bible.
When G-d appoints Ezekiel to be a prophet, He says, "I am sending you to the Children of Israel...they have rebelled against shall say to them, 'Thus says the L-rd G-d.' And they--whether they hear or refuse to hear...--will know a prophet has been amongst them" (Ezekiel 2:3-5). Immediately afterwards, G-d states, "But the house of Israel will not hearken to you..." (ibid. 3:7). Can this be? If G-d knows they won't listen, why send Ezekiel and expose him to so much humiliation and abuse?
He does so because the proclamation of truth has value even if it has no apparent influence at the moment it is proclaimed. What is its value? As G-d says: The people "will know that a prophet has been amongst them." Even if there are no immediate results, the warnings have value in that they bring G-d's word into the world. The prophet who expresses divine truth is giving expression to G-d's presence in this world, showing us that the world is not a free-for-all - that there is right and wrong, reward and punishment. By proclaiming the truth, the prophet, in essence, sanctifies G-d's Name.
Furthermore, while G-d knows for certain that the nation won't listen to a particular rebuke, the righteous, who are obligated to rebuke, do not know that (Shabbat 55a). In other words, we can never be sure that our words won't influence people, and therefore we must say them. Even more, we must realize that our words can have an impact tens, or even hundreds, of years down the road, as the Talmud states about prophets whose influence was not apparent during their lifetime: "Prophecy which is needed for future generations is written down" (Megillah 14a).
My father, HY"D, saw his major role as one of a "prophet" who must warn and rebuke the people. That is, to say the truth of G-d- the same truth which no one else dares express thanks to 101 different excuses ("it's not practical", "it's not realistic," etc.). And while it may appear sometimes that all efforts are in vain, such is not the case in the long run. In the long run, it is sticking with the truth that makes a real impact on the nation and the course of history.
Darka Shel Torah, 1997
Shabbat Shalom!
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