Noach heard news that none of us ever heard (or ever will hear).
No one will survive.
He was literally speechless- no defense, no prayers for a miraculous change of mind, no apparent regret for what is and was the worst possible calamity that ever did or will happen.
Here you are, beginning your life anew after the holidays, and the first chapter you read in the Torah takes you to exactly the opposite of what you may have wanted to see. It’s not the Brave New World. What’s the message?
Noach is described as tzadik tamim, a tzadik who is `` whole''. Ramban comments that his trust in Hashem was absolute. Even before he heard about the flood, he didn’t turn to sorcery, fortune telling, or any of the ways of entering the foggy and spiritually escapist world of the occult that were so popular in his time. He recognized that wherever Hashem is taking him, that is where he has to be. He was not blind to the society in which he lived. He lived with corruption every day of his life. He saw the progression in which the most human of all traits, the traits that you love when you find them alive and well in yourself, inherent desire to give, and the will to make things more real, valid, and beautiful was eclipsed by most animalistic of all of your traits, the desire to endlessly take.
There was promiscuity, and by the nature of things all promiscuity is exploitive. There were all sorts of idols worshipped. What they had in common is that they demanded nothing in the way of higher moral consciousness. If you had to write the philosophy of the pre-mabul world in one word, the word would be “gimme”. The spiral downward had taken them to a point of no return.
Noach understood that the next step was one that only Hashem can determine. He accepted the decision with his characteristic wholeness. This acceptance wasn’t born of cruelty or of callousness. It was born of the hope for a new beginning.
Avraham took things differently when Hashem presented him with the decision to destroy Sdom. There too, there was no real possibility of change. Avraham, however, bargained. You could make a mistake, and think that he was outguessing Hashem. He wasn’t. He trusted Hashem so much that he is referred to as the “Head of all believers”. There was someone else he didn’t trust.
It was himself.
He knew that as a human, his role is to feel.
Not to judge.
He was right. There was a moment in which you can see that he knew the truth; Hashem’s will is just. He said (about himself), “I am dust and ashes”, meaning his human limitations blind him to genuinely grasping Hashem’s will, but the limitation is his, not Hashem’s.
In today’s society judging Hashem is fashionable. Admitting human limitation is not. There is enormous hidden greatness in being able to say, “I don’t know”, and mean it. It is even greater when your heart says what it says, but is silenced by its realisation of Hashem’s greatness.
You are moving into the Real World, and so am I. There are no holidays until Chanukah. Your ability to take all of the marvelous wondrous moments you had (maybe shofar. Maybe ne’ilah, maybe seeing the throngs head towards Birkat Cohanim, maybe just tasting the sweetness of the coming year, with its gift of renewal and life) and bring them to the ordinary somewhat (blessedly) uneventful moments. There may be moments that are dark, not given to your ability to look at them and see more than uninterpretable fog.
Those are your Noach moments.
And maybe even your Avraham moments.
Noach’s descendants fill the world. Every person you will ever encounter is here because somewhere way back there was one man worth saving. He was given instructions about how to build the ark that would be the means of his escape from the teaming waters of the flood. One of them was to build a Tzohar on its side. What exactly is a Tzohar? Rashi says it's either a window or a precious stone that sheds light. You can look outside and see destruction, or look inward and see light. Or both.