The Sages of the Talmud have some criticism of Noach. Yes, he was righteous in his generation, but if he were to have lived in Avraham’s time, he wouldn’t have been considered anything special. He was a Tzaddik, but a Tzaddik for himself, as the verse insinuates: “These are the generations of Noach – Noach.…”
Yes, he did what Hashem told him to do. He built the ark, and if someone came by and asked, “Hey, bro, what the heck are you doin’ building that one big mother of a boat?” he would answer that Hashem told him to build it because a Flood was coming. But he didn’t go from place to place to warn people like Avraham would have done. He didn’t go out of his way to teach the generation the wickedness of their ways. That’s why the Flood is referred to as the “waters of Noach,” inferring that his lack of active outreach was the cause of the subsequent disaster.
And just what was the terrible sin that brought about the destruction of the world – the spilling of semen in vain. Hey, wait a minute! The Torah doesn’t say that? Where is it written?
In many places, the Torah is discreet in its language. It teaches us in codes. These are the secrets of the Torah, which were revealed to us by Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai and set forth in the holy Zohar. The Zohar explains the verse which describes Noach’s generation by comparing it with another verse in the Torah that describes the sin of Er and Onan. Regarding the moral collapse in Noach’s time, the Torah relates: “And he L-rd saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that all the impulse of the thoughts of his heart was only evil (rah) continually” (Bereshit, 6:5). Later it says, “And G-d looked upon the earth, and behold, it was corrupt (nishchetah), for all flesh had corrupted (hishchit) its way upon the earth.
Regarding Er, the Torah states: “And Er, Yehuda’s first born, was evil (rah) in the eyes of the L-rd, and the L-rd slew him (Bereshit, 38:7). His brother, Onan, received the same Divine punishment for engaging in the very same sin. What sin was it? He spilled his seed (shichet) on the ground. From the use of the same words “rah” and “shichet” we learn that the sin that brought about the flood in the time of Noach was the widespread spilling semen in vain (Zohar, Bereshit 66b).
Had Noach gone around speaking to different communities to warn people of the dangers of sexual transgressionת and to call upon them to turn back from their evil ways, he might have prevented the Flood. Instead, he kept quiet, and busied himself with building the ark.
In our time, who can say that sexual transgression isn’t as widespread as it was in the days of Noach? But who hears anything about it? Where are the rabbis of our modern Orthodox communities? Why aren’t they screaming out at the top of their lungs, urging their congregants to dress more modestly, separate the men and women at bar mitzvahs and weddings, stop subscribing to Playboy, and download filters for their computers? Instead of warning the generation of the dangers of sexual sin, by and large, they are busy building their shuls.
True, in Israel, Rabbi Leon Levi, has been warning of the danger for years, going from city to city, night after night, to educate the generation. And a group of religious Zionist rabbis have recently waken up and called for parents to install safe filters for home computers. To give them credit where credit is due, Haredi rabbis have taken the wise step of banning Internet outright. Let’s be honest – out of every ten homes with Internet hook-ups, in at least in six or seven, someone is hooked on porn.
We are not blaming the rabbis for starting the problem, but the rabbis are our spiritual leaders, and it is our task in the world as Jews to rectify the sins of Adam and the generation of Noach by upholding the banner of sexual holiness. This is the covenant between Hashem and Avraham, to safeguard the Brit, a mission that has been stamped in our flesh with the seal of the King, the holy brit milah, which symbolizes our higher, holier mission of sanctifying the sexual urge in the sanctity of marital relations, between lawfully married husband and wife, in this way and this way alone, in accordance with the teachings of our Sages and the Torah. In this matter, each and every one of us can clean up his act, bring Mashiach closer, and return the strength of the Jewish People which has been scattered around the globe due to our sins.
What do you say about that?