Monday, October 4, 2010

We Hold Up the World

On Motzei Shabbat (Saturday night) my husband stopped for a moment before he began the havdalah service that separates Shabbat and the week day. He wanted to address a question that someone asked him a few minutes before in the synagogue.
"G-d made many worlds before ours. Some say He made thousands of worlds, and just scrapped them. So, when we read in the portion of Bereishit (Genesis 6:6) that 'G-d had heartfelt sadness..." and reconsidered having made man, why didn't He just destroy it like He had all the other worlds, and start again?"
My husband told us that he couldn't stop thinking of that question, and he said that he believed the answer came in the very next sentence. "But Noah found grace in the eyes of Hashem." (Genesis 6:8)
At this point, we don't know much about Noah. The commentator Sforno says on that sentence that "although Noah himself was righteous, he did not try to influence the rest of his generation to know G-d and to repent..." (Artscroll Bible)
Noah didn't change people's evil ways. He didn't influence anyone. Until now, he just lived a regular life. He hadn't yet built an ark or gathered thousands of animals. He was, as the show NOAH! Ride the Wave! says, "A mentsch." Others around him were consumed with evil, but Noah was a nice, simple, honest guy.
And you know what? It seems that for G-d, that was enough.
Because of the existence of one mentsch, G-d saved Noah, his family, and a sampling of every animal in the world.
My husband says that so many times, people lament that they can't do great things. They can't make a real difference in the world, so why try to do anything.
This simple sentence, "But Noah found grace in the eyes of Hashem," proves them wrong, my husband said. No one has to do humongously great things. No one has to make monumental changes. Noah didn't, and yet, because of him, Hashem decided not to scrap the whole world.
My husband said, "Every person should believe that he personally holds up the world. He doesn't have to discover the cure for cancer (although that would be nice) or build a multi-zillion dollar business that donates half its earnings to charity. He just has to be a mentsch. And if he is, that might very well tip G-d's scales in favor of the continuation of the entire world."
May each of us do our best to live upright lives. Even regular and unspectacular folks can live lives of kindness and mentschlechkeit (being a good person). May we always find grace in the eyes of G-d.

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