Bereshit Six: The Flood

In this chapter of Bereshit, God sees the evil in the world, the wickedness of men, and regrets creating the earth, and specifically humankind. He says, “I will blot out man whom I created from the face of the earth (Genesis 6:7).” This quote begs the question: what does it mean for God to feel regret? Once again, it calls into question the character of God in the Torah. What does it mean to have a God with volatile emotions, who is able to destroy His creation, including mankind, which He made in His image? What is Judaism, that has a God who feels sadness, who grieves, and who judges His creations in this arguably harsh light?

Luckily (for us), God recognizes Noah as righteous, and decides to save him and his family, thereby preserving humanity. Noah, who is viewed as the protagonist of this story, is an interesting character. While he demonstrates the type of loyalty and bravery necessary to be the one chosen to be saved, throughout the saga of the flood, he does not speak once. Noah follows God but does not appear to interact with God, simply complying with instructions. Noah is described to us in this chapter as being “In his generations a man righteous and wholehearted (Genesis 6:9).” What does this mean? Was Noah only judged as righteous because, in his generation, he was comparably much better than those around him? Would he still be considered righteous today?

Noah being chosen by God shows that even when a person is in less than ideal circumstances, if they’re surrounded by people of poor character, they can still rise above and be better than the situations that they’re placed in. Noah as a hero of the Tanakh is one who didn’t need to speak, but rather shows silent leadership by rising above the world in which he lived.

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