SALT - Sunday, 30 Tishrei 5781 - October 18, 2020

  • Rav David Silverberg
In memory of our beloved father, grandfather and husband - Arthur Feldman Eliyahu - Henoch Ben Aharon Shlomo z"l.
May his neshama merit an aliya.
- Adele Feldman, Sharon and Jonathan Levine and Family,
Ilana and Howard Karesh and Family, Aviva and Dov Katz and Family.
          In informing Noach of His decree to flood the earth, God announced to him, “Keitz kol basar ba lefanai ki male’a ha-aretz chamas” – “The end of all flesh has come before Me, because the earth has been filled with evil” (6:13).
          The conventional understanding of this verse is that it poetically announces the forthcoming calamity.  The phrase “ba lefanai” (“has come before Me”) means simply that God had decided to bring an end to human life on earth.  He told Noach that the end of human has “come before Him” – meaning, that this is the decision He reached.  Another possibility (see the Radak and Seforno) is that God refers here to the end of the 120-year period during which He had hoped that the people would repent, as the Torah tells earlier, at the end of Parashat Bereishit (6:3).  He now informed Noach that this period had ended, and still, unfortunately, “the earth has been filled with evil,” thus necessitating its destruction.
          Ketav Sofer, however, suggests an additional explanation.  He writes that the phrase “keitz kol basar ba lefanai” could be understood to mean that God foresaw the end result of the current state of affairs, that mankind would never regain its morality and goodness.  The reason, God then proceeded to explain to Noach, is because “the earth has been filled with evil” – the world was overrun with evildoers, such that there was nobody from whom change could be inspired.  As long as a minority of righteous, noble individuals remained, there was hope that their influence would gradually spread, that people would observe, admire and then emulate their example of piety.  But once mankind reached the point where “the earth has been filled with evil,” and there were no longer any models of righteous behavior from which others could learn, there no longer remained any hope of spiritual recovery.
          Ketav Sofer’s understanding of this verse perhaps provides us with a valuable source of encouragement, assuring us of our ability to positively influence the world, each of us in his or her own individual way.  As long as we ourselves aspire and work towards living a noble life of religious devotion, we are capable of effecting positive change, at least to some slight extent.  By setting a positive example for the people around us, we make a valuable contribution, helping to improve the world to one degree or another.  When we see or hear of evil “filling the earth,” we should not despair or feel discouraged, but should instead recommit ourselves to strive for the highest moral and religious standards we can, trusting that our personal pursuit of greatness will positively influence the people around us and thereby have a small but not insignificant impact upon the world.