In Parashat Noach, Noach is commanded by Hashem to build an ark to protect himself and his family from the oncoming massive flood (BeReishit 6:14). Noach responds by working tirelessly to build the ark according to the strict guidelines given by Hashem (6:22). After Noach is commanded to bring the animals along with him onto the Teivah, the Pesukim relate the following: “VaYa’as Noach KeChol Asher Tzivahu Hashem. VeNoach Ben Sheish Mei’ot Shanah VeHaMabul Hayah Mayim Al HaAretz VaYavo Noach UVanav VeIshto UNeshei Vanav Ito El HaTeivah Mipenei Mei HaMabul,” “And Noach did all that Hashem had commanded him. And Noach was six hundred years old, and the waters from the flood were upon the earth. And Noach went in and his sons and his wife and his sons’ wives with him into the ark because of the waters of the flood” (7:5-7). Rashi (ad. loc s.v. Mipenei Mei HaMabul) comments that Noach had weak faith in Hashem – while he had some degree of faith that the flood would come, he had some doubts; therefore, he refrained from entering the ark until he was forced to do so by the water.
How can one say that Noach had weak faith in Hashem? He slaved for 120 years to build the ark (Rashi 6:14 ad. loc Aseih Lecha Teivat) and was ridiculed immensely for listening to God (Rashi 7:13 ad. loc BeEtzem HaYom HaZeh). How is it possible that Noach put such an effort into building the ark if he had any lack of Emunah in Hashem or doubted that the flood would happen?
Another person who supposedly “lacked in Emunah” was Sarah. When Sarah heard that she would give birth to a son at the age of ninety, she laughed. According to Rashi (18:12 ad. loc s.v. BeKirbah), Sarah was rebuked because she did not show true faith when she laughed at what the messengers told Avraham. How is it possible that our matriarch Sarah lacked Emunah in Hashem? After all, she spent her life praying for a child, which suggests that she believed that Hashem could grant her a child!
The Chafetz Chaim points out that just as Noach and Sarah lacked in some degree of Emunah, so too, many Jews will lack in Emunah when Mashiach, the dream of every Jew, arrives. Many people recite daily Rambam’s 13 Principles of Faith. One of Rambam’s principles is, “I believe with complete trust in the coming of Mashiach, and even though he lingers, nevertheless I await his arrival every day.” When a devoted, good-hearted Jew will find out about the arrival of Mashiach and discover that his dream has been fulfilled, there may be a part of him that will be in disbelief. Even one who recites “Ani Ma’amin” daily may find it difficult to accept the reality of Mashiach’s arrival.
This type of person both believes and doesn’t believe. But how can one person have such contrasting beliefs at the same time? The answer is that there are multiple components to each and every person; a person can be stronger in certain aspects of belief than in others. An analogy for this is a person who is trying to get a driver's license. He may score highly on the written exam, yet fail the actual driving test. A person may know the material and state his belief, but when the real test comes and he is forced to prove his belief, he falters and possibly fails.
This is what the Torah is warning us against by telling us about Noach's hesitance to enter the ark. We cannot have gaps in faith. We don’t know exactly when the anticipated test will arrive, but we must always be prepared for it. We must continue to develop ourselves and our beliefs through our Tefillah, our Talmud Torah, and our actions, in order to prepare ourselves for the coming of Mashiach.