Taking the Final Step: Noach and Terach by Rabbi Yehuda Chanales


You’ve been preparing for this moment for years.  Arduous studying, challenging exams, job interviews, training, working long hours, slow promotions year after year – and now, finally, you are being considered for CEO of the company.  Imagine the excitement you feel on your way to meeting with the board, ready to share with them your vision for the company, your track records – the speech you’ve been preparing in your head for years.  And, the morning of the big meeting – you hesitate.  You take your time leaving home in the morning, waiting for your family to push you out the door to be on time.  You wait in your car until your co-worker calls you wondering where you are.  You sit outside the conference room until you are reminded that everyone is waiting for you.  Why the hesitation?

Noach prepared for one hundred and twenty years.  For a lifetime, Noach built a Teivah, waiting for the flood Hashem told him would be coming.  During that time, he withstood (according to the Midrash) the mocking of those around him and persisted with his mission.  Nevertheless, when the rain began to fall and the flood for which he had been preparing began, Noach also hesitated.  Chazal understood that Noach entered the Teivah only “MiPenei Mei HaMabul,” “As a result of the flood waters” (BeReishit 7:7).  Only when the waters were too high for him to remain outside did Noach walk into the Teivah he had prepared.  Based on this understanding, Chazal refer to Noach as a “Maamin VeEino Maamin,” a believer and non-believer.  How is this possible?  Why the hesitation?  If Noach could sustain the cynics for one hundred and twenty years, why couldn’t he trust that the time had come for his mission to be fulfilled?

Sometimes we can spend weeks, months or years working towards a goal or on behalf of something we truly believe in.  However, when the time comes to turn the preparation into reality, when we are finally capable of acting on our beliefs, we fail to take the next step.  We are too comfortable with the reality in which we have lived for so long that we would rather continue preparing and advocating on behalf of something than actually doing it.  Noach spent one hundred and twenty years preparing for a flood and overcoming the challenges inherent in that preparation.  His Tzidkut (righteousness) and belief in Hashem certainly must have been strong.  But when it came time to leave that world and get onto the Teivah that would usher in a totally new world, Noach hesitated.  He knew that Hashem would destroy the world and save him, but he was not sure that he was ready to be saved.

The end of our Parashah presents us with a personality who couldn’t take that final step.  We generally think that Avraham was the first one to leave his homeland on a journey to Canaan.  A simple reading of the Pesukim, however, suggests that it was Terach, Avraham’s father, who first embarked on a journey “Lalechet Artzah Kena’an,” “To go to the land of Canaan” (BeReishit 11:31).  Many Meforshim subvert the order of the Pesukim and suggest that Terach’s journey took place only after Avraham was commanded by Hashem to take a similar route and that Terach was merely following Avraham’s initiative.  Whether it was Terach’s own initiative or following his son, the Parashah ends with Terach in Charan.  We are presented with the picture of another personality who has the courage to begin the process – uprooting his family and moving towards the “promised” land – but is actually incapable of finishing the journey.  At the border of Canaan, a few steps away from potentially become the patriarch of Klal Yisrael, Terach stops.  His comfort with the status quo and the reality in which he has lived most of his life prevents him from taking the final step.

Many of us enjoy spending a lot of time discussing what we believe in, preparing and waiting for the right moment when we can implement the changes we want for ourselves, our community or the world around us.  But all too often, we are too busy discussing to see that the waters of the flood are gathering around us, that we are standing on the border of Canaan.  We either unconsciously ignore the opportunities to act on our beliefs and implement real change or wait until it’s too late to really make a difference.  The stories of Noach and Terach teach us not to procrastinate and let ourselves become lifelong preparers.  Instead, we must constantly look for the opportunities to affect real change and act on our beliefs.

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