The people in the world were so immoral that God regretted creating man. Noah, however, was an exception. God commands Noah to build an ark. He tells Noah that He will bring a flood, and that to save the world, Noah should bring onto the ark two of each kind of living thing as well as food.
God regretted creating mankind and planned to destroy the world. However, Noah’s existence changed His mind.
ז וַיֹּאמֶר ה’, אֶמְחֶה אֶת-הָאָדָם אֲשֶׁר-בָּרָאתִי מֵעַל פְּנֵי הָאֲדָמָה, מֵאָדָם עַד-בְּהֵמָה, עַד-רֶמֶשׂ וְעַד-עוֹף הַשָּׁמָיִם: כִּי נִחַמְתִּי, כִּי עֲשִׂיתִם. ח וְנֹחַ, מָצָא חֵן בְּעֵינֵי ה’.
7 And the LORD said: ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the earth; both man, and beast, and creeping thing, and fowl of the air; for it repenteth Me that I have made them.’ 8 But Noah found grace in the eyes of the LORD.
The remarkable point in this chapter is that here we are taught that one person can really make a difference in the world. Were it not for Noah, God would have destroyed the world. Presumably, we would not be here today. In a world of immorality, Noah was a good person. He was the only righteous person in his time. God felt that that if one person like Noah can exist, the world is worth keeping. And so, on Noah’s account, God changed His mind.
Noah was the first hero. The prevailing culture was wrong about something (really, about many things), and Noah perceived that. He acted on his own accord, according to his compass which he knew to be right. We know so many stories about individuals who made a difference: in a country, in a family, in an industry, in a war, in an oppression. Noah taught us that it’s possible. We hope and pray that we never be placed in situations where we are needed to make such a difference; but we should also pray that if in such a situation, we would follow Noah’s example.
Rabbi Roy Feldman