I write this week in memory of my beloved mother, Ethel Poliakoff Block (Etel bat Avraham Avigdor), whose jahrzeit is next week. She was the sister, mother, grandmother and great-grandmother of many Scouts, including five Eagles, and an active supporter of Scouting.
This week, in Parasha Noach, we read about the great Flood that covered the Earth.
You know the story well – God tires of the evil that everyone does, except for Noah and his family. God decides to send a flood to cleanse the world. God tells Noah the Flood is coming, and to Be Prepared by building a giant boat – the Ark – so he could save himself, his wife, his three sons and three daughters-in-law, together with a small number of each species of animal. From the time the rain began (it lasted for 40 days) until the land dried, the Flood lasted a year and 11 days.
Noah took 120 years to build the Ark, in order to give the people a chance to repent. When they would see Noah at work on the Ark and they asked him about it, he would explain that God is sending a flood upon the world, to encourage the people to repent. But, the people did not repent.
God’s instruction to Noah was “Make for yourself an Ark.” Rabbi Issac Abarbanel (1437-1508) explained this verse to mean that Noah had to build the Ark on his own, as a symbol of the way he acted. Although he himself acted righteously, which set a good example, he removed himself from the community. Noah told his neighbors the Flood was coming, but he should have shown them the error of their wrongdoing and tried to get them to save themselves by changing their ways for the better. Now, Noah was going to have to live in the Ark with only his family and the animals.
Scouting’s founder, Lord Baden-Powell, used to give Scouts a similar message: It is one thing to be good, but it is better to do good. We live this idea of service when we follow the Scout Slogan: Do a Good Turn Daily.