The Navi Yeshayah (54:10) refers to the mabul, the Great Flood, as “The Waters of Noach.” This sounds like Noach is blamed for the flood – so the question is: Why such a harsh name? What was Noach at fault for?
The Zohar in two places says that this is because Noach did not beseech G-d to have mercy on his generation.
It took Noach 120 years to build the teivah (ark), and if someone would come over to him and ask “Reb Noach, what are you building? Why do you need such a large house if you don’t have such a large family?” he would say, “No, no, I’m not building a house; I’m building an ark!”
The person would ask, “Why do you need an ark? Are you going to go sailing?” And Noach would explain, “Well, G-d is angry that the people are not listening to Him, and he’s going to bring a flood. Whomever G-d chooses will be saved in this Ark.”
There were two deficiencies in Noach’s approach: One is, as the Zohar says, he did not pray that G-d should have mercy on the generation. He also did not go out to the people and tell them that they should change their ways. During those 120 years that it took him to build the teivah, he would respond to those who asked him what he was doing, but he was not proactive about it.
By contrast, Avraham Avinu prayed for his generation. When G-d told him that He planned to destroy the wicked cities of Sedom and Amorah, Avraham implored G-d with very strong language, “Choliloh Lechoh – How can You do it, Almighty G-d?!”
The Rebbe brings a parable to highlight the difference between the two approaches. Noach’s approach is referred to as “a tzaddik in peltz.” (Peltz is Yiddish for a fur coat.)
It’s freezing cold outside. Now, there are two ways of warming up the environment: one is to gather some wood and make a bonfire so everyone can be warm; the other way is to put on a big fur coat. In the second option, a person is warm, but everyone around him remains freezing cold.
Noach was the tzaddik in a fur coat. He made sure to take care of himself, his wife and children. However, he did not take care of the world at large. What did Avraham Avinu do (according to the parable) when it was cold? He brought wood and made a little fire so that everyone around him was warm.
The lesson is a very simple. It is the obligation of every one of us to copy a page out of the book of Avraham. If there’s something we can do to bring warmth to the world, to bring commitment to the world, to go out of our way to help others – that is the mission that each and every single one of us has.
Noach did not do this, and the Navi names the mabul after him. As quoted above from the Zohar, this is because he did not ask for mercy on behalf of his generation.
We should beseech Almighty G-d to have mercy on our generation. After everything that our generation has gone through, and after everything that we’ve experienced in the past two years – from now on there should only be besuros tovos, happy tidings, from Jews all over the world, enjoying happiness and gladness of heart!