In this week’s Parsha, the Torah teaches us that the world was filled with violence and immorality. Rashi comments that whenever there is violence and immorality in society – society has broken down - destruction follows. That idea itself should give us pause, especially in the United States of America where violence and immorality are almost an accepted part of life.
Yet, there was one man – one righteous man – Noah – who stood apart from the rest of the world. G-d decided to save him and his family from the rest of the world so that He could – so to speak – push the restart button and begin the world anew. Noah would be the one to build that world.
At the end of last week’s Parsha, we read the names of 10 generations from Adam until Noah. This week we read about another 10 generations from Noach until Avraham. These 20 generations cover a period of about 2000 years.
When we look at the way the Torah describes each generation, surprisingly we find almost nothing. The Torah says, “he lived some years and had a son. He lived this amount of years after his son. His total years were this amount.” And the Torah says this for 10 generations last week and 10 generations this week. The only difference is that in this week’s Parsha, the Torah does not add the years of the person’s life. This is very strange. The Torah gives us no details about the lives of these 20 people, other than for Noah and Avraham. Yet, they spanned so many years. So, what is the significance of mentioning all these people?
A possible solution is that the Torah is teaching us that a person can live for years and years and not make a single contribution to the world. A person can go through a life of hundreds of years and not make a difference in this world . . . not accomplish anything. However, there was one exception – Noah. The Torah devotes quite a bit of space to Noah. Why? Because he made a difference in the world, yet, he was only one man. If he had not been a righteous person, the world would have been completely destroyed. Therefore, we can conclude, that each one of his actions and decisions affected the entire civilization. Perhaps that is a lesson that the Torah is teaching us. Everything we do has consequences. Everything we do makes a difference. A person should say, “I do count. I do make a difference.”
Every person in the world is important. Every person has a task to fulfill on this earth. Every person counts. Yet, we don’t always feel that way. Many times, we feel that what we do really makes no difference. If I voice my opinion, will it really make a difference?
So, people don’t get involved because they feel they won’t make a difference. Well, from all of Tanach, we learn that every individual does make a difference. The Tanach doesn’t talk about everything that went on in the world during the time of Avraham, nor during the time of Joseph, nor during the time of Moses, nor during any time. The Tanach always emphasizes the life of particular people - Avraham, Joseph, Moses, Samuel, King David, King Solomon, Eliyahu and so on. Why? Because the world is made up of individual people and the actions of each and every individual make a difference.
If I am a moral person . . . if I get along with other people . . . if I do the Mitzvos that G-d demands of me in the Torah, I do make a difference. I make the world a better place. I can influence other people. I can even influence President Trump. Neither I or he might realize it . . . I might not see any effect that I have on him, but a positive effect is there. G-d teaches us that in the Torah through the emphasis upon the individual.