By Rabbi Raymond Beyda
"And the land had become corrupted before G-d and the land had become
filled with robbery" [Beresheet 6, 9]
Noah was really a creative individual who had the talent to bring his
father Lemekh's dream into fruition. Lemekh named his newborn son Noah
[rest] stating: ''This one will bring us rest from our work and the toil
of our hands" [Ber, 5, 9]. Everyone is aware of the fact that Noah built
the Ark that served as the sanctuary for all living things during the year
of the flood but not many know that he also invented the plow, the scythe
and the axe --tools that eased the backbreaking work of the farm [Midrash
Tanhuma 11]. These timesaving devices gave the people of Noah's generation
more free time than their hard-working ancestors.
One might think that such a blessing would yield more time for the
spiritual aspects of life, but instead, the new-found leisure time
resulted in the corruption of mankind. Crime, violence and immorality
became the rage. Hashem instructed Noah to publicly build an Ark and
thereby, perhaps, prompt his neighbors to repent. He spent 120 years at
work on his floating animal reserve but to no avail. People only
degenerated more and more during that time until Hashem finalized His
decision to wipe out mankind via the Flood.
An analysis of the downfall will reveal that the more Hashem blessed the
people the more wicked they became. The more free time they had the more
they degenerated into immoral creatures. Jealousy of another's success not
only made them unhappy with their own bounty but also brought them to
lives of robbery and even murder.
In America at the turn of the 20th century most workers had to work almost
14 hours a day for 6 or 7 days a week just to earn the basic necessities.
Child labor was also common in the sweatshops of the manufacturing sector.
Crime? No one really had much time for it. Immorality?
Who had time or energy for that kind of activity? The post World War Two
world is quite another story. Since the end of the War, America has
created the richest lifestyle on the planet with oodles of free time and a
whole new industry of entertainment and leisure. Theme parks, golf
courses, restaurants, sports, theatres [even the "home theater" variety],
vacations and spas are a multi-billion dollar industry.
Unfortunately, this generation has repeated the mistake of the Generation
of the Flood. Freedom from the burden of earning a basic living is a
blessing that can be turned into spiritual time. If the time is well spent
it will earn a person his or her eternity. Doing acts of kindness [hesed]
and learning Torah are not only pleasurable ways to utilize the spare time
that timesaving advances produce, but they also yield large amounts of
Over 200 years ago Rav Haim Volozhin Zt'l said that America would be the
last stop on the long journey of our exile. The redemption that he
predicted can be earned by using our leisure time in spiritually
productive ways. It is the best way to keep out of trouble and to EARN
WHILE WE LEARN. May we all get the message of the generation of the Flood
and correct their mistake by valuing time and using it productively.
Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org.