Rebecca Masinter

Noach - A Family's Mission

Did you ever ask yourself what Noach and his wife, Naama, did differently than all the other inhabitants of the world 4,000 years ago? Seriously, not one other couple in the entire world raised even one child worthy of being saved from the Flood, while Noach and Naama merited that all their children deserved salvation? Can you possibly begin to imagine the peer pressure they had to battle? We find it difficult to imprint our values on our children when we are surrounded with many impressive role models, teachers, family, and friends. And here we have a family with absolutely no one else in the entire world with their value system and yet all of their children grew up to be reflections of their parents and worthy of being saved! How did they do it? Let me share with you a profound yet simple lesson the Torah is teaching us about child raising. Rashi explains the chronology leading up to the flood. Noach had his first child when he was 500 years old. The flood began when Noach was 600 years old, so his 3 sons at that time were around 100 years old. Noach spent 120 years building the Teyvah in preparation for the Flood, which means that from twenty years before the birth of his first child, and all the way through his sons’ first century, Noach and Naama’s home revolved around building the Teyvah, fulfilling Hashem’s command. Shem, Cham, and Yafes grew up in a home that long before their birth was dedicated to Hashem’s service. They were rocked to sleep as infants to the sound of their father’s saws and hammers and as soon as they grew old enough, they presumably became part of the family mission. That is the secret of their parenting. Interestingly, the Teyvah which they dedicated 120 years to building was an edifice designed to contain and protect those within it. Perhaps that sheds some light on why, unlike Avraham, whose influence extended from his family outwards to the world, Noach and Naama were only able to influence those who lived in their home. Their life was about building protective walls for their family, not breaking down walls to reach the world. And, despite it all, they did manage to shelter their sons in an environment completely devoted to Hashem’s word. The message for parents today is startlingly relevant. The first step in raising children is to build a home dedicated to a mission. When the environment at home is saturated with dedication to Hashem and Torah, the children absorb it, they copy it, and they become part of the mission too. We all know that instructing our children to behave one way, yet modeling another won’t work. Noach and Naama and their incredible success in child raising reminds us that, before we instruct our children how to live, we first have to align our actions with our values. When we spend our days conscientiously and devotedly trying to fulfil Hashem’s will, our children will absorb our values. That is the lesson we can learn from the world’s most successful parents 4,000 years ago.