In accordance with Jewish tradition, out of respect, I do not write G-d's name, even an English substitute, in a place where it may be discarded or erased.
While we have been taught of the wonderful things that Noah did to save the world, Noah has endured harsh criticism through the ages leading us to wonder why he was both "good" and "bad" at the same time. The Torah (Bible) tells us that Noah was a righteous man. However, the words, "for his times" are added, which is somewhat of a put-down.
Some sages explain that Noah deserved censure because he was preoccupied with saving himself and family, while ignoring the needs of others. A subtly different reason given is that, convinced of the hopelessness of the situation, Noah neglected to pray for the salvation of the rest of the world.
Noah was the lonely man of faith living in a depraved world, full of wickedness. He devoted a good chunk of his life to single-handedly building an ark on G-d's command, all the while suffering threats and humiliation from onlookers. He was the first conservationist, directly responsible for the propagation of plant and animal life after the flood, and had the strength and confidence to pick up the tangled remnants of existence and start rebuilding the world all over again at a relatively advanced age.
Noah may well have spent every waking moment of a long and honorable life devoted to G-d, but the Torah still records that more could have been done. Without being too esoteric, there is a subtle but crucial distinction between dedicating oneself to G-d's tasks, and dedicating oneself to G-d.
If we view ourselves as an employee of G-d with a job to do, as long as we put in the maximum effort while acquitting ourselves honorably and responsibly, then, even if we fail, we can still sleep calmly at night. However, if we are less concerned with our personal scorecard and instead focus purely on G-d's purposes and desires, then we can never surrender nor relax, no matter the difficulties that challenge.
When Noah assessed the situation and recognized that his prayers would not improve the situation, did that acceptance excuse him from trying again and again? Noah has no blame for the fact that he alone was saved, but we must never make peace with a system where the many are lost and the few are saved.
Can we honestly state that we have exhausted every option, explored every path on our life-long mission to save someone, something or even the world? And if the person, thing or world stubbornly refuses to be changed, does that excuse us from continuing to try? Noah did the best he could under the circumstances, but the Torah lesson is that as long as another person is in physical or spiritual danger we must not accept the inevitability of fate and content ourselves with self-preservation. We must try and try again, risking life and soul, to help save the person, thing (or the world) or at least that part of the world in which we can have an influence.
Rabbi Konikov is director of Chabad of the Space and Treasure Coasts and can be reached at email@example.com.