In this week’s parsha, Hashem tells Noach to build an ark for his family and certain animals, and to stay in it while Hashem destroys the world.
Why do we need Parshat Noach? Hashem is destroying everything anyway; why is this parsha necessary? Why can’t the Torah just skip it and go straight to Avraham?
In Pirkei Avot it states that this parsha comes to show us Hashem’s patience regarding reward and punishment. We see that Hashem waited 10 generations from Adam to Noach until He actually brought the mabul as punishment for the depravity that existed in the newly minted universe. We see that Hashem waited 10 generations from Noach to Avraham in order to give them [who is “them”?] the reward [what reward?] in Avraham’s zechut.
Throughout this parsha, we also see that Hashem had so much patience. Noach was building the ark for 120 years. Rashi says that Hashem hoped the people in Noach’s generation would do teshuva when they saw Noach building an ark, but instead Noach’s peers scorned him and did not do teshuva. The 40 days of continuous rain were a bracha up until Hashem decided it was time to bring the mabul. The flood was the generation’s punishment for not doing teshuva after all those chances Hashem gave them.
After going through Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Sukkos, we start asking Hashem for rain (by inserting “Mashiv haruach u’morid ha’Ggeshem” in the shemona esrei). Implicit in our tefillot is the hope that we will not to be punished with flooding because Hashem’s patience has run out after we inevitably sin. We want Hashem to have the patience that resulted in the blessing of Avraham. We must take advantage of Hashem’s patience, since the punishment of the dor hamabul came from not taking advantage of it.
We, too, must have patience and put our trust in Hashem, even if we see no immediate reward. After the spiritual climax of the Yamim Noraim, we go through the winter when it is not as easy to put in the effort of coming close to Hashem. Yet, like a farmer who waters his crops for many months before reaping the benefit of his toil, if we consistently maintaining our spiritual crops we will reap the great reward of internalizing our relationship with Hashem.