Don’t wait till it’s too late
Short essays on festivals, the weekly parsha and other articles.
September 22, 2007
Imagine for a moment that you are Noah. You emerge from the Ark to an empty world. There are no animals, no birds, no people. The silence must have been deafening. I cried for hours the first time I was in Birkenau. But for the destruction of all humanity, days and weeks of crying wouldn’t be enough.
It is no surprise that the first thing Noah did was to plant a vineyard and get drunk.
There is a poignant scene near the end of the film Schindler’s List when Oskar Schindler looks at his car and realizes he could have saved 10 more Jews with it. His watch was worth two Jews. His suit — another Jew. Even though he saved so many, he knows that there were still more that he could have plucked from the gas chambers. And the thought is incredibly painful.
There was once a young man who came to a few Aish UK events, and I noticed that he wasn’t happy, but I never approached him. I felt that perhaps I should; but I didn’t. When I heard that he had thrown himself in front of a train, I was devastated. I asked myself: If I had reached out to him, could I have done something? And in my heart of hearts, I knew the answer was yes.
Noah spent 120 years rebuking his generation, trying to save them. But he failed. Could he have done more? When he emerged from his Ark to an utterly dead world, he knew with certainty that he could have.
It’s always easier to know what we could have done after the fact. The trick, of course, is to know beforehand just how much of a difference you are able to make.
Look around and see who needs reaching out to. Don’t say you can’t. Because afterwards you will know that you could have. As painful and as challenging as it is to properly reach out to people around us, it is a heck of a lot better than waiting till it’s too late… and knowing we could have done more.