went in, with his sons, and his wife, and his sons' wives with him to the ark, because of the waters of the Flood (Genesis 7:7).
Rashi remarks that Noah did
not fully believe in the coming of the Flood, and did not enter the ark until forced to do so by the rising water.
When we study the Midrash, the opinions
about Noah appear to be contradictory. At one point the Midrash states that Noah occupied himself with construction of the ark for one hundred and twenty years, and when he told the sinful people that G-d had instructed him to build the ark because of the impending Flood, they ridiculed him and turned a deaf ear to his warnings. On the other hand, we are told that Noah was at fault for failing to reprimand his wayward generation. Which way was it?
The solution to this apparent contradiction
lies in the comment by Rashi. Noah did indeed warn the people of
the punishment that G-d intended to inflict upon them. The reason that Noah's words were ineffective was that Noah himself was not fully convinced of the inevitability of the punitive decree, as evidenced by the fact that he did not enter the ark until forced to do so by the rising water.
We may think that when we teach or
guide, whether it be our children, our students, or people who look to us for leadership, we fulfill our obligation when we merely convey the message. The Midrashic comments on Noah indicate that this is not enough. Unless we are firmly convinced of the truth of the message, our words will have a hollow ring.
Noah may have been a tzaddik,
but he was not a leader. When the Talmud holds him accountable for the loss of his generation, it is not because he did not preach, and not because of any duplicity in being a man whose behavior did not conform to his words, but because he did not fully believe his own message.