What is the lesson of the Great Flood? We read this week that the world became so corrupt and evil that the only way forward was to start over. G-d sent the flood because “the earth had corrupted itself before G-d, and the earth was filled with violence.” [6:11]
Why was this necessary? Certainly G-d could have orchestrated history in such a way that this was never necessary, that the descendents of Adam would be as righteous as the descendents of Noach, such that, for all the evil in the world, that level of destruction would never have been required. Since no one before Noach and his children remains in the world today, why was this necessary? And why did we need to know about it?
I think when we reflect upon this, one of the more obvious lessons to be derived is simply that evil does exist. The Torah is opposing moral relativism, the idea that there is no absolute Good or absolute Evil, just differing “truths” for each person. Of course, there is something inherently contradictory in postulating that the supreme truth is that there is no absolute truth, but such are the conundrums of theoretical philosophy. I say theoretical, because once we interact with the real world, even moral relativists believe that certain things are “absolutely” wrong and must be treated as such. But nonetheless, despite the lack of logic in the theory or its application, moral relativism, or at least the idea that we can set our own values, has had traction throughout history and especially in recent centuries.
The Torah tells us that there is indeed such a thing as an absolute evil, and requires us to oppose it. But even in the opposition, we must follow the good. The ends do not justify the means. The idea of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world, is not an amorphous concept of making the world better simply in our own view, but unifying the world as a place where Good is paramount.