Actually, while Burke gets the credit for this great quote, he didn’t say it first.
When the people create the golden calf, G-d offers to destroy all the people and create a new nation just from Moses:
Now, let Me be, that My anger may blaze forth against them and that I may destroy them, and make of you a great nation.”
But G-d does not actually say “let me be.” This translation is very loose, while the text is quite specific: G-d uses a verb form of Noah’s name! He is telling Moses to “be like Noah, and let me do my thing.”
There are four major messages in this one word here:
1: G-d is telling us that Noah did not do anything to stop G-d from bringing the flood and destroying the world. Noah never advocated or argued. He just minded his own business. So, in using this word, the Torah is connecting Noah directly with passivity.
2: G-d is challenging or even tempting Moses: Should I start all over with you, just as I did with Noah? Or are you going to make yourself a better man than was Noah, “a righteous man in his generation”?
3: By bringing up a very old name and situation, G-d is telling not just Moses, but also each and every one of us, that we are offered the very same challenge that Burke identifies: when confronted with evil, do we do nothing?
4: In the outcome of this episode (where Moses persuasively argues that G-d should save the Jewish people), we are to learn another lesson: not only should Noah have argued, but we, too, should refuse to accept that any specific future is inevitable, ordained by G-d or man and so out of our hands. On the contrary: we are empowered to follow in Moses’ lead, ignore Noah’s passivity, and change the course of history. Even if G-d Himself proposes otherwise.
For evil to be defeated, we must act.