Be a Noah - נח

Thursday, 19 October, 2023 - 11:02 pm

Be a Noah 

The Torah introduces the story of the great flood by describing Noah with beautiful praises:  

These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God. (Genesis 6:9)

Despite the beautiful adjectives "righteous" and "perfect", the sages debate whether these terms are meant as praise or critique. As Rashi explains:  

in his generations: Some of our Sages interpret it [the word בְּדֹרֹתָיו] favorably: How much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more righteous. Others interpret it derogatorily: In comparison with his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Abraham's generation, he would not have been considered of any importance. 

We understand why the Torah would seek to praise Noah because that would explain why he was saved contrary to the rest of his generation. It is, however, difficult to explain why the Torah would choose to diminish Noah's stature; why would the Torah go out of its way to highlight that Noah was less than perfect and that, in comparison to Abraham, he was insignificant? 

The Talmud (Sanhedrin 37a) teaches: ״each and every person is obligated to say: The world was created for me", meaning that every individual must take responsibility for the world, and cannot assume that someone else will solve the world's problems. If a problem has come to one's attention, one must act as if the entire world was created for him alone, for him to solve this problem. 

The Torah, therefore, highlights that Noah was not an extraordinary person. Indeed, in comparison to Abraham he would be considered insignificant. Yet this is a profound message to each one of us. We don't have to be extraordinary people to accomplish the extraordinary. Anybody can be righteous and wholesome in his or her generation. Anybody can take action to save the world regardless of what other people are  doing. Each of us can be a Noah, bringing comfort, salvation, and serenity to others and ultimately to the entire world. 

Adapted from the teachings of the Rebbe, Lekutei Sichos vol. 5 p. 282

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