Choose Your Role Models Carefully – Parashat Noach

October 5, 2018 at 5:23 PM , , ,

“…..Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations….” – (Bereishit 6:9)

״…נח איש צדיק תמים היה בדורותיו…״ – בראשית ו,ט

Some of our Sages interpret this in praise of Noach: How much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more righteous. Others interpret it disparagingly: Relative to his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Avraham’s generation, he would not have been regarded as significant. – Rashi 

Noahs Ark

The two opinions brought by Rashi do not necessarily disagree regarding Noach’s actual level of righteousness. It’s possible that all agree that in comparison to Avraham, Noach’s righteousness was far from ideal.  Nevertheless, Noach was not entirely to blame for that. Had he lived in a more righteous generation, the positive influence of his environment would have assisted him in being even greater than he was. Accordingly, these two opinions are only debating what the Torah seeks to teach and communicate to us by saying that he was “perfect in his generation”.

Some Sages understood that these words came to inspire us by highlighting Noach’s praise. Despite the negative influences around him, Noach was nevertheless righteous, and had he lived in another era he would have reached even greater heights. The second opinion agrees that Noach’s inner strength was praiseworthy, but we must be careful not to emulate all aspects of his behavior (such as not pleading for mercy on behalf of other, as noted in the Zohar vol. 1, 67b,) considering that he could have done better, at least in a better environment. In order to make clear that not all of Noach’s deeds should be emulated, the Torah emphasizes that Noach was only perfect relative to the conditions he lived in. But as an ideal to aim for, in some areas, we must aspire to be even greater than Noach.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 25, pp. 20-21


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