Keeping Afloat

October 16, 2017 at 2:10 AM , , ,

“…Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations…” – beraishis 6:9

נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו – בראשית ו, ט

Parshas Noach opens with a short description of Noach: “He was a righteous man, perfect in his generations.” Why does the Torah qualify Noach’s righteousness as, “in his generations”?

Rashi offers two explanations: “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 at all.

Keeping Afloat

Now, according to the second opinion brought by Rashi, why does the Torah make a point of telling us that Noach was not objectively righteous and was only regarded as such in comparison to the people of his time? The Torah goes to great lengths to avoid even the shame of non-Kosher animals (see Bava Basra 123a)! Certainly, the Torah would not add words just to shame Noach!

Evidently, the Torah emphasizes that Noach was less thanperfect in order to teach us an important lesson that we could not have learned without knowing this detail.

The Hebrew word for “ark,”teivah, also means, “word.” Accordingly, Chassidus explains that the safety from the flood that the teivah provided Noach teaches us that in order to save yourself from the “raging floods” of worry aboutparnasah, and from preoccupation with materialism, you must “enter theteivah,” immerse yourself and cleave to the words of tefilah (prayer), and Torah. (See Keser Shem Tov, Hosafos 11; Torah Ohr, Noach, pp. 8c-9a)

One might argue, however, that perhaps this is effective only for the righteous, like Noach. What’s to say that even those who are spiritually deficient and imperfect can save themselves from the “raging floods of worry” by “entering the teivah” of tefilah and Torah?

To dispel this misconception, the Torah emphasizes that the refuge provided by the “teivah” is not only for the perfect and righteous—for if Noach had lived in the generation of Avraham “he wouldn’t have been regarded as significant at all.” This teaches that whether you are actually righteous or not, you too can be saved by entering the teivah, immersing yourself energetically in the words of tefilah and Torah. And like Noach, whose family (and even the animals) was saved along with him, your entry to the teivah will impact everyone around you, and in fact, all of existence.

—Likutei Sichos vol. 5, pp. 281-283


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