This page presents insights by Rabbi Tuvia Bolton on the weekly Torah portion.
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Parshat Noach (5764)
Our section begins by telling us that Noach was a totally righteous and holy man in his generation. 'Tzadik Tamim b'dorotov'
Rashi explains this with two opposite opinions:
The first is; If Noach would have been in a better generation, one without sinners, he would have been free to be even more righteous
The Second is the opposite: If Noach was only called righteous in comparison to his evil peers, but In the generation of Abraham he would be NOTHING!
According to the Chassidic book "Tanya" a Tzadik is the highest level a human can attain. It means constantly feeling the truth i.e the Oneness of the Creator and purpose of creation in every deed, word, thought and fiber of one's being.
But only Jews can truly feel this Oneness; that is why they are called 'sons of G-d'! (Chapters 1&2)
If so it seems that Noach, the prototype of all non-Jews, attained the level of 'Tzadik' reserved only for Jews.
Even more; The Jewish name for gentiles is 'Bnei Noach'; 'the offspring of Noach'. So it seems logical that as their progenitor he must have inherited to them the potential of being a 'Tzadik' as well! So he passed it down to all mankind for all generations.
If so, what is the difference between the Jews and the gentiles?! Why wasn't Noach called the first Jew (rather than Abraham several years later) when ,according to the first opinion above, he was a Tzadik?
Also, the second opion does not seem to make sense. If the Torah tells us Noach was a 'Tzadik Tamim' (Totally righteous) then how can the second opinion say that in a different generation he would be a 'NOTHING'?
Finally, the Torah is a practical and positive instruction book from the Creator of the universe to each of us: what possible practical benefit is there in telling us Noach was Nothing…. this EVEN IF IT'S TRUE?
To understand all this here is story [also connected to a saying of the Baal Shem Tov: G-d's commandment to Noach (7:1): "Enter the Taeva (Ark)" means that we too must 'enter' the 'Taeva' (words) of Torah learning and prayer.]
The fourth leader of Chabad; Rebbe 'Shmuel' (1834-1882) often would take mysterious carriage rides in the country.
Once he directed his driver out of his usual path and told him to stop his carriage before an inn.
The Rebbe entered the inn and found it empty except for two Jewish children. He asked them why they were alone and they explained that their mother had gone shopping and their father, who owned the inn, had left that morning and was supposed to return any minute.
The Rebbe asked the children if they knew how to read Hebrew and if he could test them. They readily agreed and ran to get their books. The older one knew how to read and explain from some of the Five Books of Moses but the younger knew only how to read a few Psalms.
"Good!" said the Rebbe, "Let's say some Psalms together." They brought two books of Psalms and began reciting; the Rebbe led, reading each word slowly and clearly in an emotional melody and the children chimed in.
Meanwhile their mother returned but when she saw the Rebbe's carriage and heard the melodies coming from inside she went around to the back door, quietly entered the kitchen and stood there listening from behind a closet.
The Rebbe's voice was so beautifully plaintive and deeply touching that she began crying silently. Bitter tears ran down her cheeks all the time they were reading.
After some fifteen minutes the Rebbe closed his book, and got ready to leave the house. But as he reached the door, he stopped, thought deeply for a few seconds, returned to the children opened his book again and said, "Come let's read a bit more".
After five more minutes of saying Psalms together he again closed his book, said Shalom to the boys and left the house.
Their mother moved to her very soul at what she had just heard then entered the room drying her eyes. She asked the children if they knew who the man was and why he came but they had no idea. They were just sure that he was someone very special and couldn't wait for their father to arrive so they could tell him about it.
But he didn't arrive.
Hours passed, the sun set, they fell asleep in their chairs worrying and waiting. What could have happened?
Then, after midnight suddenly they heard a rapping at the window and their father's voice. "Let me in! Open the door!" They ran to the door and opened it; their father stumbled in and fainted on the floor!
Several minutes later when he came to, his wife made him a warm cup of tea he sat down and told his shocking story.
"I went early this morning to collect a debt from one of the local farmers. He received me cordially and told me to follow him to the barn, about a ten minutes walk from his house, where he kept his money so he could pay me.
But as soon as we got there he locked the door behind us, suddenly spun around, knocked me to the ground, tied my hands and feet so I couldn't move and announced that he decided to settle the debt his own way by killing me! I couldn't run and I simply had no chance against him.
He then began searching for his axe to finish the job and paid no attention to me as I wept and begged for my life.
But I was lucky, actually it was a miracle! He couldn’t find the axe! He looked high and low and finally concluded it must be in his house. So he dragged me to one of the beams, tied me to it, put a gag around my mouth, went to the door and as he was leaving, turned and said, "You can cry all day and night here Jew, no one will hear. And, oh, I'll be right back, don't go away Ha Ha!!!" And slammed the barn door behind him.
But then another miracle happened! A minute later the door opened again and the farmer's wife entered! She had just finished some work in the field and had no idea of what had just transpired. But as soon she saw me tied up and crying she understood that it was her husband's doing.
At first she was afraid, saying that if she untied me her husband would kill her for sure. But finally when I told her she could go back to the field and when she saw her husband leave the house she could come to meet him as though for the first time and he wouldn't suspect her, she listened to reason and set me free.
She then told me not to run far from the barn because her husband might notice me but rather to hide in one of the piles of hay nearby the barn and then leave late at night when no one would notice.
We both ran outside, she back to the field and I to the nearest haystack where I buried myself as deeply as possible and waited and prayed.
Just minutes later I heard the barn door open and then a flurry of furious curses. The ogre came running outside like a madman and was standing just several feet from me yelling and striking at all the haystacks and everything around him with his axe but he didn't hit me. Thank G-d! I've been hiding in that haystack till just an hour ago… I ran here without stopping. It’s a pure miracle that I'm alive!"
When his wife and children told him about the 'mysterious visitor' that came earlier in the day he understood that must have been was the Lubavitcher Rebbe. And then they realized that the two times they read Psalms was what saved him! The first set saved him in the barn and then the second set saved him later in the haystack. Somehow the Rebbe sensed his danger and even more incredibly, went out of his way to save his life.
This explains our questions. Why does the Torah give two opposite interpretations of Noach being a Tzadik.
Noach was truly a Tzadik. Therefore his offspring, if they walk in his path and do the seven Noahide Commandments properly (i.e. because they were commanded to Moses), have a place in heaven and in the world to come along with the righteous of the Jewish people. (See Maimonides Hil, M'lachim 8:11 and Sanhedren chap. 10 mishna 1,2)
And what it says in the Tanya about gentiles not being Tzadikim is referring to those gentiles that do not do the Noahide commandments.
But nevertheless Noach was lacking something. And that is what Rashi is referring to in his second explanation; that Noach would be 'NOTHING' in the generation of Abraham.
He's coming to teach a very practical lesson; the difference between the responsibility to G-d of the Jew and of a Gentile.
True, Noach was a Tzadik and wasn’t affected by his evil generation. But he didn't try to affect them either; he built an ark and opened the doors but, something like the farmer's wife in our story, he did what he was told and no more. Rather he was concerned about his own welfare.
But Abraham did MORE than he was told. He went OUT of his way to try to save even one person and didn't think of himself at all, like the Rebbe in our story.
Only this, changing the world through self-sacrifice, can bring the world to perfection. That is why Abraham was the first Jew;
Noach was a great man but did NOTHING to change humanity. (That is what Rashi means in his second interpretation that he would have been 'nothing').But Abraham risked his life to change the world (therefore his name was changed to 'Avraham' meaning the 'Father of all Nations').
There are two important lessons here: The first is to learn from Noach and not let the evil of the world bring us down and the second to learn from Abraham and do all we can to 'lift' the world.
And this is especially relevant to us today, now.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe said that just as Noach entered a new fresh world after the flood we too are entering a totally new changed world; the age of Moshiach that we have been awaiting for some 2,000 years.
In just one instant the world can change to be the way it is supposed to be; the way G-d intended when He created it: no war, strife, pain, disease or lacking of any sort, where everyone will feel the Oneness of G-d and be interested in serving the Creator.
But it depends on us. Like Noach we must ignore things that bring us to 'evil' (anger, lust, selfishness, sadness etc) and like Abraham we must 'open our eyes' and do all we can to positively improve the world around us.
It may seem hard to believe but just one more good deed, word or even thought can tilt the scales and bring.............
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