Rachael’s Thoughts on Parshat Noah
It takes ten generations for the world to move from Adam to Noah, ten generations to go from creation to destruction. Yet, ten generations after Noah, we will read of Abraham. Throughout the ages, Jewish commentaries have compared Noah and Abraham, as they represent such different portraits of a hero.
Noah, knowing the world will be destroyed, doesn’t argue with God – he simply obeys. Abraham, being told a region of Sodom will be destroyed, mounts a moral argument with God about sweeping judgments. It seems that Abraham is the model of a hero, yet Noah and Abraham are both described with the same word: ‘Tzadik’.
The Sages tell us that a righteous person, a ‘tzadik’, is someone who stands firm in their morals, no matter what is going on around them. In other words, a hero is defined by context. Noah is righteous because he doesn’t have blood on his hands. He doesn’t actively save people, but he doesn’t actively kill them, which was the cultural norm of his time. He is righteous because he is blameless. Abraham is righteous because he moves beyond being blameless and speaks for the potential victim. His argument with God is not for those who are suffering, it is for those who will suffer in the future. In this regard, both Noah and Abraham stand side by side in their righteousness – they both take their cultural norms one step further.
When we think of Torah in our lives, we do not think of it as standing far from us and our culture. On the contrary, we contextualize Torah into our lives and have it strengthen us to take even one step forward. A hero could be someone who stays calm when others are lashing out, or someone who sees the outcome of suffering and tries to intervene before it starts, or someone who gives their time to support someone in a culture where every minute is accounted for and scheduled.
Noah and Abraham, so distinctly different, both show us there are heroes among us all the time, we just need to understand that subtle gestures can also be heroic.
I’d like to wish everyone a sweet and peaceful Shabbat –our Jewish time to regroup, rest, and reinvigorate.