Parshas Noach 5758

The role of the Tzaddikim and teachers in every generation
is to instruct people how to increase their faith and trust in Hashem.

"These are the generations (offspring) of Noach, Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noach walked with Hashem. Noach had three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes. The world was corrupt before Hashem, and the land was filled with crime and violence " (Bereishis 6:9-11)

Reb Levi Yiztchok of Berditchev, the Kedushas Levi, explains that there are two types of Tzaddikim (righteous) in the world.

The first serves Hashem just for himself but doesn't get involved with the people to guide them back to the service of Hashem. The example is Noach.

The second serves Hashem and tries to guide others along to do Teshuva and to serve Hashem. The example is Avraham Avinu.

R' Yitzchok Luria, the Holy Arizal from Sfas, revealed that this was the reason for Noach's punishment (the ordeal of the flood). Because of the fact that Noach was interested in serving Hashem alone but not in teaching and reproving people of his generation, he was reincarnated as Moshe Rabbenu. This indeed was Moshe's principal job throughout his years of leading the Jewish people; to constantly reprove and judge the people.

The Gemarra (Sanhedrin 99b) states, "One who teaches Torah to the son of his fellow is considered as if he had given birth to him." This refers to Avraham whose name can be read as an acrostic, "Av Hamon Goyim", the father of the masses from every nation, (whom he instructed in the tenets of monotheism) .

Nevertheless regarding Noach the verse states, "These are the offspring (both physical and spiritual) of Noach, . . . Noach had three sons, Shem, Cham and Yafes." The meaning is "these" and only "these". They are his three sons. This is in marked contrast to Avraham as mentioned before.

"Noach walked with Hashem." He did exactly that, he walked with Hashem; but with Hashem only, and not with the people of his generation. He didn't try to bring them closer to Hashem's Service.

In the Bircas Hamzon after a meal, in the paragraph beginning "BaMarom", we ask to "find grace and good understanding in the eyes of Hashem and of (our) fellow men". The last verse in Parshas Bereishis says, "And Noach found grace in the eyes of Hashem." (Bereishis 6:8) In the eyes of Hashem, but not in the eyes of his generation. Since he didn't work to bring them back to the service of Hashem, he was ultimately scorned by them.

This points out the meaning of what Rashi brings (Bereishis 7:7) that Noach was a man of limited faith. How could it be that one of whom is called a
". . .righteous man, perfect in his generation", didn't pray on behalf of his generation to have the decree of the flood rescinded?

It is as explained by R' Levi Yitzchok above that there are two types of Tzaddikim. Noach didn't reprove his generation. His service was purely personal. "Who am I to reprove them and pray for them", he said to himself.

In light of the above, the answer of the R' Yisroel of Ruzhin to a famous question from this Parsha can be understood. The verse states, "These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation. Noach walked with Hashem." On the words, ". . .Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation", Rashi comments, "Some of our sages interpret these words as praise for Noach. If he was a Tzaddik in a generation of corruption, how much greater a Tzaddik would he have been would he have lived in a generation of righteous people."

"Yet some of our sages interpret these words as being derogatory. In his generation Noach was considered a Tzaddik, would he have lived in the times of Avraham he would not be considered righteous at all."

Virtually all of the Chassidic Torah commentaries ask, if it is possible to understand that the Torah is praising Noach, why do we need to mention the derogatory interpretation?

R' Yisrael of Ruzhin says that the purpose of a Tzaddik in this world is to instill and encourage Emunas (faith and trust in) Hashem in the people of the generation. Noach, says Rashi (Bereishis 7:7), was a man of limited faith, therefore he didn't endeavor to instill faith in the people of his generation. Avraham Avinu on the other hand, made it his life's work to bring Emunah in Hashem to as many people as possible, as it says, (Bereishis 15:6) "And Avraham caused others to believe in Hashem. . .".

If we are to lean towards praising Noach, it can be said that he didn't teach and instill Emunah in his generation since they were basically beyond hope. Were he from the generation of Avraham, surely he would also have made it his life's work. Nevertheless the Sages needed to learn the interpretation which is derogatory to Noach to extract an important lesson. Since Noach was a righteous person himself, he shined in his generation even though he didn't try to teach them Emunah. Were he from the generation of Avraham, a generation open and willing to hear about Hashem, and to grow in their Emunah, he would not be considered a Tzaddik or teacher. Since he wasn't working to instill Emunah in the generation, he was not fulfilling the role of a Tzaddik.

I believe that the Rizhiner Rebbe is hinting here at something very important. Every generation requires it's teachers, masters and Tzaddikim. Every individual also needs his personal Rebbe to provide spiritual guidance. How is it possible to know who are the proper teachers, who is leading students on a true path, and who is misleading them or only building an empire for himself?

Parshas Noach contains the touchstone. If the Tzaddik teacher is promoting Emunah and guiding and inspiring students to develop a firmer belief and trust in Hashem, it is a confirmation that the Tzaddik/teacher is indeed genuine.

There are lessons in sanctifying speech to be learned from the Ark of Noach.

Make yourself an ark (Teva) of gofer wood, divide it into compartments and smear it with pitch inside and out. This is how you shall construct it. The ark's length shall be 300 cubits, its width 50 cubits, and its height 30 cubits. Make a skylight for the ark, the top of the ark shall be a cubit wide (with the sides slanted down). Place the opening of the ark on its side. Make three floors in the ark." (Bereishis 6:14-16)

In Hebrew, the term for Ark, Teva also means "word".

The Kedushas Levi finds in the measurements of the Ark a lesson in proper speech. One must weigh his words carefully before speaking. When one builds his Ark/Teva, he must measure out its height. Height hints at considering the greatness and loftiness of the Creator.

One then measures the width. Width hints at the area between to opposite sides. These are the two opposite but complementary aspects of Divine Service, Ahava and Yirah (Love and Awe or Fear). This is also a result of considering the greatness and loftiness of the Creator.

Then one measures out the length. This is the Divine endowment or bounty which comes into the world as a result of carefully guarded and measured speech which is in the service of Hashem.

R' Shlomo of Radomsk, the Tiferes Shlomo says, ". . . place the opening of the ark on its side. . . ", refers to the opening of the portal of Divine endowment and bounty into the physical world. This opening shall be on the side. It is not Hashem's intention that a person should place his primary focus on his material needs and desires, rather, they should be on the side or secondary.

Moreover says the Tiferes Shlomo, when a person will put his full intention into every word (teva) of his prayers, making that his primary concern, then the material needs will come automatically, from the side so to speak, and the world will be full of Divine bounty.

The Tzaddik Works on Behalf of His People

A secular Jew in Israel from a Chassidic background once related the following story.

His son, a commander of a Tank Artillery division had become vehemently anti-religious. He even went so far as to complain about a photograph of his grandfather which hung on the wall in his father's house. The photograph of the grandfather, in traditional Chassidic garb with peyos and a long beard, was particularly offensive to the young soldier. "That man is a barbarian. Take the picture down", he would shriek.

One day, the soldier became religious! What happened?

It was June 1967, the Six Day War, in the Sinai Desert. The tanks were all spread out. If attacked, they would have to regroup and fight together. Suddenly, Egyptian tanks approached. The commander turned his tank around and raced back to the platoon. The fastest way was straight across an open stretch.

Suddenly, he saw an old man davening, enwrapped in tallis and tefillin, right in his path. "Doesn't the fool have any place better to pray than in the middle of the desert", he screamed. "I'm going to run him over." But at the last minute he swerved to avoid the old man. The Egyptian tank in hot pursuit behind him didn't have any such tinge of sympathy. As it ran over the old Jew it exploded into a fiery inferno as it tripped a landmine underneath.

When the soldier visited his father after the war, the photo was still on the wall. Although he had seen it hundreds of times before, the face familiar in a strange way. He recognized the face of the old Jew who was praying in the desert.

"I realized that he was praying for me that I should live", explained the newly religious soldier, and I want to be like him."