This week’s Parasha is Noach (Noah), Genesis 6:9-11:32. Some of the key points in chapter 6 are (1) Noach was a righteous man, blameless in his time; Noach walked with God (Gen. 6:9). (2) The earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence (Gen. 6:11). And (3) HaShem decided to rectify the situation by bringing judgment on the corruption and violence, destroying all the earth in a flood but saving a remnant – Noach, his family and a pre-determined number of animals (Gen. 6:13-22).
Based on the phrase “blameless in his time” it has been said that Noach, while he was righteous and walked with HaShem, he might not have been considered righteous if compared to Abraham. In a Sefaria worksheet on this week’s parasha, David Schlusselberg notes
No doubt about it—Noah was a good person. In fact, the Torah tells us that he was the most righteous person in his generation. But, perhaps that’s like praising someone for being the best player on a losing team!1
Might there be other reasons to compare the righteousness of Noach to that of Abraham?
One reason may be found in the phrase, “Noach walked with God.” Rashi, commenting on Genesis 6:9 points out the difference between walking with HaShem and walking before Hashem. Rashi suggested that Noach walked “with” HaShem because he (Noach) needed HaShem’s support to keep walking on the right path whereas Abraham fortified himself with his righteousness and was able to walk before HaShem, (see Gem 15:7 and Rom 4:3). Basing the difference on the use of difference prepositions may be nitpicking, but then again maybe not.
There is another comparison between Noach and Abraham, that I found most intriguing. Consider the time it took to build the ark. Depending on which commentator one looks at, it could be anywhere from fifty-five years to one hundred and twenty years. In any event, it was not a short time. In the so-called roll call of faith in Hebrews, it is written
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)2
In another place, Peter would write, concerning the judgment of HaShem on the unrighteous
(HaShem) did not spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah, a preacher of righteousness, with seven others, when He brought a flood upon the world of the ungodly; (2 Peter 2:5)
Noach was forewarned of the soon-coming judgment and was considered a “preacher of righteousness,” so it should be assumed that he must have warned his friends and neighbors. But comparing the coming of the flood to the second coming of Yeshua, Matthew wrote,
“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage until the day that Noah entered the ark, and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be. (Matthew 24:38-39)
How is it possible that after all the time it took to build the ark, no one seemed to know what was going on or what would soon happen? Now consider Abraham, when he discovered that judgment would soon fall upon Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham immediately began to intercede for the population of the two cities, though knowing that HaShem’s judgment was warranted. Also, note that Abraham was not just interceding for Lot and his family but for the cities.
I am not trying to disparage Noach, his righteousness, nor his obedience to HaShem. Noach seemed to do exactly what HaShem told him to do. However, it appears that Abraham went beyond what was required by interceding for the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah. As I write this closing, I think back to Yeshua’s comments to the scribes and Pharisees when he declared,
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others. (Matthew 23:23)
The key in his declaration is in the phrase “but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others” in other words, we must go beyond what is required to the spirit behind the requirement. We cannot, must not, be concerned with only ourselves and those we know, rather there is a wide world outside our dwellings and places of work that is wandering around in darkness and despair, waiting for someone to show them the light.
Shabbat shalom u’mevorach!
2 Scripture readings are from the New American Standard Bible — NASB 1995. Copyright © 1995 by The Lockman Foundation.