Posted on March 23, 2011
by Aaron Aftergood
It is told that Noah’s righteousness was well known among his contemporaries. One of his main occupations was traveling among them, trying to convince them to change their ways. Noah even planted cedars and spent 120 years tending them, cutting them into boards, planing them, and finally building the Ark. He could have accomplished this in much less time, but he felt that if the people saw his preparations for the Flood, they would change. But the others made a joke of it, saying, “What the heck’s he gonna do with that big boat?” He tried to convince them, but they would not listen.
The first line of the parasha reads, “These are the chronicles of Noah: Noah was a righteous man, faultless in his generation; Noah walked with God.”
“Faultless in his generation,” is the phrase that has been massively commented on. Yalkut MeAm Lo=92ez, written by Rabbi Yaakov Culi in the early 18th century says that “in his generation” suggests that even though he lived among wicked people, he maintained his high moral standards. It also tells us that if he had lived in the time of Moses and other tzadiks, he would certainly have even been much greater, since they would have reinforced his determination.
Rashi takes an opposite approach. He thinks that Noah would not have been considered righteous in any other time. Only the fact the every one around him was wicked, made him appear to be a good guy, and thus he was chosen by God.
In any case, I believe that it is not only possible, but our duty as Jews and USYers to be “righteous” in our generations.
You may respond, “Look, I’m certainly not righteous, and my generation is already having identity problems as it is; what am I supposed to do.”
Well, I interpret this passage to mean that we should be examples in our daily lives. As Jewish individuals, we have a responsibility to role models, and leaders, whether we are in school, USY, or anywhere. My decision to wear a Kippah, both at a secular school, and in my public daily life, has instantly transformed me into a representative of our beloved religion, and, as a result, I have much more confidence as a person, and a much better outlook on life. So next time you’re tempted to do something that your mother might not necessarily be proud, think again, be righteous in your environment, and stand up for what’s right. Not only because you may be the teacher’s pet, but because you are a Jew; like Noah, you must be a light unto the nations.
Remember, USY today, is the World Jewish leadership of tomorrow, and we must not forget to learn, and improve ourselves as human beings in preparation for this colossal responsibility.