Posted on March 23, 2011
by David Abraham
Here is a brief summary of the portion: Noah, in his generation, was a very righteous person, a true tzadik. However, the rest of the society in which he lived was very corrupt. Because of the society, God decides to destroy everything in it, except for Noah’s family and seven pairs of “clean”, or kosher, animals and one pair of “unclean”, or unkosher, animals. (Of course everybody knows the next part) God then releases a flood that lasts 40 days and 40 nights, killing everything on the Earth except the animals and Noah’s family in the ark. The sign that the flood has resided is delivered from a dove carrying an olive branch, a very huge symbol for peace in today’s world. Another sign is a rainbow, a covenant between the people and God that there will never again be a flood that destroys the Earth. Also, there is the story of the Tower of Bable. The Tower of Bable was a tower trying to be built by many inhabitants on Earth in order for them to reach God. When God sees what one people with one language can do, God scatters the languages all over the Earth.
As stated before, this portion describes Noah as “a righteous man; he was blameless in his age; he walked with God” (Genesis 6:9). This verse is mostly interpreted to his credit, with some exceptions. Rabbi Tanhuma, a Rabbi who wrote many Midrashim, says that, “Righteous in his generation, but not in others.” This is to say that he may have been righteous when compared to the people at the time of the flood, when in actuality, that doesn’t really say much. However, he was a tzadik because he tried to make society as best as it could be and it was unfortunate for him that his life had to be lived with those type of people. Another interesting thing is that the Torah provides no specific behavior of Noah, yet God found him favorable. It does say that he was grateful to, obeyed, and had faith in God. The rainbow is a beautiful thing, but always think when you look at it: that the array of colors is a covenant between God and yourself.
As the story of our people in the Torah is just beginning, and the USY year as well, it is important for us to try and be a person like Noah; a person that tried to do the best and always had faith in God while doing it. Obviously it is hard for us to be a tzadik, but if we can do mitzvoth each day, it will certainly help the world. Each and every person should try to be a leader in his/her own USY chapter and region, and more importantly one’s community, just like Noah. Shabbat Shalom!