Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Breisheet/Genesis: Parshat Noach

There are two different ways to look at the quote "Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generation". The first according to Rashi (a commentator from the Middle Ages), Noah was only righteous in comparison to his corrupt generation. The other perspective is that Noah was righteous in spite of his generation and how much more righteous he could have been if he would have been born into a righteous generation.

Keeping this point in mind, if Noah would have been a neighbor to Abraham (who was born 10 generations later), how much more Noah could have learned from even just observing Abraham's actions. Each and every word that a tzaddik (a Torah scholar) says and the actions they take is a reflection of the Torah perspective of the world.

What we learn from this is the major importance of surrounding yourself with people you can learn from and and putting yourself in situations that are conducive to Torah learning, personal growth and refining your character. To sculpt yourself into the person G-d wants you to become.

The first verse in the book of Tehillim (Psalms) gives clear direction about who not to associate yourself with.
Happy is the man who has not walked in the counsel of the wicked, nor stood in the path of sinners, nor sat in the company of scoffers.

This one verse covers all the possible variables: don't walk with them, don't stand with them, and don't sit with them. Any association with them will take you away from the right path.

In Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 2:6, Hillel tells us that " a place where there are no leaders, strive to be a leader." What we can see is that if the proper way is not being followed, if there is no real Jewish leadership, it is up to each individual to stand up and be the one to set the example. This is what Noah did. While he did not go out and convince the people to change their ways (which is something that Abraham tried to do), he perhaps tried to lead by example.

This is a lesson we can all learn from. To do the right thing even if in the most extreme example, the entire generation has been completely corrupted to the core. Not a simple thing.

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