This week, we will read about an interesting person named Noach. In fact, we don’t waste any time talking about him; he is described in the very first verse of the Torah portion as “Noah was a righteous man, perfect in his generations; Noah walked with God.”
This passuk, verse seems simple enough, but upon further investigation one can ask the following question. Was Noach a righteous man regardless of what generation he lived in, or was he only considered righteous for his generation but were he to be in a society that wasn’t busy stealing and cheating one another he would just be an ordinary guy?
Rashi, the scion of Biblical exegesis, brings up the debate in the following manner. Read carefully.
“There are those among our Rabbis who interpret this word as praise – ‘All the more so, if he had been in a generation of righteous people he would have been more righteous.’ And there are those who interpret this word disparagingly – ‘In his generation he was righteous, but had he been in the generation of Abraham, he wouldn’t have been considered.’ ”
Rabbi David Lebor, from Yeshivat Sha’alvim in Israel, pointed out that if you read Rashi carefully, you’ll notice he only refers to those who see this verse as praising Noach as “our Rabbis.” The other opinion is simply brought down without adding this detail. Perhaps Rashi felt that only those who read this description of Noach and saw it in a positive light were truly “our Rabbis”.
Our leaders must be able to see the positive aspects in people. And so must we. We should all take this lesson from Rashi and value optimism in our lives and live by it in every judgment we make.
Meir is an alumnus of New Jersey NCSY and is currently an advisor in West Coast NCSY. He graduated from Yeshiva University with a degree in architecture and music. He is currently a singer for The Maccabeats.