Parashas Noach 5780 – The true righteousness

The Pasuk says: “This is the lineage of Noah. Noah was a righteous man; he was blameless in his generation; Noah walked with G-d [Elokim]… The earth became corrupt before G-d; the earth was filled with lawlessness. Then Hashem said to Noah, “Go into the ark, with all your household, for you alone have I found righteous before Me in this generation.

Reading closely the verses a few difficulties arise: the first is quite obvious, why is the name of Noach repeated twice and consecutively? Someone who’s righteous and blameless is obviously a Tsadik, though Rashi brings opinions stating that Noach was not so righteous, and only compared to the people of his generation was he considered a Tsadik. If so, why did the next Pasuk “Noach walked with G-d”? Would Hashem approach a miscreant? Finally, through the Thora the word of Hashem is provided to us, sometimes under the name “Elokim”, other times under the name “Havaya” Hashem. What is the meaning of it?

The Zohar explains that the name of Noach was repeated twice to underline that every righteous person has two spirits. One stays in this world, while the other is in the World to Come. And so we find that the Holy One, blessed be He, named all the righteous twice: “Moses, Moses” (Ex. 3:4), “Jacob, Jacob” (Gen. 46:2), “Abraham, Abraham” (Gen. 22:11), “Samuel, Samuel” (I Shmuel 3:10). This is the secret why the Tsadik can operate in both worlds simultaneously, which enables him to perform miracles, as he’s above the Angels. Angels operate only above while the Tsadik performs everywhere.  This only enhances our question about the Sages that hold that Noach was not a true Tsadik. Though, how does one become a Tsadik? Is it by praying the entire day to Hashem? Or maybe by learning night and day? It surely sounds difficult to reach the level of Tsadik.

The next Zohar portion explains that very notion: Rabbi Yehuda began his discourse with the verse: “A good man lends with a good grace; he conducts his affairs justly” (Tehilim 112:5). Rabbi Yehuda explains that “A good man” refers to Hashem, who is called ‘Good’, as it is written: “Hashem is good to all” (Tehilim 145:9). He is gracious and lends to “all”. “He conducts his affairs justly” refer to the fact that the world is run only according to justice, as it is written: “Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne” (Tehilim 89:15). The Tsadik is an infinite small copy of Hashem’s conduct. Therefore, we learn that the criteria of becoming a Tsadik are very far for our distorted concepts. The Tsadik is a person who’s “Good to others”, “Lends” and his business practices are honest. Interestingly, despite the great importance of praying and learning Thora, there’s no mention of it. As the work starts by caring for others and automatically, the person heart will open up and above lights will shine upon it and draw that person close to Hashem. So, if according to the Zohar Noach was a true Righteous, why then sages from later generations are of a different opinion?

To answer this question, it’s necessary to learn one more portion of the Zohar. The Pasuk says “And the earth was corrupt before G-d”. Rabbi Yehuda asks: Since it says, “And the earth was corrupt,” it’s understandable that they were sinning, so what is the end of the Pasuk adding “before G-d”? isn’t Hashem omnipresent? What’s then the purpose of those words? Rabbi Yehuda answers: the Pasuk informs us that they were of such of unconscionable depravation, they performed harlotry openly, in front of everyone. And despite that Noach remained a Tsadik. Just to get a prospective, it was a generation of idolaters, with no Thora and Shuls or Beth Medrash where to go and counter the outside influence. Though, Noach remained pure, it shows extraordinary control and character.

However, Noach failed on one level. When Hashem was about to destroy Sodom and Gomora, he informed our forefather Avraham. His immediate reflex was to beseech Hashem to have mercy on them, despite that they were of the worst possible character. Why then Avraham interceded on their behalf? Isn’t it good that bad people are eradicated from this world? No, Hashem created every single individual and attended their every need. Hashem was hoping they would repent, but they didn’t, so Justice followed its course. Though, this does not dismiss the obligation of the Tsadik to pray for the wellbeing of his generation. As prayer can turn Justice into Mercy. Noach, after being informed that Hashem intended to destroy the world with a deluge, he didn’t pray for them.

This notion is hinted in the use of the Divine Name “Elokim” which represents the “Justice”, while the Divine Name “Hashem” represents “Mercy”. Elokim is used, for instance, when referring to G-d’s desire that the world run and be conducted according to the laws He created – those which we know as the “laws of nature.” These laws, of course, cannot be changed, and they allow for no deviation. For example, the law of gravity always operates and in all weather conditions; it cannot be stopped. The Torah uses Elokim in the context of commands that are absolute unchangeable, and unchallengeable.

But when G-d issues a command that involves free choice – such as the mitzvot of the Torah, fulfilled only when the one who is commanded chooses to do so – then the Torah uses the Name, Hashem. Free Will is a perfect example of man’s ability to resist a Divine command, despite the punishment he can expect, and so the Name Hashem is used when referring to it.

With that in mind Noach’s conduct is clear. He was informed by the Divine Name Elokim of the destruction of the world, and therefore understood it was too late to pray, the verdict was already sealed. Hasn’t he spent 120 years, while building the ark, admonishing his compatriots to change their ways? All they did was to ridicule him. Therefore, the verdict was stricter than by Avraham, as no one ever attempted to admonish the people of Sodom. Maybe had they been shown the right path, they would’ve improved they ways of life, just as the people of Ninvey did when the Prophet Yona informed them that Hashem intended to eradicate them. Additionally, Avraham was informed of the imminent destruction of Sodom by the Divine Name Hashem, the Name of Mercy, which hinted that there was still a chance, which is why he immediately prayed.

From Noach we learn the righteous person, the true Tsadik is not the one who’s very pious only in his dealings with Hashem, but the one who’s pious and careful with his dealings with others. If a person doesn’t see in his friend the image of Hashem and truly wants his best, he can know he’s very far from being a Tsadik, despite his love and yearning to Hashem! Deserving 2 souls and being able to perform simultaneously in both worlds comes only through love and honesty to others!

By Rabbi Fridmann * rabbifridmann@badatzmiami.com * 305.985.3461

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