Noach Ish Tzaddik by Amitai Glicksman


Parashat Noach contains the famous story in which Hashem decides that the people of the world are so wicked that they need to be wiped out. The only exception to this decree is a man named Noach, his wife, his sons, and his daughters-in-law.

The Torah calls Noach a “Tzaddik,” a “righteous person” (BeReishit 6:9), a word used only a few times throughout the Torah. Why is Noach called a “Tzaddik” when that word isn’t used even to describe righteous individuals such as Avraham Avinu and Moshe Rabbeinu?

Rashi (ad loc. s.v. BeDorotav) explains that Noach is remembered for being righteous because he lived in a generation of very wicked people. That is why the Pasuk states, “Noach Ish Tzaddik Tamim Hayah BeDorotav,” “Noach was a righteous and pure man in his generation” (6:9). Had he been living in the time of Avraham, notes Rashi, he would have been considered insignificant. Another explanation is that in this case, the word “Tzaddik” is perhaps not as meaningful as one might think it is. According to most people, a Tzaddik is somebody who is especially righteous, somebody whom other people look up to and try to emulate; however, some disagree with this idea of a Tzaddik. For example, Rambam’s definition of a Tzaddik is simply someone whose good deeds outweigh his or her sins. It is feasible that Noach was such an individual, and therefore the title “Tzaddik” is not too surprising. Finally, one last possible explanation for why Noach is called a Tzaddik may be because he had complete trust in Hashem. When Hashem first told Noach that there would be a flood, he took it completely seriously and didn’t try to argue about it. When Hashem told Noach to build an ark, he built an ark with no questions asked. Only a very small, select group of people would have acted in this way. Perhaps that is why Noach is called a Tzaddik.

Another uniqueness of Noach, not found regarding most biblical figures, is that there is a Parashah named for him. Noach is one of six people in the entire Torah whose name is also the name of a Parashah, and one of the two that are not part of Bnei Yisrael (the other being Balak). Why does Noach, of all people, receive this great honor? One possible answer is that usually when a name appears at the very beginning of a Parashah, as is the case regarding Noach, that name becomes the title of the Parashah. However, many Parashiyot do not follow this rule, including Toledot, VaYeitzei, and VaYishlach; in all three of these cases, the person’s name is not the Parashah title despite it appearing in the opening words of the Parashah.

I suggest that the reason Noach has the Zechut to have a Parashah named after him is because the name “Noach” represents the entire non-Jewish people as a whole. We don’t need a Parashah named Parashat Avraham, Yitzchak, Ya’akov, or Moshe because most of the Torah already represents the Jewish people. The reason we call this week’s Parashah “Parashat Noach” is because Noach is the person that represents all of the non-Jewish people. His name is the one we use to categorize all of the Mitzvot that non-Jews are required to keep. This is why we use his name for the Parashah title. Every person is ultimately part of the same world, and every person will take part in ensuring that mankind will never be destroyed again.

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