Noach and Avraham share many distinct attributes. Each of them became the father of a great people, all of humankind in Noach’s case and the Jewish nation in Avraham’s. The linguistic parallels between the Pesukim that describe Noach and those that describe Avraham establish an even deeper connection between them. The Pasuk which describes Noach, “Noach Ish Tzaddik Tamim Hayah BeDorotav Et HaElokim Hithalech Noach,” “Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generations, Noach walked with God,” (BeReishit 6:9) starkly resembles the Pasuk in which Hashem commands Avraham, “Hithaleich Lifanai VeHyeih Tamim,” “Walk before Me and be perfect” (17:1).
Similar though they may be, certain discrepancies between their actions clearly distinguish the natures of Avraham and Noach.
Noach was the type of man who followed Hashem no matter what; he did not act without being commanded. Conversely, when he lacked directives, he remained motionless, as evidenced by his remaining aboard the Teiva until Hashem commanded him to leave. Noach did not question Hashem’s judgment but rather completely accepted Hashem’s decisions, as the Pesukim indicate by never noting an appeal from Noach to Hashem to save the world.
Avraham, on the other hand, assumes an opposite approach. He does not wait for Hashem to give him a command before taking the initiative. For example, he sets out to rescue Lot before receiving the command. Avraham is also not afraid to question Hashem, doing so on multiple occasions. On one instance, Avraham questions how Hashem intends to make him the father of a great nation as he lacked children. In another instance, he challenges Hashem’s decision to destroy Sedom, pleading until he is forced to concede that the city is corrupt.
The essence of their differences lies in the fact that Noach walked with God while Avraham was to walk before God. Walking with God connotes always being on the same page as God and having no qualms or problems with following Hashem’s commands to the letter. Walking in front of God does not allow for the same trust as walking beside Him, as the person walking in front does not know exactly what is transpiring behind him. Walking in front of God leaves room for questioning and challenging.
Avraham was chosen as the patriarch of the Jewish nation because even though he walked in front of God, he “followed” Hashem just the same. As Bnei Avraham, we must learn from Avraham to follow Hashem’s will, even while we occasionally question that which we do not understand. Through this, we will be able to walk before Hashem and become “Tamim,” perfect.