Yeshivat Ateret Yerushalayim

Print this article
Parshat Noach 5783
Rabbi Jablinowitz

We read in this week’s parsha, at the end of the first pasuk, את האלוקים התהלך נח. Noach walked with Gd. Rashi comments that Noach needed support from Hashem and therefore always clung to Him. And this is in contradistinction to Avraham who is described as being more independent, as the pasuk says (Chapter 24, Pasuk 40), אשר התהלכתי לפניו; Avraham is referred to as having walked before Hashem. Avraham took more initiative and achieved merit on his own.

Why is it necessary for Rashi to make the comparison between Noach and Avraham, seemingly teaching us that Avraham was on a higher level? Since the pasuk begins by praising Noach and referring to him as a Tzakdik, why does the pasuk shift at the end and tell us of his shortcoming?

The Sfas Emes explains that the point of the words of Chazal, as quoted by Rashi, is not to compare and judge the achievements of Noach as opposed to Avraham. Rather, Chazal are teaching us something fundamental about the way of the world. The world began with chaos, with תוהו ובהו, and then man and the rest of the world was created. And the first Tzadik was Noach, a man who needed to be protected by Hashem in a difficult and unfriendly world. The command given to Noach to build the Taivah was Hashem’s way of shielding the Tzadik from his challenging environment. The righteousness of Noach needed to be nurtured and protected; he wasn’t ready for independent action. This is an expression of the fact that the development of the place of the Tzadik in the world was gradual; the world wasn’t ready just yet for the independence of an Avraham.

Only after Noach, a person whose righteousness was dependent on being constantly connected to Gd, was the world able to move on to the next stage. Now there could be an Avraham who walked before Hashem. He developed an independence of thought and action. He searched and he found Hashem and became the first of the forefathers. But Noach needed to lay the groundwork first for the development of the next stage of Tzadik; that of Avraham Avinu.

This development of the Tzadik in the world is paralleled within the individual himself. Every person begins as a child with his own chaos. Each individual has his personal תוהו ובהו. But within every person is that point of connection to Hashem. And just as Hashem protected Noach with the Taivah, Hashem protects that holy connection in the Neshamah of every Jew and allows it to be developed and spread throughout the entire being of the individual.                   

The first stage is the development of the “Noach” contained within the individual. His holy connection to Hashem, the את האלוקים התהלך נח contained within each person. Then, he needs to develop his personal traits and independence of action, as expressed in the first of our forefathers, Avraham and Yitzchak. First, he needs to work on his Chesed; on his giving to others and sense of love for Hashem. Then, he works on his sense of fear of Gd and his spiritual strength in grappling with the challenges presented to him by his environment.

The last of the Avos, Yaakov Avinu, represents the Torah, as the pasuk says in sefer Michah (Chapter 7, Pasuk 20), תתן אמת ליעקב. And Chazal teach (Tana D’Bei Eliyahu, Chapter 1), דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה. First the individual needs to develop his character traits before he can immerse himself in Torah. This process of development necessary in each individual is reflected in the creation of the world. There needed to be a Noach before Avraham, and Avraham and Yitzchak before Yaakov. Just as each individual must go through the appropriate stages in order to develop himself, there first needed to be a Noach in the world before there could be an Avraham Avinu. And it was precisely with Avraham that Hashem made a Bris, and commanded to him be independent, as the pasuk says (Chapter 17, Pasuk 1), התהלך לפני והיה תמים.

Good Shabbos

Print this article