Noach: You Don't Have To Be A Tzaddik..
I recently heard a talk given by the Moshgiach of the yeshiva I went to many moons ago. He noted an interesting phenomenon recorded which occurred in the times of Adam to Noach. We have several cases of “worlds” being destroyed. When Adam ate from the Tree of Knowledge, Hashem confronted him. And what was Adam’s response? “She did it!” And when Chava was confronted, she responded with, “The Snake did it!”
When the Kayin killed Hevel and Hashem confronted him he replied, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” denying that he did anything wrong. And then when we was forced to confess, he worried about his punishment.
When Lemech killed two people (Kayin and his son) by accident, and his wives wanted to leave him, what did he do, “Well, if somebody who kills Kayin gets Punishment X, whoever kills me will get punished more!"
What’s going on here? Adam and Chava destroyed an entire world. Kayin killed a person. Lemech killed two. Yet, we don’t see anybody sitting on the floor lamenting their actions. They put the blame on others, they worried about their punishments, but that’s it! Nobody cried over the fact they had failed.
Comes along Noach. The Torah describes Noach as a tzaddik in his generation. Rashi explains that this is a negative description and a positive. Negative being, had he been in the generation of Avraham, he would not have been so great. However, compared to HIS generation, he WAS great. On the positive side, being righteous in his generation was so difficult, had he lived in the generation of Avraham, he would have been even greater.
So, what’s going on here, asks the Moshgiach. Why do we need to know these two ways of understanding Noach’s greatness.
He explained that Noach DID live in difficult times. He was surrounded by decadence and deceit. The world went completely immoral. Was he as great as Avraham? No. The world around him still had an effect on him, but he STILL pushed himself. He gave his 100 percent. Perhaps that wasn’t as much “power” as Avraham’s 75 percent, but still, he did his best. He did not let his circumstances take hold of him. So, while he was not as great as Avraham, he is rewarded as being even greater than Avraham.
From Adam to Noach, nobody wanted to take responsibility for their lives. They were looking at secondary issues (punishment, blame, etc.), but they never focused on themselves failing…themselves!
When a person gives his 100 percent, Hashem credits him accordingly. For example. A person grows up in a completely secular home. Later in life, he becomes religious. He does not become some great tzaddik or talmid chacham. But, every day, he pushes himself to follow Jewish law as much as he can and according to as much as he knows. So, after 120 years, Hashem takes this person and says, “If this person grew up in the most super-duper religious home, with all the backing he needed, and he used the same amount of power…what would he have become? A big tzaddik! A big talmid chacham! So, therefore, I’m going to reward him like THAT!"
Each generation is put in their specific generation for a purpose. Each individual is put into their specific circumstance for their purpose. No matter what each of us has in our way, as an individual, community, or generation, if we put in our 100 percent best, we are not only rewarded for all the trials and tribulations we endured, but we are also rewarded as if we had become something much, much bigger, but we could not only due to things we had no control over.
From here we learn never to despair at our lot in life. Each of us was given our burden. Perhaps we won’t turn out to be huge tzaddikim in this world. But, if we take responsibility over ourselves, we will
be rewarded in the next world as if we were.