Sunday, October 14, 2012


Noach's Standard (6:9)

When the world was in its spiritual infancy, Noach represented the ultimate in human. Not any more.


Noach's Standard (6:9)

We've all heard of the Zohar, or should I say the Book of Splendor, which for centuries has illuminated the Torah and the lives of our people. Commenting on the opening verse of this week's Biblical portion, "Noach was a righteous and perfect man in his generations", the Zohar says, "In his generation, but not in others, such as those of Abraham, Moses and David."

While the comparison being made might an unfavorable, the very fact that the Zohar measures Noach's worth in relation to these particular three giants of history implies that Noach's life included elements that were later to comprise the uniqueness of the first Jew, the transmitter of Torah, and Israel's first king.

Abraham was born into a world that worshipped idols of wood and stone. Alone, he defied the might of kings, the conventions of society and was prepared to sacrifice his very life for his convictions.

But there is more to life than standing up to an adversarial world. The Torah is G-d's “blueprint for creation,” and outlines our mission in life, which is to set the world upon its divine foundation. In the generation of Moses, the relationship of man vis-à-vis his world entered a new phase.  Beginning with Abraham, the world was a force that could be successfully resisted; beginning with Moses, it was a resource to be developed. Before Sinai, the world was a challenge to the integrity of man; after Sinai, the world was an opportunity waiting to evolve.

Still, even development is not enough, for the world is a finite thing and thus its perfection is limited.  The ultimate objective is not the civilization of earth, but its sanctification. In other words, the aim is not human perfection, but divine perfection.

This will be achieved by Moshiach, who will perfect the world as the kingdom of G-d, heralding an era in which, “There will be no hunger or war, no jealousy or rivalry... and the world's sole occupation will be to know G-d.” But this process was begun by Moshiach's ancestor, King David.  The true meaning of  ‘king’ is not one who merely rules over a people, but one who imbues their lives with the sovereignty of G-d.

That explains why Moshiach  is called “Son of David” not only as a reference to his ancestry but also to imply that he  completes what David began,  the introduction of  a divine  perfection into creation.

 However great the achievements of Abraham, Moses and David were, they all had their precedents in the life of Noach.  Like Abraham, Noach retained his integrity in an evil generation. In a time when “the earth was filled with  violence,” Noah resisted their influence.

Like Moses, Noah set the foundations of a stabilized world and elicited G-d's eternal covenant. And like the Messianic world, Noach's ark which included all species, even those who naturally prey on each other, dwelled in perfect harmony: A microcosmic precedent to a world in which “the wolf shall dwell with the lamb.”

 Nevertheless, Noach's righteousness does not measure up to the achievements of Abraham, Moses and David.  Abraham's confrontation with the world was not over corruption, but over paganism and self-serving beliefs.  Moses stabilized the world not with a code whose purpose is to civilize life, but with the Torah, whose purpose is to serve G-d. And King David introduced a dimension of harmony into the world not to ensure its continued existence, but to reveal the infinite harmony and perfection of its Creator.

In contrast, Noach only resisted wantonness. The world he established upon emerging from the ark was a more stable world because it was founded on the principles of fair play, not on a Divine Code of Morality. And the messianic harmony that prevailed within the ark was strictly utilitarian. If the world was to be rebuilt anew, the wolf and the lamb would have to learn to live with each while cooped together on the ark. They did not   however intrinsically or fundamentally change.

The Torah does not wish to belittle Noach's greatness; on the contrary, in his day, when the world was in its spiritual infancy, his achievements represented the ultimate in human potential. Rather, the Zohar wishes to tell us that after the advances made by Abraham, Moses and King David, we must not limit ourselves to the standard set by Noach.

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