To put it mildly, The Arizal, Rabbi Isaac Luria of Safed, the leading 16th century Kabbalist and mystic, was not ‘a fan’ of this week’s Parsha protagonist – Noah.
Noah lived at the dawn of a time in which savagery and violence prevailed. Being the most righteous and honest of his generation, he and his family alone were chosen to survive in the Ark and later re-establish civilization after G-d purified the world with a flood.
Seemingly according to the text Noah appears to be a true ‘Tzadik’ (righteous individual). Noah diligently obeyed G-d, slaved away to construct a ginormous Ark and herded together all of the animal kingdom under one roof.
So why did The Arizal criticize Noah so harshly?
Let us delve into Torah’s definition of a ‘tzadik’ and ‘righteousness’. Noah, like all other virtuous people mentioned in Torah, had a deep moral compass, an innate spiritual connection with G-d and an honest character.
However, Noah was, as the Yiddish proverb goes a ‘Tzadik in peltz’- ‘a righteous person in a fur coat’.
This refers to when it is cold a person can have either two options:
1. Putting on a coat and warming himself
2. Light a fire thus warming himself and his surroundings.
Noah chose the former.
When Abraham heard of the coming destruction of the wicked city of Sodom he vehemently argued and petitioned G-d in an attempt to save it. When Moshe was informed about G-d’s plan to punish the Israelites for the sin of the Golden Calf he protested, demanding he be erased with them from the Torah.
The righteous that are revered in Torah are those that are in unison with their many great attributes but they also pursued and strived for ‘Love of their fellow neighbor’ and the betterment of their society.
Noah meekly agreed to G-d’s plans for The Flood and did not express his disapproval. Noah did not actively, whether through protest or prayer, look to influence or improve his generation and as such he is viewed as flawed. Fundamentally in Torah these notions are not accepted and as such despite Noah’s many commendable actions commenters critique him.
On October 27th this week, we commemorated the first anniversary of the terrorist attack on the Tree of Life Congregation in Pittsburgh. The attack in Pittsburgh has become viewed as a prime example of the rising levels of radicalism and antisemitism spreading across the globe.
Alarmingly in response to such events there have often been increased calls for communities to emigrate, arm congregants and fortify synagogues.
Security must be paramount, however as we see from this week’s Parsha, the Torah is intrinsically against the notion of one being locked in ‘an ivory tower.’
In tandem to all preventative measures, let us strengthen our Jewish pride and the belief of the vital importance Judaism can have in our daily lives as well as in wider society. Such events should not deter our resolve and faith but rather be used as a catalyst to propel us to strive for more and to maintain a firmer resolve.
Despite the depravity of his generation and the danger he faced Noah was censured for not attempting to effect and persuade them and thus secluding himself in his Ark. Notwithstanding the current troubling times the message of Yiddishkiet is needed now, for all, more than ever.
As a community we must reach out our brethren, to fulfil as stated this week at the Pittsburgh Memorial: “Remember. Repair. Together.”