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Noach: Walking with Hashem
By: SFW Students & Alumna
Ayelet Chovev (SFW '09)
It says in the first pasuk of Parshat Noach:
“Noach ish tzadik tamim haya b'dorotav et HaElokim hithalech Noach.”
At first glance, it seems very praiseworthy of Noach that not only is Hashem describing him as a righteous individual, but he also has the special zechut of walking with Hashem. We see similar terminology later on in the Torah when Hashem makes a brit with Avraham. It says in Parshat Lech-Lecha, "Hithalech lifanai eheyeh tamim"- that Avraham should walk before Hashem and be perfect. Why by Noach does it say to walk with Hashem but by Avraham it says he should walk before Hashem?
The Ta'am VaDa'at explains that the slight difference of terms in these two psukim has to do with the different personalities of these two men. Avraham's personality was more outgoing. We know that he had immense enthusiasm to do the mitzvah of Hachnasat Orchim, a very social mitzvah, and that he was dedicated to spreading the name of Hashem to the people all around him. Avraham made himself available to the world even though it was a generation of idol worshippers and they could have very easily influenced him to practice their different forms of avoda zara. Why did he go out into the world so willingly if the outcome could have been detrimental to his spiritual well-being? Because Avraham had complete emunah in Hashem. He searched for Hashem and used reason and logic to solidify his belief that Hashem is the only God, the Master of the Universe. Because his faith was so strong, there was no possibility that he'd be swayed to worship idols.
Noach, on the other hand, was a more introverted person. While he was a tzadik and didn't involve himself in the corrupt practices of the world, he made no effort to rid his generation of any of their evil ways. If Noach really was a tzadik, why didn't he try to influence his generation and possibly save them from the impending flood? The reason is very simple: Noach's emunah in Hashem was unstable. Noach didn't go on a spiritual quest or search for life's meaning. There was no active seeking out of Hashem, instead, Hashem revealed Himself to Noach. Therefore, if Noach would have tried to fix the people around him, without a doubt he would have been affected and possibly would have joined in the chamas that was going on at that time.
After understanding this, it seems very clear why Noach walked with Hashem and Avraham walked before Hashem. When Hashem revealed Himself to Noach, He gave Noach a commandment that would require him to go out into the world. However, because Hashem knew that Noach didn't have complete emunah, Hashem stood right next to him, supporting him the whole time to protect Noach from the influences of the world. Avraham, however, did have full belief in Hashem and therefore, when he ventured out into the world to do the bidding of Hashem, he was able to walk in front of Hashem- without leaning on Hashem for support.
We should all strive to reach the level of emunah that Avraham achieved so that we can not only work on ourselves, but so that we can fulfill the commandment of Tikun Olam while remaining truly devoted to Hashem. In this zechut, may we be merit to see the rebuilding of the Beit Hamikdash, Bimhera Biyameinu.
1: Parshat Shavua