THIS WEEK'S TORAH PORTION:
- Noach (נח | Noah)
- Torah: Genesis 6:9-11:32
- Haftarah: Isaiah 54:1-55:5
- Gospel: Luke 1:5-80
Noah the Righteous Man
The Torah calls Noah a tzaddik (צדיק), that is, “a righteous man.” God spared Noah from the flood because he “was a righteous man, blameless among the people of his time” (Genesis 6:9). Righteousness (tzedakah, צדקה) implies behavior conforming to an ethical norm, that is, living by the rules of virtue and morality. A righteous man conducts himself according to ethical principles and treats others fairly and impartially by the same standards.A righteous person lives a life of obedience to God: “Noah did according to everything God commanded him, so he did” (Genesis ). God makes the rules which define morality. The Bible refers to breaking God’s rules as sin. Righteousness is the opposite of sin.
The LORD said to Noah, “Enter the ark, you and all your household, for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time” (Genesis 7:1). This illustrates how the righteousness of a single person can save others and even the whole world. The righteousness of Noah saved his family and made a future for humanity. In his merit, all humanity and life on earth survived God’s judgment.
God would have created the world even for just one righteous man … The world endures for even just one righteous man, as it is said [Proverbs ]: “But the righteous is the foundation of the world.” (b.Yoma 38b)Does this mean that Noah was sinless? According to the scriptures, there “is not a righteous man on earth who continually does good and who never sins” (Ecclesiastes ), “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans).
Judaism differentiates between the righteous man (tzaddik) and the completely righteous man (tzaddik gamur). Noah was righteous, not perfect. The sages say that God saved Noah from the flood because he found grace in the eyes of God—but not because he deserved to be saved. Righteousness does not demand perfection. Instead, Judaism teaches that the righteous will live by faith (Habakkuk 2:4). The writer of the book of Hebrews associates Noah’s righteousness with his faith in things not yet seen.
By faith Noah, being warned by God about things not yet seen, in reverence prepared an ark for the salvation of his household, by which he condemned the world, and became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith. (Hebrews 11:7)Noah demonstrated his faith in the unseen by obediently building the ark. His obedience demonstrated that he possessed the fear of the LORD: “In reverence [he] prepared an ark.” His reverent obedience manifested his assurance of things hoped for and his conviction of things not seen. “Faith was working with his works, and as a result of the works, faith was perfected” (James ). Therefore, he “became an heir of the righteousness which is according to faith,” which is to say that he believed God and it was reckoned to him as righteousness.