Noach – A thought for the week by Mike Lewis
Noah is described as a righteous man. He is described as a Tzaddik who was “perfect in his generations” but how do you define a Tzaddik? The word comes from the same root as Tzedek, justice. Not perfect but human.
Hassidim had a simple way of making the point. They called Noah a tzaddik im peltz, "a righteous man in a fur coat." There are two ways of keeping warm on a cold night. You can wear a fur coat or light a fire. Wear a fur coat and you warm only yourself. Light a fire and you warm others.
Noah did not argue with God for the sake of the people around him. Abraham argued for the saving of lives at S’dom; Moses would go on to argue to protect us from destruction in the desert.
Hillel famously said:
If I am not for myself then who will be for me? And if I am only for myself then what am I?
There are times when we have no choice over events. This Friday is the 729th anniversary of the last day that Jews were to be allowed to live in England at the time of the expulsion in 1290.
For the people who lived at the time of Noah they had choice but no rules. It is at this time that the seven Noachide Laws are laid down for mankind at large. (There is a tradition tells that six of these laws were given to the first human being, Adam). The seventh law, the prohibition against eating the limb of a living animal, was given to Noah after the flood when humankind was permitted to consume meat.
As Jews we have 613 commandments and a multitude of laws by which we live. It is the concern for and the care of our fellows which defines our humanity.