Title: Noah As A Person
Major Focus: Noah, compared to generation
Minor Focus: Noah, compared to Abraham
Abstract: What kind of a person was Noah?
Format: Rabbinic Argument
"God said, 'I will blot out from the earth the people whom I
created, people, animals, creeping things, and the birds of the sky; I am sorry
that I made them.' But Noah found favor with God...Noah was a righteous man and
whole-hearted in his generations; Noah walked with God."
What kind of a person was Noah?
- Midrash Tanhuma: Well, some
say he was terrific and others say he was not so terrific. What can we compare
him to? If a person puts a silver coin in with copper coins, the silver one
looks really good. If we put a jar of sweet spices in a grave it might still
give off a sweet smell, but it would have been a lot nicer in the
- What does Noah have to do with coins and
- Can you think of other examples of things that seem nice
compared to their surroundings?
- Can you think of things that would be a lot nicer in some
- Rashi: I agree. If Noah had
lived in Abraham's time he would have been just another copper coin. On the
other hand, if he had lived in a good generation he might have been like a jar
of sweet spices and done a lot better for himself. Who knows?
- How are you influenced by those around you?
- Are you a better person when good people are there to
influence you, or are you good without that extra help?
- What can you do to help others to be better than they
- Mordechai Yaffe: I'm not so
sure there is any real difference in those two points-of-view. While there are
certainly two possibilities -- he was good compared to everyone else, and he
would have been better if he had lived among good people -- in either case he
was pretty ordinary and very mediocre after all.
- What are the two possibilities for poor old
- What do you think, was Noah pretty ordinary after all or was
he quite special?
- Zohar: He certainly was very
common! When God told Abraham that the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah would be
destroyed, Abraham argued with God to save any good people who might live
there. What did Noah do when God said, "I am going to blot out the world."
- Why didn't Noah argue with God?
- Would you have the nerve to argue with
- Rabbi Nehemiah: The Torah
says that Noah walked with God, but it says that Abraham walked before God
(Genesis 17:1). This can be compared to a king who saw that a friend was
sinking into a terrible situation and asked him to come for a walk with him
before it was too late. Noah was sinking into the mud of human evil. He was at
least willing to walk with God and talk about the situation. Another time,
however, the king was walking in a dark alley. A friend saw him and came to his
aid with a light. The king said to his friend, "Go before me and hold the
light." Abraham walked ahead of God, holding a light for the rest of
- In the first example, how was Noah like the friend who went
for a walk with God?
- In the second example, how was Abraham like the friend who
held the light?
- In what ways did Abraham hold a light for the rest of
humanity? What does that mean?
- Martin Buber: Noah was
allowed to survive, but Abraham was given a mission. Noah stayed put in nature.
He was a farmer and God saved him from the Flood. Abraham was a wanderer. He
was the first person to say to the world, "God is supreme!"
- How does mere survival differ from a mission?
- If one only survives "on the edge" how can they think of
taking up a mission?
- What advantages might Abraham have had over Noah in terms of
basic survival so that he was able to get on with his mission?
- What can we do to help those around us get past mere
- What, if any, mission do you see for your