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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."

Genesis 6:7-9

    What kind of a person was Noah?

  1. 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 house!
    1. What does Noah have to do with coins and spices?
    2. Can you think of other examples of things that seem nice compared to their surroundings?
    3. Can you think of things that would be a lot nicer in some other surroundings?

  2. 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?
    1. How are you influenced by those around you?
    2. Are you a better person when good people are there to influence you, or are you good without that extra help?
    3. What can you do to help others to be better than they normally are?

  3. 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.
    1. What are the two possibilities for poor old Noah?
    2. What do you think, was Noah pretty ordinary after all or was he quite special?

  4. 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." Nothing!
    1. Why didn't Noah argue with God?
    2. Would you have the nerve to argue with God?

  5. 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 humanity.
    1. In the first example, how was Noah like the friend who went for a walk with God?
    2. In the second example, how was Abraham like the friend who held the light?
    3. In what ways did Abraham hold a light for the rest of humanity? What does that mean?

  6. 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!"
    1. How does mere survival differ from a mission?
    2. If one only survives "on the edge" how can they think of taking up a mission?
    3. What advantages might Abraham have had over Noah in terms of basic survival so that he was able to get on with his mission?
    4. What can we do to help those around us get past mere survival?
    5. What, if any, mission do you see for your life?