Parashat Noah- Noah and Abraham
The Torah in the opening verse of Parashat Noah describes Noah’s piety with two adjectives: "Sadik" and "Tamim." Later (7:1), however, just before the flood, G-d instructed Noah to enter the ark "because I have seen that you are a ‘Sadik’ before Me in this generation." Whereas initially Noah is described as both a "Sadik" and a "Tamim," he is now described as only a "Sadik." Why?
The Bet Yosef (Rav Yosef Karo, author of the Shulhan Aruch, 1488-1575) explains that "Sadik" and "Tamim" refer to Noah’s resistance to the evil that characterized two different ages. Noah lived both during the generation of the flood, whose sinfulness involved mainly the area of Arayot (forbidden intimate relationships), and during the generation of the Tower of Babel, who sinned by lacking faith in G-d. The Torah therefore says that Noah was a "Sadik" – referring to his avoiding sins of Arayot – and a "Tamim" – referring to his unwavering belief and faith in G-d. When the Torah first introduces Noah, it praises him for being a "Sadik" even in a time of widespread promiscuity, and for later being a "Tamim" during a time of widespread heresy. But when G-d spoke to Noah right before the flood, He told Noah that he would be saved "because I have seen that you are a ‘Sadik’ before Me in this generation." The relevant point at this time was his being a "Sadik" in contrast to the people of that generation, not the fact that he would later prove to be "Tamim."
The Kerem Shelomo (Rav Shelomo Halberstam of Bobov, 1908-2000) offers a different explanation. He suggests that a "Sadik" is a person who builds himself into a righteous individual, whereas a "Tamim" – "complete person" – is someone who also seeks to teach, inspire and influence others. The Kerem Shelomo proves this meaning of the word "Tamim" from the famous verse in Tehillim (19:8), "Torat Hashem Temima Meshibat Nafesh" (literally, "G-d’s Torah is complete, restoring the soul"). The Torah is called "Temima" (the feminine form of "Tamim") when it succeeds in "Meshibat Nafesh" – returning souls, inspiring people to repent and grow. One’s Torah becomes "complete" when it impacts others. The description "Tamim," then refers to a pious person’s efforts to teach and inspire the people around him.
Initially, the Kerem Shelomo writes, Noah was both a "Sadik" and a "Tamim." He was personally righteous, and he also invested effort to try to have an impact upon the sinful people of time. However, these efforts did not meet with success. His contemporaries ridiculed and scorned him. And so Noah despaired, and withdrew. He stopped trying to have a positive influence on the people around him, and so he remained just a "Sadik," no longer being a "Tamim."
Rashi, commenting to the opening verse to Parashat Noah, cites those who comment that had Noah lived in the time of Abraham Abinu, he would not have been considered especially righteous. Although he was considered pious in his generation, he would not have been regarded as such in Abraham’s generation. The reason, the Kerem Shelomo explains, is because Abraham persisted in his efforts to influence his contemporaries. He suffered no less hostility than Noah did. In fact, the Midrash relates that Abraham’s own father turned him over to the authorities and had him sentenced to execution for destroying idols. Unlike Noah, however, Abraham did not despair. He persisted, determined to do everything he could to spread the belief in G-d and influence the people of his time. This is why Noah was considered lesser than Abraham. Although they both made heroic efforts to influence the people of their respective generations, Noah stopped when these efforts did not succeed, whereas Abraham kept trying.
The Mishna in Pirkeh Avot (2:8) teaches, "Im Lamadeta Torah Harbeh, Al Tahazik Toba Le’asmecha, Ki Lechach Nosarta," which is commonly understood to mean, "If you learned lots of Torah, do not take pride in yourself, because for this you were created." In other words, one should not feel excessively proud over his accomplishments in Torah learning, because he has simply fulfilled the purpose for which he was created. However, Hacham Baruch Ben-Haim explained that this Mishna could be read to mean that an accomplished Torah scholar must not hold ("Tahazik") the "goodness" ("Toba") – the precious Torah he studied – to himself ("Le’asmecha"). Rather, he should use his knowledge and insight to try to influence others, "because for this you were created" – we are here to make a positive impact upon the world.
The difference between Noah and Abraham teaches us that we must remain committed to this goal even if our efforts do not at first appear fruitful. Even if we encounter hardship and resistance in our efforts to spread Torah and inspire people, we must not despair. We must always remember that "because for this you were created," we are here to help improve the world, and so even when this proves difficult, we must follow the example of Abraham Abinu and persist, continuing to expend whatever efforts we can to have a positive influence upon the people around us.