Between leader to a pleasant person

Shabbat Kodesh Par. Noah

Parsha Noah starts with: 

אֵ֚לֶּה תּוֹלְדֹ֣ת נֹ֔חַ נֹ֗חַ אִ֥ישׁ צַדִּ֛יק תָּמִ֥ים הָיָ֖ה בְּדֹֽרֹתָ֑יו אֶת־הָֽאֱלֹהִ֖ים הִֽתְהַלֶּךְ־נֹֽחַ׃

“These are the generations of Noah, Noah was a righteous man he was perfect in his generations; Noah walked with G-d.”

Rashi quotes Chazal, our sages, in his commentary to this Pasuk:

יֵשׁ מֵרַבּוֹתֵינוּ דּוֹרְשִׁים אוֹתוֹ לְשֶׁבַח, כָּל שֶׁכֵּן אִלּוּ הָיָה בְדוֹר צַדִּיקִים הָיָה צַדִּיק יוֹתֵר; וְיֵשׁ שֶׁדּוֹרְשִׁים אוֹתוֹ לִגְנַאי, לְפִי דוֹרוֹ הָיָה צַדִּיק וְאִלּוּ הָיָה בְדוֹרוֹ שֶׁל אַבְרָהָם לֹא הָיָה נֶחְשָׁב לִכְלוּם

“In his generations: Some of our Sages interpret it favourably: How much more so if he had lived in a generation of righteous people, he would have been even more righteous. Others interpret it negatively: In comparison with his generation he was righteous, but if he had been in Abraham’s generation, he would not have been considered of any importance.”

Many explanations are given as to why would anyone try to look at a positive note (“Noah was a righteous man”) and find something negative in it ?We know from Chazal that a name given to any person- has a deep meaning in this person’s life. Noah – the name – means pleasant. Noah was a pleasant man, and as such, we read at the end of last week’s Parsha

וְנֹ֕חַ מָ֥צָא חֵ֖ן בְּעֵינֵ֥י יְהֹוָֽה׃

“But Noah found favour in the eyes of G-d”.

Avraham Avinu’s name has a different meaning. Chazal tell us it that the word אברהם is a combination of (אב-המון-(גויים, or “the father of many people”. A leader has to have the ability to lead, to instruct, to delegate, and sometimes to fight for his cause.

As we know from the later part of Bereshit – Avaraham Avinu had all these characteristics. Noah. a great Zadik, a righteous and saintly person, as the Torah tells us, was however a “pleasant” person. (Indeed, we learn in Pirkey Avot:  Anyone with whom his fellowmen are pleased, G‑d is pleased with him.) The “derogatory” opinion mentioned above – does not relate to Noah as a private person, which the Torah clearly refers to as a “righteous man”. Rather it is a statement regarding the ability to lead. It is in this context in which some sages suggested that Noah would not have been an important person in Avraham Avinu’s generation. A (private) person can be a Zadik, by just – being pleasant to others. A leader has to have (in addition) other qualities in order to lead effectively.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Chaim Michael Biberfeld