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Noah was a righteous man in his generation, Noah walked with G-d (6:9)
Rashi's comment on 'Noah walked with G-d' is not one of unreserved praise for Noah. In quoting the Midrash, he draws an unfavorable contrast with Abraham, who is quoted in the text as having 'walked before G-d' (24:40). Abraham, who walked before G-d, was able to follow His teachings without His special spiritual support, but Noah, in walking with G-d, depended on it.
A deeper meaning of 'walking before G-d' may be considered by looking at a third, much later personality - King Saul - on the day before his death.
The text records that Saul was very anxious at the reality of the Philistine forces massing for war against his kingdom. He wanted contact with G-d - special spiritual support - but 'G-d did not answer him, neither in a dream, nor through the lights on the High Priests breastplate, nor though the prophets' (Samuel I 28:6). Saul did not 'walk before G-d' - he did not accept that he had to take the initiative, and accept 'no reply' as an answer - at least for the time being. He did not 'walk before G-d', in arranging his national defenses within the boundaries of revealed Torah law. Instead, he transgressed those teachings, namely in respect to the prohibition of witchcraft and sorcery (Deut. 18:10-11), by engaging the Sorceress of Eid-Dor to make contact with the soul of his recently deceased spiritual mentor, the Prophet Samuel. And Samuel, in great distress, informed him that he and his sons would die in battle against those Philistines the very next day (Samuel I 28:19).
By contrast, Noah spiritually progressed. The Parasha introduces him as merely 'walking with G-d', but later on, it implies that he indeed 'walked before G-d'. For He told Noah to construct the ark in preparation for the Flood at a time when Mankind was 'only evil all day long' (6:5). In obeying G-d's orders, Noah had to swim vigorously against the tide of the ideology of his day - and, as the Midrash relates, being subject to constant public ridicule. And like Saul, G-d is not recorded to have 'answered him' in any form. Nevertheless, he arranged his defense according to G-d's instructions - Noah did 'all as G-d commanded him' (6:22).
Therefore G-d refers to Noah later on in subtly different, but more glowing terms. In telling him to enter the ark with his household, he does not say that he merely 'walked with Him', but called him 'a righteous man who is before Me' (7:1). Going 'before Him' is like Abraham - without special spiritual support and contact from Him, but on his own spiritual initiative, loyalty to G-d's commands under even the most trying circumstances.
That is a message to our generation that has a much lower level of contact with G-d than in the days of Moses and the Prophets. It urges people to remain loyal to his revealed eternal truths when faced today with highly fashionable changing popular ideologies containing few permanently positive values.
For those after more comprehensive material, questions and answers on the Parasha may be found at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/questions/ and on the material on the Haftara at www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/haftara/ .
Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.
Parashiot from the First, Second, and Third Series may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site: http://www.shemayisrael.co.il/parsha/solomon/archives/archives.htm
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This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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