By: William J Jackson
Both Noah and Abraham posses a bigger than life presence in the Torah. It took Adonai to harness their abilities to help in forming and shaping the direction of our world. Although these two men share similarities (family men, righteous, proactive…etc) their unique characteristics were dramatically opposite each other. Much can be learned about ourselves when studying these diametrically opposed personalities.
Lamech, Noah’s father, foreseen his son as a savior, a comforter, (Genesis 5:28-29) this is why he named him Noah, which is the Hebrew name for “comfort”(1). True to form, Noah was the first man in Torah to be called righteous, as it says “he walked with HaShem”, (Genesis 6:9, 7:1). Noah, a man who was single minded, was unshakable in performing the tasks handed down by HaShem. He was like a Marine with a single objective. As we know, due to the evil in the world, HaShem had a specific mission and Noah was the right man for the job, a righteous man. As Torah says “…he did all that G-d ordered him to do”, (Genesis 6:22). As simple as this sounds, many of us fall short daily in trying to meet the will of the Master. During Noah’s time HaShem was not looking for a man to save the world, He was looking for a man that could lead the survivors into a new world.
Unlike Noah, Father Abraham was far more complex. It should be noted that after Abraham passed (Genesis 25:8), the Torah still spoke of him with reverence (Genesis 28:13, 31:42, 53, 32:10, 50:24, Exodus 3:6, 15-16…etc), whereas Noah seems forgotten about after his death (Genesis 9:28-29 ). As we discussed earlier “Noah did all that Adonai ordered him to do.” (Genesis 7:5) and this is where the differences began. Abraham did beyond what was required of him (2). For example, remember when Abraham pleaded for Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 18:16-33). This was directly after he was circumcised (Genesis 17:24) “Oy vey!” circumcision at 99 years of age! Then three strangers just show up out of nowhere where Abraham invited them for a meal he made himself(3). Compounding to all this, Abraham was also told he and Sarah would be receiving a son (Genesis 18:10). The news of Isaac had a profound impact on this elderly couple. Still, Abraham in spite of all these many things felt inclined to fight for the men and women of Sodom and Gomorrah. We should take a lesson from this selfless act. HaShem commanded us to do more than follow orders, we are to care about our fellow man (Exodus 23:9, Deuteronomy 10:18, 24:17,Isaiah 1:17, Zechariah 7:10) (4).
Others that fit the mold:
There are many like Noah in Tanakh, those that had an individual mission. As we see in Ezekiel 14 along with Noah both Daniel and Job, who were great men yet are seen as men whose righteousness saved only themselves (Ezekiel 14:14,18,20). Conversely, somebody like Moses more fits the Abrahamic blueprint. Moses’ nature was always to intercede for others (Exodus 32:30-32 and Numbers 14:13-16). The Prophet Jonah is an example of a man who wanted a Noah like mission in life but was forced out of his comfort zone by HaShem. You see, HaShem wanted Jonah to tell Israel’s arch enemy Nineveh to repent (Jonah 1:1-2) and Jonah wasn’t having any of it (Jonah 1:3). As we know, in the end, Jonah broke down and did what was required by Adonai, (Jonah 3:4-5).
The lesson between these personality types is that although we may start off focusing on “…doing all the Adonai orders…”(Genesis 7:5), we also need to find the willingness to get out of ourselves and “…defend the rights of the poor and needy” (Proverbs 31:9).