Noach – Generation

It is difficult to fathom how our sages can say that “If Noach lived in the time of Abraham, he would not have been important” (Rashi on parshat Noach).  In fact, Noach DID live in the generation of Abram – he lived fifty-eight years into the life of Abram.

One clue comes from the fact that Noach learned everything that he knew from his grandparent. Chanoch and Methushelach, who had a Beit Midrash and a Beit Din.  Abram, on the other hand was entirely self-taught.  Nobody taught him the principles of monotheism and belief in one God – these are principles that he fathomed by himself.

There were three main periods in the life of Abraham:

1) When he was in Ur Chasdim, and he reasoned out the existence of God.  These were his formative years, during which he “discovered” the Creator and argued against the local idol worshipers, earning himself the wrath of the local king, who sought to execute him.

2) In Haran, where Abram and Sara persuaded many of the local population to forsake idol worship and join the ranks of monotheism.

3)  His crowning achievement, when he returned to Israel as a charismatic leader, and “called in the name of God, Lord of the universe, until thousands and tens of thousands gathered around him and became the people of the house of Abraham, in whom he successfully implanted this great principle” (Rambam, Hilchot Avoda Zara 2:3)

In Ur, Abram refuted the idol worshipers.  In Haran, he successfully promulgated his new principles of monotheism.  But none of that was close to what he achieved in Israel, where he created a revolution, leading to the formation of a permanent people, the “House of Abraham.”

This is what Rashi meant by the “generation of Abraham.”  Notice that he did not write, “during the life of Abraham,” but that Noach did not live during the “generation of Abraham.”  The “generation of Abraham” were those who came to accept his way of life when he entered the land of Canaan (Israel), from the very depth of their souls.  This happened long after Noach had passed away.  Noach only lived during Abram’s formative years.  Moreover, he did not mold and form the generation; he was passive in his approach, whereas Abraham was outgoing and proactive.

That is why it is considered the “generation of Abraham,” and not of Noach – as a passive and pliant “player,” Noach did not do enough in his generation to deserve that it should be named after him.

From Likutei Sichot of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Vol. 20, page 13.  For a more detailed exposition and explanation, go to 

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