Dvar Torah for Noah – Noach: The power of a compliment

Compliments cost nothing, but many pay dearly for them – Thomas Fuller

What is the point of giving compliments?  Are they really the integral self-esteem boosts some people claim they are or are they just unnecessary demonstrations of vanity?  To give them correctly for some might not be worth the effort of making them vulnerable and getting them right.  You might not remember every compliment someone gave you, but you are sure to remember the backhanded or faux compliments you have received.

In this week’s Parsha we see how the Torah showers lavish praises on Noach.  “Noach was a righteous man; he was perfect in his generation; Noach walked with God”.  The Torah does not usually give excessive compliments to the Jewish heroes.  Most of the flattery and tributes are left for the Midrash and commentaries to explain.  Yet, throughout the entire Tanach, the only person to be called a Tzaddik (righteous person) is Noach.  The Torah doesn’t stop there, but calls him perfect in his generation etc.  Later, God, Himself tells Noach to his face that he is a “Tzaddik/righteous man”.  What was so special about Noach that he was praised so publicly?  Why did he merit it when all the forefathers did not?

credit: araratour.com

When we delve deeper into the story of Noach, the question becomes reinforced.  Looking at the story and even more so the commentaries surrounding this portion it appears that he is praised a bit too much.  It is remarkable to see how much ink has been spilled with incredible detail on the character flaws of Noach.  Even commentaries who usually find the positive in some evil personalities, are quick to point to the least sympathetic description of Noach’s greatness.  Re-examining the pasuk of Noach’s introduction, the extra word “in his generation” glares at us, implying that only in his generation could he be deemed perfect.  The commentaries describe further his great “crime” of only saving himself and immediate family, instead of saving the world or at least as many as he could.

Why does the Torah heap praise on Noach with all his shortcomings, failings, and imperfections and not on our other righteous and greater personalities?  It almost seems as if the Torah has a specific motive in mentioning his positive attributes and all the praises that went with it.The lesson of Noach is richer and more powerful than a simple tale of a Tzaddik being perfect.  Noach was a lonely man of faith living in a corrupt, immoral, and sinful world.  He needed to contend with the challenges that occur when opposing his entire civilisation.  He needed to devote many long years and incredible amounts of energy and resources to single-handedly build an ark, all while standing strong in the face of unimaginable humiliation and threats from his neighbours.

How long can someone maintain their mission faced with such adversity?  How long can someone keep swimming against the tide?  It must have been psychologically and mentally exhausting for Noach, yet he persevered and drove on for the countless years it took.  Faced with such a monumental task, God deemed it necessary to give Noach gushing praise, reminding him of the qualities he has buried inside him.  The accolades do not necessarily call attention to what was already achieved, rather it is empowerment, it creates the ability to bring out the hidden potential.  Specifically now in his time of need, God tells him “You are righteous! You are Perfect! Walking with God, you are not like all of your neighbours”!  The praises are given to Noach, therefore, as a source and a well of strength for him.

The Torah is therefore teaching us the power of compliments.  We cannot know the battles our neighbours are facing but everyone can appreciate a sincere compliment and to a struggling person it just might give them the strength to power through their latest battle.  Take the time to drop your guard down, genuinely compliment someone else, give yourself permission to revel in their success. You can create the well of strength for someone who needs it today!


– Rabbi Ari Rubin with his wife Mushkie run the Chabad Centre for Jewish Life in North Queensland- a division of Chabad of RARA. chabadnorthqueensland.com

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Welcome to the Chabad Centre for Jewish life in North Queensland and the Great Barrier Reef! We are based in Cairns, with frequent trips to Townsville, and service the spiritual and physical needs of all Jewish souls in the North Queensland area. Our work within the Cairns community includes youth programs, adult education, senior visits, JCU student events, and much more. We are also heavily involved in servicing the needs of the many Jewish tourists who visit our gorgeous region. Chabad North Queensland is a sub community of Chabad of RARA.Contact us for more information.

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