Noah: The Solipsistic Tzadik

The Chassidic sages teach us that when it’s cold and glum outside there are basically two things we can do. One is to put on a fur coat and just keep ourselves warm. The other is to start a fire – thereby keeping others warm and safe as well.

Noah was a tzadik in a fur coat. When G-d notified Noah of the impending calamity of the flood, he only took action to save his own family, and did not bother to caution the remainder of humankind and his contemporaries. While Noah was personally righteous, in terms of his ethical and pietistic attributes, his was an isolated life of self-enclosed moral apathy.

Unlike Noah, we as the spiritual heirs of Abraham, are called upon to exhibit care and concern for our fellow human beings around us. “No man is an island,” observed the English mystical medieval poet John Donne. Our fate and destiny is inextricably intertwined with that of the rest of humankind, as the Covid pandemic poignantly and tragically demonstrates.

Let us follow not the self-enclosed model of self-isolated morality, which Noah personifies and exemplifies. Rather, let us demonstrate what Rabbi Heschel called “Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity,” by exhibiting care and concern for our fellow Jews, our fellow Americans, and all fellow members of the human family.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Sessler

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