Noah, the hero and chief protagonist of our parashah, is described by our sages as “A tzadik in a fur coat”. What’s behind this metaphor? The rabbis explain that back in the old country, in the dead of winter, when it was brutally cold and freezing outside, a man could do one of two things: he could walk outside, fetch some wood, and start a fire, thereby not just keeping himself warm, but also keeping many other people warm and safe in a bitterly cold and freezing environment.
Alternatively, instead of starting a fire, one could’ve just put on a fur coat, thereby keeping oneself safe and warm, but without providing warmth and light for others.
Noah was a tzadik, a perfected human being, who wore a fur coat, but he did not start a fire to also warm up others. Noah was honest, ethical and pious. But his sole and exclusive concern was his own spiritual wellbeing. He did not strive to kindle other souls, nor did he attempt to inspire others to better their ways and walk in G-ds ways. His was the path of spiritual solipsism (a self-enclosed way of being).
Conversely, Avram, later on to be renamed Avraham, who appears for the first time at the very conclusion of our parashah, was a tzadik who, rather than just put on a fur coat and keep himself warm, chose to start a perpetual fire, an eternal light, and together with his wife Sarah, molded countless souls, and brought them unto the wings of the Shechinah (Divine presence), and into the tent of monotheism and righteousness, of purity and sanctity.
As the spiritual heirs and descendants of Abraham, the Almighty and the Torah urge us to emulate and follow in the ways of Abraham and Sarah, and proliferate the fiery glow of goodness and Light throughout the entire world. As Jews, we fail our life’s mission, individually as well as collectively, when we only keep ourselves and those closest to us safe and warm, in a cold and brutal world.
We are commanded and ordained to share G-d’s Light and proliferate it until that final day in which, as we say every Shabbat as we conclude the Aleynu prayer: “Hashem will be One, and his name/essence will be One” – until the final act of Tikkun and cosmic healing is achieved BH. May that day come speedily and swiftly in our day and age, Amen.