Written by: Rabbi Mordechai Raizman
In this week’s Parsha, it states that Noach was a Tzaddik (a righteous person) in his generation. The question that naturally arises is why is in his generation included in that statement. Rashi explains that the phrase implies that Noach was only a righteous man in comparison to the rest of his generation. If he had lived during another generation, such as Avrohom’s, he would not have been considered a Tzaddik. In fact, Rashi in his explanation uses a harsh description when comparing his stature to those of Avrohom’s generation. He states that Noach would be Lo Nechshav Lklum which means he would not be worthy of recognition. However, his clarification presents another issue. How can a person who is considered a Tzaddik in one generation possess such a low stature in another?
A timeless lesson about the standards we set for ourselves and our children can be learned from Rashi’s explanation. Many times, a person tends to adapt to his/her environment’s standards, and more often than not, ends up settling for much less than what he/she is capable of doing and becoming. Instead, the individual becomes content with being a Tzaddik in an environment that is not very righteous and has a value system that places minimal demands.
Perhaps this is the meaning of Rashi’s interpretation. Noach did not strive to fully reach his potential. He was content with just being better than everyone around him. However, the Torah demands more from us. It teaches us to continuously search for new ways to improve our character and to become better role models for our children.
We have just finished celebrating the Yomim Tovim cycle of the Yomim Noraim (Days of Awe) and Sukkos. Let us take the inspiration from these special days to not be content to just be “good in our generation” but rather constantly strive to be the best individuals we can be and raise the bar of what we can accomplish. If we take that approach, most likely we will have an impact on many generations to come.