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A Tzaddik in His Generation

  • Harav Yehuda Amital










This shiur is sponsored by Larry and Maureen Eisenberg
in memory of Devora Leah (Lillian) Grossman





A Tzaddik in His Generation

Translated by Kaeren Fish



“These are the generations of Noach; Noach was a righteous man, he was perfect in his generation.” (Bereishit 6:9)


This parasha needs to be considered from two different perspectives. One perspective focuses on man’s actions, which corrupted the entire world, resulting in the terrible Flood. The other focuses on God’s actions, bringing the Flood to destroy the world, and thereby revealing His providence and control over all of creation.


From Chazal’s teachings it appears that the generation of the Flood had attained great achievements in the technological sphere. The Gemara in Massekhet Sanhedrin describes them sowing seeds only once every forty years, traveling from one  end of the world to the other in a short time, and so on.  Their success was what caused them to stumble. Having attained all of this, their desires were no longer satisfied by what they had. They sought out new excitement and stimulation, to the point where they engaged in bestiality. The people of that generation did not know how to use their achivements to further the development of the world.


Their punishment expresses an erasing of culture, of their advanced civilization. Even mankind’s most impressive achivements are of no use if they are not accompanied by Torah. According to the Zohar, that generation, with its great potential, should have received the Torah. The opening of the “windows of heaven” (arubot ha-shamayim) symbolized the opening of the gates of knowledge and wisdom, since these two gifts are interconnected. However, so long as there was no Torah, their enormous powers were directed and used in an improper direction, and this doomed all of existence. Without Torah there is no value to scientific development.


The same problem that plagued the generation of the Flood exists also today. Mankind has attained wondrous achievements, in all areas. Enormous efforts are invested in technological development. Man’s potential is huge. But without Torah accompanying his progress, man uses some of this potential for negative purposes. Wiping out the world is not the solution in our times – God promised that He would not bring another Flood to the world. The solution must lie in channeling our human potential in the proper direction and using it for good purposes. We can do this only on the basis of the outline provided by the Torah.


“Noach was a righteous man; he was perfect in his generation.” The test of a tzaddik, a righteous man, is not only within his own generation, in the realm of relations between him and the people around him. The question that must guide him is whether he is using all the potential that he possesses. Is he activating all his positive abilities at the same level of intensity and with the same motivation that his companions are using their energies for negative purposes? Only thus will the righteous ones of the generation tip the scales in the direction of the good.