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    Three good men – Vayyera

    Abraham sees Sodom in flames, by James Tissot c.1896

    Abraham sees Sodom in flames, by James Tissot c.1896

    The Zohar compares No’ach, Abraham and Moses.

    It asks which of the three was the greatest.

    Its answer: the one who was the best when others were in trouble.

    No’ach was warned by God that disaster was impending. He built an ark to save himself and his family and the various categories of animals.

    A great good deed, but marred by the fact that he took no apparent interest in what was happening to other human beings.

    He was what is called in Yiddish a Tzaddik im Pelz – a good man in a fur coat, who is warm even if the others are freezing cold.

    What about Abraham?

    Told about the looming destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, he pleaded for the cities. He asked God to save their inhabitants even if there were only ten righteous people there. But if there were less than ten? He didn’t go into that.

    He was concerned for the other people; but his compassion had its limits.


    At the time of the Golden Calf incident he pleaded that the people should be preserved despite their sin; and if they were to be destroyed he wanted to go down with them.

    Their suffering was his suffering, their pain his pain.

    The truly good person can’t bear it when others are hurting. His fate is bound up with theirs.

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