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    Righteous in his generation – No’ach

    God appears to Noah, by James Tissot, c. 1896

    The Torah is certain that Noah was a righteous man, but why does it go on to qualify its own words by saying, “righteous in his generation”, or literally “righteous in his generations”?

    One opinion is that the generations in which he lived were those before and those after the flood. Each was a different generation and each required a different expression of righteousness.

    Every generation, every situation, calls for a particular kind of righteousness.

    There are times to speak out: there are times to keep your peace and pray to survive to a more amenable generation.

    There are times to create: there are times to conserve (that was Bialik’s principle when, after years of creating literature, he decided to conserve and preserve the literature of the past).

    There are times to work on your own heart, mind and soul: there are times to move out into the affairs of the community.

    In Jewish theology the same doctrine may be discerned. There were ages in which Jewish teaching was more active in the global marketplace of ideas: there were ages when Jewish thinkers worked more within and for the internal needs of the Jewish people themselves.

    There is a saying, Dor dor v’dor’shav, each generation has its expositors; building on this saying, there are leaders of one type who are needed in a particular generation but leaders of a different type in a different generation.

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