Best of the Best or Nothing Special?By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz
Noach (Noah) was a righteous person in an otherwise corrupt generation. The depravity ran the gamut from theft and violence to idolatry and adultery. G-d spoke to Noach about His plans to eradicate mankind, which was thoroughly incorrigible. He instructed Noach to build an ark, whose dimensions and manner of construction He communicated. G-d would bring a flood to destroy all life on the surface of the Earth, but G-d would save Noach, his wife, plus their three sons and three daughters-in-law. (Tradition identifies Mrs. Noach as Naama from Genesis 4:22, though this is not universally accepted as fact.)
Noach was charged with the responsibility of gathering every kind of animal and bird in pairs, male and female, plus food to sustain them for the duration of the flood. Noach followed G-d’s instructions to the letter.
One famous debate hinges upon the words used by the Torah to the effect that Noach was a righteous person “in his generation” (see verse 9). Some interpret this as a praise, that Noach was righteous even in his corrupt generation. Others see it as a criticism, that Noach was only righteous compared to his own evil generation but had he lived in Abraham’s day, he would have been nothing special. According to either view, Noach was a righteous, if flawed, individual.