This week’s Torah portion starts with the verse, “These are the offspring of Noach, Noach was a righteous man.”
This raises a question: If we follow the natural flow of the text, it would seem that after the words “offspring of Noach,” the names of Noach’s sons would follow. However, the verse interrupts the flow of the narrative by speaking about the virtues of Noach. Why?
The great commentator Rashi explains that since the Torah is mentioning the name of a righteous man, the Torah stops
to praise him.
What’s the purpose of this praise and why is it so important that the Torah needs to interrupt its narrative? And what can we learn from this for our own growth?
The Talmud in Tractate Erchin 15B states that speaking evil about another person harms three people: the one who speaks, the one who listens and the one spoken about.
We can easily understand why it harms the one who spoke and the one who listened since they are acting negatively. But what about the one they are gossiping about — what did he do wrong?
Speech reveals what is hidden in your thoughts and also has a special power to reveal what’s hidden inside a person.
So when someone speaks negatively about another, he is revealing that person’s dormant evil. This is an evil hidden deep inside a person that usually has no expression — and by bringing it to the surface, it harms him.
If that is so with evil, how much more so with good. When we praise another person, we bring out their hidden strength and
this helps them with their life struggles.
When G-d spoke Noach’s praises, he was bringing out Noach’s inner strength to be able to stand up to that evil generation and stay righteous.
The Torah is teaching us a very important lesson to always speak positively about others, and in this way we bring out their inner talents and strength. It is this love and unity between Jews that also brings down great blessings from G-d. PJC
Rabbi Shneur Horowitz is the director of Chabad Lubavitch of Altoona, Pennsylvania. This column is a service of the Vaad Harabanim of Greater Pittsburgh.