The purest form
Short essays on festivals, the weekly parsha and other articles.
(Genesis 6:9 – 11:32)
3rd November 2016 | 2nd Cheshvan, 5777
The Torah tells us that Noah was a ‘righteous man, pure in his generations’. Jewish tradition tells us that there are no superfluous words in the Torah. You would not expect God to waffle on for no reason. So why does it need to tell us that Noah was both ‘righteous’ and also ‘pure’? Are they not the same, if not very similar, concepts?
On consideration, I think they are actually quite different.
A righteous person is someone who is committed to doing the right thing. He might not always succeed in doing so, but the commitment is what makes him righteous, not the successful implementation.
However, this leaves room for an interesting type of righteous person – a person who is committed to doing the right thing, because it is the right thing – but who does not have his heart and soul behind it. You could have a righteous man who begrudges the fact that he is righteous – but he will not veer from his path nevertheless. You could have someone who believes that God created the world and truth is his only option – but, given the option, he would choose a different world. If I were to categorise myself, I would likely put myself in this grouping.
Then you have a ‘pure’ person, like Noah; a person who loves the idea of being good; someone whose heart, not just his head, tells him to be good. A pure person doesn’t resent being good; quite the opposite, he relishes making the sacrifices because he appreciates that being good is one of life’s greatest pleasures. A pure person understands that if, at the end of his life, someone would ask him, ‘are you a good man?’ and he could honestly answer ‘thank God, I am’, there is almost nothing that could possibly feel better than that. If I were to categorise my wife, I would certainly put her into this grouping – it’s good to have a ‘better half’ to give me something to aspire to! 😉
Being good for the sake of truth is certainly a great level to reach; but being good because it’s a pleasure to be good is a level well beyond. When righteousness becomes a desire, not just the right thing to do, we have reached the level of being ‘pure’. It’s a deeply fulfilling way to live.