Compliments give encouragement and strength. Noah was no different. God’s kind and encouraging words helped keep Noah on his path of righteousness.

This week’s Torah portion is “Noah” (Genesis 6:9-11:32), named after the Biblical figure who built the Ark in order to save him and his family (and lots of animals!) from the flood. In addition to the story of the flood, this week’s reading also contains the story of the Tower of Babylon. Be sure to take a look!

The reading opens with the words “Noah was a completely righteous person in his generation.” This is our first formal introduction to Noah (well, the second, actually – he was briefly introduced at the end of last week’s Torah portion). However, a few verses later when the Torah tells us that Noah was instructed to enter the Ark, the Torah says “go into the Ark, you and all your family, for I have seen you as righteous before Me in this generation.”

The commentators note that at the beginning of the reading, the Torah calls Noah “COMPLETELY RIGHTEOUS”, but later on when Noah is entering the Ark, it appears that Noah was “downgraded”, as the Torah only says “righteous.” What’s going on here? Was Noah “completely” righteous or just “middle of the road” righteous?

The commentators explain: We learn here that we only relate a small part of a person’s praise and greatness when in their presence, but when they’re not around, we can relate all their praise and greatness. When the Torah introduces Noah, he’s “not around” so to speak, hence the enhanced praise. But when the narrative turns to instruct Noah and his family to enter the ark, he is there “on the set” so to speak, hence the more subdued praise. In a similar vein, we find that when God wanted to praise Moses to Miriam and Aaron (his brother and sister), He “took them aside” so that Moses wouldn’t hear all the praise that God had to say about him.

But there’s even more we can learn from these passages.

Notice how God Himself says to Noah “For you I have seen you to be a righteous person before Me in this generation.” Our sages teach us that from God’s conduct we learn how important it is to compliment people!

Mark my wordsno matter how great, successful, humble, acclaimed, wealthy, or poor a person is – everyone likes a compliment. Compliments give people encouragement and strength. It gives them the drive and incentive to continue in their good ways. The Midrash teaches us that Noah was no different, and God’s kind and encouraging words helped keep Noah on his path of righteousness.

The lesson for us is clear. Take the time and initiative to compliment people. Tell them they’re doing a great job, that you like their work, or appreciate their efforts. As we see, making other people feel good is nothing less than emulating the attributes of God Almighty. A nice word to another person is true “Imitatio Dei.”

Shabbat Shalom!