Parshat Noach: What do we want our legacy to be?

Shamir Burg (Courtesy of Krieger Schechter Day School)

By Shamir Burg

Each of us will have a legacy, something that will outlive us. While we can’t control who will tell our story after we die, we can determine much of what there is to be said about us. We shape the themes and plot points of our stories through the ways we choose to live our lives. We are the authors of our stories; those who come after us will be their editors and readers.

In my Torah portion, it says, “This is the line of Noah.” Then it says, “He was righteous in his generation,” before listing his children’s names. Most of the time in the Torah when it says “this is the line of so-and-so” it immediately lists a genealogy. But not in this case. I think that the Torah is trying to teach us something important here. Our legacy is more than just our children. As Bachya ibn Pakuda taught: Your lives are scrolls, write on them what you want to be remembered.

One more thing about Noah: The Torah doesn’t only say that Noah was “righteous,” but it points out that he was righteous specifically “in his generation.” The rabbis try to figure out what “in his generation” means. They ask whether it is a statement of great praise because it is hard to be righteous when others around you are not or if it is a statement that he was more righteous than others in his time but would not have been considered righteous in another time. The rabbis don’t agree about this question, but I think that their question suggests something important: I need to think not just in general about the life I want to lead, but about what that looks like in my generation.

We are living in unprecedented times and terrifying times. If Noah is remembered for righteousness in his generation, what do we want to be remembered for in ours? And what choices do we have to make now for that to happen?

Shamir Burg is a seventh-grade student at Krieger Schechter Day School.

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