There are many apparent similarities and differences between Noach and Moshe Rabbeinu. Both have their lives saved by being transported through the Teivah vessel in the waters. Both seem removed from the world in which they live. Yet, the Midrash in Brashit Rabba (36:6) contrasts the description of the two through descriptions of them throughout the course of their lives. Noach is initially introduced as a "righteous man." In Perek 6, Pasuk 9: The Torah says:
נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה, בְּדֹרֹתָיו
Later, however, Noach is described, somewhat disparagingly, as a "man." In Perek 9, Pasuk 20, we read:
וַיָּחֶל נֹחַ, אִישׁ הָאֲדָמָה; וַיִּטַּע, כָּרֶם.
Contrary to Noach, Moshe, early on in his life is identified by Yitro's daughters (when he saved them at the well) as a person who is an "Egyptian man." In Shemot, Perek 2, Pasuk 19, Moshe is referred to as:
אִישׁ מִצְרִי, הִצִּילָנוּ מִיַּד הָרֹעִים
Yet, later, he is referred to as "the man of God." In Devarim, Perek 33, pasuk 1, the Torah introduces the brachot that Moshe will give to the tribes with the following words:
וְזֹאת הַבְּרָכָה, אֲשֶׁר בֵּרַךְ מֹשֶׁה אִישׁ הָאֱלֹקים--אֶת-בְּנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל: לִפְנֵי, מוֹתוֹ
Moshe has been elevated with the identity of being the "Man of God" before he passes away.
The Meshech Chachma explains that the Midrash is explaining that Noach, who secluded himself from people around him, never assumed any leadership role. He experienced a spiritual decline. Yet, Moshe, throughout his life of 120 years (the same amount of time Noach was given to build the ark), has developed into a person who earns the title: "Man of God." The lesson of the Meshech Chachma explains that this message might go contrary to what one might intuit: Rather than think that communal involvement and leadership diminishes one's connection with haKadosh Baruch Hu and religious growth due to a great deal of responsibility for others, in fact, the opposite occurs. One's engagement and active involvement in communal life enables a person to develop him or herself. One should search for what has meaning in one's life - that is personal. Yet, the pursuit to share it with others facilitates a movement and enhancement of one's own personal religiosity. Interestingly, the end of each one's life is an indication of what community building and commitment results in: For Noach, a person of great righteousness, identified as "Tamim" in his generation, is relegated to an Ish HaAdama. Noach is searching to go backwards. To the life of Adam. To a singular world, responsibilities to no one. He wants to cultivate the world and the earth, which is noble. Yet, his concentration to connect with the land and his retreat becomes tied up with his own identity, fears and desires. He influences no one. He goes backwards, desperately attempting to experience what Adam had before being expelled from Gan Eden. Moshe, however, comes from royalty - perhaps a place of security in a palace, but, void of a religious connection to God. He could have stayed in the home of Yitro. But, he is appointed to a leadership role. He could have allowed Hashem to make him a great nation alone after the sin of the Golden Calf. Yet, Moshe becomes the leader whose closeness to Hashem allows him to connect face to face with God "Panim el Panim." When his leadership was challenged or the people strayed, his commitment to stay with them, work on building a people who would eventually see their place of residence in Eretz Yisrael was of primary importance. While exhausting him on occasion, for Moshe, this involvement in the people enabled him to personally advance and grow as one of the greatest leaders. Personal advancement is critical, yet, it does not need to be accomplished in a vacuum. When we share our religious growth with others through teaching, communal involvement and expending energy, the symbiotic relationship enables us all to benefit. Shabbat Shalom.