“אֵלֶּה תּוֹלְדֹת נֹחַ נֹחַ אִישׁ צַדִּיק תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו אֶת הָאֱ־לֹהִים הִתְהַלֶּךְ נֹחַ” “These are the generations of Noach, Noach was a righteous man, perfect in his generation; Noach walked with G-d.”(Bereishis 6:9). This week’s parshah starts off with the introduction of Noach, the main character in this week’s parshah. This is the great man who was worthy of being the only human to survive the flood and destruction of the entire world. But how great was he really? Rashi brings a gemarah in Sanhedrin where Chazal argue how big of a tzaddik Noach really was. The key words in the pasuk are, “תָּמִים הָיָה בְּדֹרֹתָיו” “(Noach was) perfect in his generation”. The first opinion is that even in a time with more tzaddikim, such as the time of Avraham, Noach would have stood out as a great man. The other opinion in the gemarah is that the pasuk is teaching us that Noach was only perfect for his generation, however, if he had lived in the time of Avraham, he would have been a run-of-the-mill, albeit still good, person. But by no means would he have been perfect, like the pasuk says. (This is difficult to understand by itself as Noach was still worthy of speaking to G-d and of being saved when in reality G-d didn’t have to save anybody. So while more explanation is needed, this is not the point of our discussion so we will not do so here.)
The very next Rashi focuses on the words, “אֶת הָאֱ־לֹהִים הִתְהַלֶּךְ נֹחַ” “Noach walked with G-d”. Rashi explains that by Avraham the pasuk says that he walked before G-d (See 24:40), while here by Noach it says that he walked with G-d. What is the difference? The medrash explains that in order for Noach to stay a tzaddik, he needed Hashem next to him, supporting him the entire time to ensure he would stay on the correct path. Avraham, however, was firm in his beliefs and actions and therefore could support himself in his righteousness and therefore could walk “before” G-d. Rashi seems to be taking sides in this machlokes by bringing in this medrash which clearly goes like the second explanation that Noach was not a real tzaddik!
It is easy at this point to say that Rashi has shown us which side of the machlokes he follows and end it at that, but I believe we can see from another Rashi that he is not taking sides, rather he is bringing explanations for both sides. In pasuk 14, Hashem tells Noach to build a תבה, an ark. Rashi explains there, "הרבה ריוח והצלה לפניו, ולמה הטריחו בבנין זה, כדי שיראוהו אנשי דור המבול עוסק בה מאה ועשרים שנה ושואלין אותו מה זאת לך, והוא אומר להם עתיד הקב"ה להביא מבול לעולם, אולי ישובו." “He (Hashem) has many ways of rescue, why then did he trouble him to build this (ark)? In order that the people of the Generation of the Flood would see him working on it for 120 years and ask him, ‘For what do you need this? ’And he would say to them, ‘Hashem is going to bring a flood to the world’. Perhaps they would repent.” The way I understood this Rashi is that he is saying that Hashem has many ways of rescue so why would Noach have to build a תבה when Hashem could do a miracle and save him. But I don’t understand, don’t we have a rule that “אין סומכין על הנס”, we don’t rely on miracles? And even without that, wouldn’t Noach have to do some sort of השתדלות in order to be saved? Hashem is not just going to make a huge miracle, like creating a giant bubble for Noach to live in during the flood, without Noach doing his part!
I believe from this Rashi we see like the opinion that Noach was a tzaddik. Therefore, of course Hashem would have saved him using a miracle, whether we are supposed to depend on them or not, and the only reason why he had to build the תבה was in order to give the generation a chance to do teshuvah. So Rashi has not “taken sides”, rather he is still explaining both sides of the machlokes, giving the same respect to all the sages involved.