The Torah portion Noach begins with the words: “These are the children of Noach. Noach was a righteous individual….”1 But only in the second verse does the Torah mention his three children, Shem, Cham and Yafes.

Rashi2 explains this seeming incongruity by noting that the phrase “Noach was a righteous individual….” is a parenthetical statement inserted in the first verse — “Since he [Noach] is mentioned, his praises are extolled, for it is written,3 ‘the mention of a righteous individual should be accompanied by his praise.’ ”

This, however, gives rise to the following question: Noach’s name was already mentioned in Bereishis ;4 seemingly, it is there that his name should have been accompanied by praise. Why does the Torah refrain from praising him until the portion Noach ?

Additionally, what is the reason for and the benefit of lauding the virtues of a righteous individual?

The Gemara5 informs us that Lashon Hara , slander, harms not only the teller and the listener, but the person being talked about as well.

Now it is quite understandable that spiritual harm befalls both the speaker and the hearer of slander, for both are engaged in an act which our Sages liken to the combined sins of idolatry, incestuous relationships and murder.6 But why is the object of the slander spiritually affected? Why should he suffer when he had no part in this sin?

Consider. Speech reveals that which was previously concealed as thought. Speaking of another’s evil may thus have a detrimental effect on the slandered person; if the person’s evil had not been spoken about, it might have remained “concealed” and not come to realization.

The reason this is so is that man’s every action — especially speech, whose purpose is to reveal the concealed — has an effect. This may be felt either in a physical sense or on a spiritual plane, where the damage is perceived with higher and more refined senses.7

Thus it is related8 that a person was once quarreling with another in the Baal Shem Tov’s shul. In the heat of the moment, one of the disputants shouted that he would tear the other to pieces. The Baal Shem Tov revealed to his disciples how this act of dismemberment actually took place on a spiritual plane.

Yet “a good attribute is far more efficacious than a harmful one.”9 If speaking of another’s evil has a detrimental effect, then surely speaking of another’s good qualities has a salutary effect on the person being spoken of; he is more likely to realize his goodly potential and qualities.

If this is so with regard to praise by human beings, how much more so with regard to G‑d’s praise of an individual, especially when this praise is included in the Torah itself!

This is why “the mention of a righteous individual should be accompanied by his praise”; by praising a person, one is actually assisting him in his righteous behavior.

The reason why Noach is first praised in the portion Noach rather than in Bereishis will be understood accordingly:

While it is true that Noach’s name is mentioned earlier, it is specifically in the portion Noach that the Torah speaks of Noach with regard to the good deeds and spiritual service he attained on his own, as opposed to that with which he was favored from Above.

Since the reason for praising a righteous individual is to assist him in his divine service, and since Noach’s service begins in the Torah portion Noach , it follows that it is here that his name be “accompanied by his praise.”

The lesson to be derived in terms of our own service is obvious: A Jew should do his utmost to perceive the goodness of his fellow, and speak of his good traits and qualities. By doing so, he assists in revealing the goodness of the other, and at the same time helps the other in his spiritual passage through life.

Based on Likkutei Sichos , Vol. V, pp. 36-46.