This week’s Torah Portion is Noach. The story of Noach is pretty simple. He lived ten generations after Adam and Eve. Humankind had become wicked and HaShem was going to destroy them. Since Noach was a righteous man, he and his family would be spared by building an ark, loading a bunch of animals on it, and staying afloat and safe during the torrential rains that would wipe out humanity. Mishpacha Noach would then repopulate the Earth with a more righteous species.
Let’s consider some of the particulars and see how it relates to us today.
Mankind had become wicked and corrupt. As the Torah relates, people were engaging in robbery. The commentary is that people had started small, stealing from each other. When they saw there were no consequences, they stole more and more until they were actually robbing each other, that is taking people’s possessions directly from them. One might consider if they were actually hurting each other in the process or overpowering each other. In any case, they had no respect for other people’s possessions.
Noah was apart from this. Some think he may have been a farmer, but he spent his life minding his own business and supporting his family. So HaShem approached him knowing he was above the others.
There’s a lesson here about peer pressure and mob rule. We are often tempted to join in with the crowd. We want to be accepted and we certainly don’t want to be bullied by being not part of the crowd. So we join in, especially if everybody else is doing it. If someone robs from me, and no one does anything about it, then I’m going to be inclined to rob my stuff back from them and maybe even take a little extra to punish them. And if they come back with a gang, I’m going to get my own gang. Now we have a society that is not functioning.
Noah apparently knew better to stay out of this mess. He marched to a righteous beat, and Hashem took notice. And of course, it may not have been easy with all the pressure, to stand alone.
Yet still, Noah did what was right. That was foremost. Just because everyone else is breaking the law, doesn’t mean we should.
Consider what happens, especially in school. Two kids are going to go fight. What does everyone else do? Does anyone try to talk sense to these kids and try to get them to talk it out, rather than risk injury? No! Other kids follow along to get a thrill of watching two kids go at it, right?
Same thing with cheating. You’re sitting there and you’ve studied and are doing your best on a test. You can see out of the corner of your eye that kids are looking at hidden notes, or copying off each other. So now you’re thinking, why did I bother to study?
Or if you’re an adult doing your taxes. You hear of other people, rich people, getting away with paying less taxes than you. Again, no one is doing anything about so what do you do? That’s right, figure out ways, one way or another, to not pay your taxes either.
And so on.
It’s takes a lot of character to be moral and ethical when everyone else isn’t. Someone once said that integrity is doing what’s right even when there’s no one around to see you. Now of course, we all know that HaShem sees everything that we do, whether we see Him or think he’s around. Adam and Eve learned that the hard way. This is also why we repent for sins that we may not think we did. This is just to make sure.