In a generation where stealing is an excepted society norm, where adultery is a matter of taste, how can anyone possibly maintain a sense of any moral behavior?
Chazal tell us that in the generation of the flood the people were so stooped in sin that even their natural surroundings were affected. Consequently the only animals allowed into the ark were the ones that stayed loyal to each other, and sadly there weren’t to many candidates to fit that bill.
Committing every sin possible, from robbery to avoda zora and everything in between, the people would either repent or face a mabel. Sadly the latter took place and the only survivors were noach and his family. Noach was chosen since Hashem found him to be the only righteous person in his generation. Amazing as it sounds, he somehow managed to maintain sanity amongst a flood of insanity. We must ask ourselves how did he managed to accomplish the seemingly impossible? How did he manage to stay righteous among an entire generation of sinners?
To answer this question let us take a look at the beginning of the parsha. The passuk tells us, ’’ es haelokim hishalech noach’’loosely translated it means that noach went with Hashem. Rashi comments that interestingly by Avraham the passuk says ‘’hishalech lefonay’’ go before me. Explains rashi that Avraham was on a level that he was able to hold on to his righteousness by himself, whereas Noach needed some kind of support to lean on.
Noach was commanded to construct a teiva, ark. A great task like that can take long time, perhaps even years. But one hundred and twenty, that seems a little far fetched. If not commanded to spend that much time he would have constructed it a lot quicker. But there was another idea here in play, it wasn’t just about getting the job done, it was about being constantly engaged in acts of chessed, living kindness. For over a century noach was hammering away, toiling and sweating relentlessly. As he hammered away, he thought of a poor little squirl that needs a place of refuge during the impending flood. Each beem he put up, he pictured his family, needing a safe haven from the boiling downpour. He was constantly laboring for others. In order to save himself it would only take a tiny vessel, a fraction of the size of what he was engaged in building. But what about his family? And, what about all those animals? Where are they going to take refuge?
The Rambam tells us that if one wishes to brake a bad habit he should first go to the total other extreme, and only after he manages to free himself from that undesirable trait can he go back and afford himself the middle path. So too in Noachs day, the people were entrenched in every sin possible especially in robbery, Chazal tell us that it was because of the (chamas) robbery, that their fate was sealed. In order to counter that, and for Noach to be spared the vicious influence of his surroundings, Hashem commanded him to build a taiva. Not just for himself but for all those that were destined to survive. With that Noach was constantly occupied with doing acts of chessed in a very extreme manner, of toiling and laboring away for over a century, for the sake of others. By leaning on Hashems commandment of building a taiva Noach was able to maintain his righteousness.
As well in our times, when a foreign trend threatens to alienate us from Torah and puts our spiritual growth at risk. We must seek out the mitzvah that counters that behavior, and cling to it with all our mite, until the tide of the rushing mabul ceases.